I kept seeing this commercial for Bridgestone run-flat tires as I watched games in the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. While this is a great commercial and all, I will never put run-flat tires on my car, and constantly steer customers away from them when they are in need of new rubber on their Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. Here are a few reasons why I overwhelmingly favor conventional tires over current run-flat tires:
Run flat tires kills your handling.
Those who are in the know, and who are aware of this, can be pretty crazy about it. I’ve got a customer that bought a BMW 335d and one of the first things he did was bring it in for service to replace the 4 relatively new run-flats with a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Personally, I would have just worn out the fresh tires and changed them when needed. However, he was so much happier with the ride as it transforms the car. I’m not sure how many cars I’ve driven in my lifetime, but I can tell immediately when a car has run-flats and when it doesn’t. If you are looking for an upgrade in handling for your car, stay away from any sort of suspension modifications if you’re cruising on run-flat tires. Replace those first.
The difference is in the rubber, and the sidewall. The primary goal of a run-flat, is to, well, run flat – for 50 miles. In order to achieve this, manufacturers increase the hardness of the rubber and reinforce the sidewall of the tire. This allows the car to keep going with no air pressure as they show in the commercial. This also makes the tire as hard as a rock with no regard to ‘feel’ for the driver. In the 80s, there was a lot of experimentation with Metric sized tires. BMW used the Michelin TRX-B, which was made out of rubber so hard that they could last 20 years and not wear out. Consequently, the cars drove like crap. Once they had non-metric wheels on them, the true BMW handling came to life.
Run flats are expensive!
These tires are simply not cheap. Let’s pretend we have a 2011 Mercedes-Benz e350, which is a really nice car by the way, and we live in sunny San Diego and need a new set of rubber. I like Michelin for this car, so I searched tirerack.com for a new set. For our purposes, I chose a tire that is available in both run-flat and conventional to see what our prices are. As you can see, if we go with the bad handling run-flats, it will cost us about $300 more in the end . . .
You would be much better off putting $225 of that in your pocket and using the other $75 to get yourself a AAA membership for if/when you do have a flat that will allow for your car to be towed. Once you’ve been towed to the tire store, you can then use $150 of the $225 you have left to get a new tire and use the leftover $75 to go out to dinner with your significant other. If you buy a new set of run-flats, congratulations, you have just paid extra to continue to stifle your car’s handling potential.
Run-flat doesn’t mean run forever.
What the above commercial doesn’t tell you is that once you’ve completed your run-flat trek of up to 50 miles, that tire is toast, you’ll need to fork over another $222 plus install to remedy your situation.
You don’t need Run-flat tires, even without a spare tire
Let’s be honest, think of the last time you were on the side of the road and changed a tire? If this happens to you often, then by all means, stick to run-flats. But most people, including myself, cannot remember last last time, if ever, they’ve changed a tire on the side of the road. If you do have a jack and spare in your car, I recommend calling AAA anyway as the jacks that come with cars are hazardous to use at best.
Cars are smart now. Almost every BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz has had advanced tire pressure monitoring systems (TPM or TPMS) for the last 10 years. Those warning lights mean something, so as long as you don’t ignore them, chances are you have a small nail in the tire that can be quickly patched by any tire shop or gas station. At Independent Motorcars we use an extremely reliable patch kit that takes about 10 minutes to install and unless the car was driven for a long period of time, the tire will be fine and you’ll be back on the road for next to nothing. Most companies will not attempt to patch a run-flat tire, so again; a new, and expensive, tire will be needed.
If you’ve got run-flats now, and you’re in need of new tires, save yourself a bunch of money and get a better tire. Some non run-flats that are my current favorites include the Michelin Pilot Super Sport and the Continental ExtremeContact DW tire. Both have a great balance of handling and mixed-use that are geared toward summer driving. If you live in an area that gets rain or snow, you should stick to an all-season tire or move to Southern California . . .
5836 Autoport Mall
San Diego CA 92121