Run-flat tyres are, for most people, the product of action films where ‘cops’ fail to stop an escaping vehicle despite ‘shooting out’ their tyres.
Fitted as standard
It may surprise some of you therefore that many manufacturers have in recent year’s fitted run-flat tyres as standard to their more expensive ranges. It seems that the sale of run-flat tyres is increasing, with more manufacturers signing up, though offering them as an optional extra. In North America, run-flat tyres are often fitted as standard on a new car and it seems the rest of the world (Europe at any rate) is following suit with their fitment being an optional extra.
Continental’s Brand Manager Peter Robb said: “Every year I say it’s going to be stable or drop off now but every year I get proved wrong and the market increases.” Mercedes for instance is now offering run-flat tyres on its A and B class models.
Benefits for Fleets
The benefits of run flat tyres are clear; avoiding the time-consuming process of replacing tyres where customer satisfaction and keeping to a tight schedule are paramount, could be a real bonus for fleet managers. Your fleet van insurance quotes may even be reduced too, as they are safer. Of course, their cost-effectiveness is something which must be addressed by fleet managers, but as run-flats become more prevalent, their cost should decrease accordingly.
How do they work?
The way run-flat tyres work is that once the tyre is punctured in some way and deflates, the rubber side walls of the tyre can still hold the weight of the car. They do however have the disadvantage of being rarer and thus more difficult to replace, and customers have reported that some tyre fitters are unwilling to repair run-flats – replacements are quite expensive. Their ride comfort and fuel economy have also been questioned. When BMW offered them as standard, they did not provide a spare tyre, something which upset some customers.
Alternative puncture-proof tyres have been discussed, an example being something called seal technology. The VW group have already incorporated these into some of their range, however seal tyres do cost around 10% more than a standard tyre. The way they work is that a layer of glue coats the inside of a tyre (applied after the standard tyre is made). This layer of glue seals up any punctures that are made to the tyre, keeping it air-tight. These tyres have the advantage of being better to ride on due to their not being the need for reinforced walls, however drivers must check whether there is a nail in the tyre, as you can drive with one still embedded.
Both options present an exciting prospect for the future of fleet reliability.