Pros and cons of run flat tires

Drivers looking to change their own tire after a blowout may be in for a surprise when they look in the trunk. Many vehicles are shipping without a spare tire, but there are options that can make a flat a less frightening experience.

“For most, having a flat tire can be their worst nightmare, especially if they are caught on the road when it happens,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Being prepared and knowing exactly what you’ve got when shopping for a car is going to be important. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer, ‘what comes with the car? How does it work?'”

In an effort to increase fuel economy, decrease vehicle weight, and give you more trunk space, manufactures are saying so long to the spare tire. Many models are now equipped with inflator and sealant kits or run flat tires which are designed to go at slower speeds for 50 miles or more after a tire has been punctured.

“A standard load tire cannot withstand zero pressure,” auto service co–owner Chris Cooper said. “It has to have pressure to keep the tire inflated. A run flat tire does not need any pressure for a short duration of time until you can get to a shop that can repair or replace it.”

Landon Toll used to drive a car with run flat tires. While he never suffered a flat, he did have to replace his run flat tires, which cost about a third more than traditional tires.

“I had the car for about three years and drove it 32,000 miles about, and in that time, I replaced the rear tires twice and the front tires once,” said Toll. “In total, the three years that I had the car I spent a little over $2,300 just in tires alone.”

In addition to being more expensive, experts say run flats also result in a harder ride.

“A run flat tire will run much stiffer,” Cooper added. “You don’t get much of a cushion in there. A standard low tire will run nice and quiet, and a run flat tire will run a little bit stiff.”

“The ride was definitely stiffer with the run flat tires,” said Toll. “Every bump that you would hit you would feel a little bit more. There were times that I would be kind of scouting ahead, looking for potholes, trying to kind of slalom around and avoid them.”

Experts tell Angie’s List that run flat tires from some manufacturers can be repaired if punctured, while others cannot.