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Run-flat tires go flat with our readers

Consumer Reports News: June 23, 2007 08:16 AM

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Consumer Reports explored the pros and cons of run-flat tires in a June 2007 story called "Run-flat tires safety benefits outweigh problems." The article outlined some of the disadvantages and basic inconveniences of run-flat tires. Not surprisingly, this story elicited a wave of mail from our readers/subscribers who weren't shy in adding their two-cents. Much of the responses reinforced the limitations we noted in the article, including premature wear, stiff ride, high replacement costs, and limited replacement choices. We read every e-mail and letter and tried to sum up the complaints below.

Keep in mind that we're talking about only a few correspondences, so there is no scientific data from which to make conclusions. Nevertheless, here are a few common themes:

  • A punctured run-flat tire may provide extended mobility, but with routine run-flat tire ranges of just 50 to 100 miles, it's far more limiting than having a conventional spare tire. One person had to spend an extra night at a town in New Mexico to get a tire from a local dealer the next morning. Another letter was more direct: "...50 miles is completely worthless..." (referring to run-flat tire capability). "I would not put my wife and kids on run-flats."
  • Limited availability and accessibility were common concerns, but the high cost of replacement of a run-flat was a common comment. Additionally, a few letters noted that not only did people have to replace the flat run-flat tire, but that the wheel was damaged and had to be replaced, too. 
  • Underwhelming tread wear life was noted by a few, with a few harsh words about tires lasting just 18,000 to 20,000 miles. Plus, the high replacement cost rankled many.
  • Interestingly, some run-flat tire makers do not recommend repairing a run- flat tire given its uncertain condition after running flat even for a short period of time. This rubbed a few readers raw, and some noted that standard conventional tire punctures can often be repaired. 
  • One reader noted that he was not informed of the limitation of run-flat tires by his new-car salesperson. He claims to have only been told about this after he had a tire problem with the new vehicle. Apparently, the dealership discourages buyers from purchasing that model car with the run-flat package. But the horse was already out of the barn.

Undoubtedly the letters will continue, and we look forward to reading them and post in our Tire Talk forum (available to subscribers). Few readers/subscribers ever write to us about the positive aspects of a product, but we'd be interested in hearing from those folks, as well. Run-flat tire technology may be sound, but readers are clearly saying there is much room for improvement. Will run-flat tires succeed in the market place, or go the way of Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and DeLorean? So far, the jury's out.

--Gene Petersen

Related blog posts:
Update: Toyota Sienna AWD run-flat tires
Toyota Sienna AWD run-flat tires wear well for us

Toyota Sienna AWD tires - patience wearing thin
Toyota extends run-flat tire warranty
Toyota Sienna run-flat tires? Spare us.
Run-flat tires go flat with our readers

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