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Runflat tires: many pumped up about them

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(BPT) - The last thing any driver wants is a flat tire. It’s also the last thing tire manufacturers want to happen. Even though tires are a lot more high-tech than the average consumer imagines, tire makers are well aware that flats can deflate the public’s opinion of a tire. That’s why tire engineers have been working overtime to make tires stronger and more resistant to road hazards. Unfortunately, though, sometimes the nasty nail in the road still wins … until now, thanks to runflat tires.

“A runflat tire is essentially designed to carry the load of the vehicle when the tire’s punctured and enables the vehicle to continue to be driven at a reduced speed for a limited distance,” says Andrew Briggs, director of product planning for Yokohama Tire Corporation, makers of a variety of truck and car tires, including runflats. “Thanks to runflats, consumers can have peace of mind and don’t have to worry about being stranded on the road because of a flat tire.”

Although runflats have been around since the 1990s, the technology has taken quantum leaps in the last few years, says Briggs. “For example, our AVID ENVigor  ZPS (Zero Pressure System) delivers high-performance and security. Because of the tire’s reinforced sidewall, it can be driven up to 50 miles at 50 miles per hour after the loss of air. In addition to the mobility aspects, there are financial positives as well. If pressure is lost with a conventional tire, wheel damage can occur, which can be very expensive.”

Drivers often ask how they’ll know whether they have a flat if they have runflat tires on their car. “Runflat tires can only be installed on vehicles with a tire pressure monitoring system, or TPMS,” Briggs says. “The TPMS will alert drivers about the air loss, and because of the way runflats are constructed, drivers can feel confident they can reach their destination without having to change the tire.”

Along with TPMS, more car makers, such as BMW, Lexus and Mini are switching to runflat tires on new models. “Besides being handier for consumers, they save vehicle weight and space,” says Briggs. “There’s no longer the need for a spare tire, a jack and tools.”

According to Briggs, consumers will see more high-tech runflats and other types of tires in the future. “Tire technology is always evolving,” he says. “As an example, we’re currently using the oil from orange peels in some of our compounds to improve gas mileage and handling. Point being, we’re always working to make tires better, last longer and, yes, continue to perform even after loss of air pressure.”

Briggs says whether you have runflats or traditional tires, maintaining them is important and can save money at the gas pump. Here are some of his tire tips:

* Keep your tires properly inflated. Once a month, when the tires are cold (at least three to four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and seal against leakage.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. An easy test: place a penny into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread when placed head-down into the tread, you’re driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.

* Tire alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires can cause the car to scrub, which lowers mileage and creates unnecessary tire wear.

* Drivers should use extreme caution when driving at zero pressure and should avoid aggressive handling actions and any unusual service condition, such as trailer towing or hauling heavy loads.

For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.comor www.rma.org.

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