Pumped up about run flat tyres
Updated 19 Feb 2021
Run flat tyres don’t sound real.
From a pneumatic context, the words “run” and “flat” seem too contrasting to be credible.
You know, like delicious sprouts, family fun day, polka music and long-time Australian Prime Minister.
And yet run flat tyres are not only real, they offer improved safety and assurance in the case of a sudden or progressive decrease in tyre pressure that, in the worst circumstances, can send a vehicle out of control, endangering both its occupants and others on the road.
So, how do run flat tyres work, what do they cost and are they worth it?
Let’s have a Usain Bolt about it, or in other words, a run flat chat.
Born to run flat
Tyres deflate for many reasons.
Maybe you’ve run over a nail, hit a pothole or smacked the kerb.
Maybe your tyres are way past their use-by date.
Maybe you’ve just hit the police stingers in the getaway car (not our AutoGuru readers, obviously).
First devised for the military – after all, it’s always preferable to have as many inflated tyres as possible when escaping enemy fire – the introduction of the run flat tyre to more regular motoring was initially taken up by the likes of BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Audi.
With subsequent growth in demand and availability, manufacturers including Continental, Pirelli, Dunlop, Bridgestone, Goodyear and others now feature run flat tyres in their ranges.
Whether you opt for run flat tyres with significantly reinforced sidewalls or those with an extra support ring mounted to the inside of the rim, the run flat tyre is designed to stay inflated long enough for you to make it home or reach a servo or tyre outlet, thus avoiding the hassle and potential risk of a roadside tyre change.
With suitably cautious driving, run flat tyres will allow you to safely travel 80-100 kilometres further down the road, although always check the manufacturer guidelines and recommendations.
The inflation rate
You can't put a price on safety but – and let's not pull our punctures here – run flat tyres will put a bigger hole in your wallet.
They are more expensive to buy than conventional tyres and, in turn, more expensive to repair and replace.
A quick squizz through a few Australian tyre outlets reveals a run flat price range from around $175 to more than a grand.
Of course, if you're paying around $4000 for a full set then chances are your financial situation is just dandy.
For the rest of us, however, the desire for a tyre that stays pumped up and steady means being prepared to plump up the readies.
While the familiar bargains and incentives do exist, our advice at AutoGuru is to do some comparative shopping.
Operating at a loss
Every driver knows when a tyre's had a blowout because the loss of pressure is immediate.
A slow deflation is less apparent, which is why it's best for run flat tyres to operate in conjunction with a tyre pressure monitoring system.
TPMS options, reviews and prices are easily accessible on the internet, and include Safe-T-Tyre, Tyredog, Fobo and DIG Options.
Ups and downs
On the pro side, run flat tyres offer improved safety, less inconvenience, will get you home (within reason as to distance) and provide extra space because you don't need a spare. Note that weight savings via the lack of a spare may be countered by the extra weight of the tyres themselves.
On the con side, run flat tyres are not cheap.
Still, with the promise of greater protection for you, your car and your cargo, it's little wonder that run flat tyres are increasing in popularity.
Michael Jacobson is an award-winning Queensland-based writer.
His appreciation for motoring began as a young journalist covering racing from Simmons Plains in Tasmania.
Over the years he has interviewed many Australian and international motoring greats.
He has also been driven around Lakeside Raceway at ferocious speed, circumnavigated the Gold Coast Indy circuit at more than 200kmh and managed to squeeze 365,000 kilometres out of a Toyota Starlet.