What Are Run-Flat Tires?

Flat tires are a pain in the rear end. They are unexpected, time consuming, dangerous, and overall just bad news. The last time I had a flat tire, I was left stranded in the middle of nowhere on the highway in between two exits at night. I had a choice: either change the tire myself (which would have been nearly impossible being that it was pitch black) or call a tow truck. I opted for the latter and had to pay several hundred dollars on towing, storage, a new tire, installation, etc. Now: imagine a world where you can pick and choose when and where to have a flat tire. Sound like fantasy? Nope, this concept is now a reality with the modern run flat tire (RFT). This type of tire will sustain a puncture temporarily, keeping you safe on the road at a moderate speed (under 55 mph) for 100-200 miles — until you can safely reach a tire shop for repairs. Never again do you have to worry about being late for work or missed appointments due to a flat tire. Nor do you have to worry about blow-outs, careening out of control, or changing your tire on a busy highway shoulder. With RFT’s, you have the luxury of taking care of your flat tire on your own time.

The run-flat tire concept has been around, incredibly, since 1892 when it was patented, but only in the past ten years or so has it really been useful — thanks to developments in modern technology. Today, most high-end luxury and sports cars are sold with factory run flat tyres.

How Does It Work?

bmw-run-flat-tiresThere are a couple variations on how a run-flat tire can be constructed, but the most common and widely used is the auxiliary-supported RTF. Here’s how it works: a thick structure called a “support” is attached to the wheel/rim itself. As you can see in the photo, it is web-like in design which allows it to be flexible, but it’s also strong enough to support the weight of the car. The tire itself is extra thick, which means that it more readily resists puncture. The sidewalls are reinforced by extra layers of rubber. When a puncture occurs, the air leak is very slow and gradual. In many cases, the driver wouldn’t even know that they incurred a flat tire other than from a warning via the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System). Eventually, the tire deflates, but only by a couple inches at most. Then it is supported by the auxiliary support system.

The Good & The Bad

Whether or not run flat tires are really the *best* option for your vehicle is a widely debated subject. It seems that you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. There are undoubtedly several advantages: safety, peace of mind, control, and saving time — just to name a few. The main argument against RFT’s? Cost. Run Flat Tires are markedly more expensive than normal tires. With the extra materials involved, this isn’t too much of a surprise. Also, because they are heavier, they require more fuel than normal tires which will contribute to the cost factor as well. Other people say that RFT’s don’t handle as well, and the ride is much less smooth than a normal tire. The other main disadvantage I uncovered from users is that RFT’s, contrary to design, seem to puncture more readily than normal tires.

If your car came equipped with factory RFT’s and you find them not to your liking, just know that they easily can be replaced with regular tires. If you love RFT’s, you are in luck! At Jacks Tire Shop, we do not upcharge for RFT installation.We have one flat rate for installation (mount and balance), no matter what kind of tire you use. Which do you prefer? Drop us a comment below!


Smart Ways to Reuse & Upcycle Tires

Virginia and almost every other state imposes some sort of tire disposal and recycle tax on any tire that is no longer wanted. Usually, these waste tires end up at tire shops and you will find your waste tires at the bottom of your invoice as a small fee for tire recycling. Fortunately, most people decide not to take their old tire home with them. Sixty-five percent of our customers decide to do the right thing and take on the additional (yet miniscule) surcharge of tire disposal and tire tax.The other 35% who end up disposing of their tires themselves generally put them in a municipal trash or directly to the landfill.

Tire disposal can be detrimental to the environment when piled up in landfills. When tires are slowly broken down at the dump, they release harmful toxins and hazardous waste into our environment. These tires contain impurities and oils that contaminate the soil. Worst yet, they contain lead: a heavy metal that is highly poisonous to humans. This toxic chemical accumulates and remains in the environment for a very long time.

Here are five of our favorite, creative, zero-impact ways to reuse and upcyle waste tires so you can bring a fun second life to those unwanted tires (and might actually save you money in the long run):

  1. Tire Sandbox: Great idea for kids (and those “young at heart” adults). Just thoroughly clean, then paint an old tire (large tires like tractor or trailer tires work best). After the paint has dried, stencil on a few kiddie images or have your kids help in the painting process by adding their own hand prints to the tire. Now add a tarp cut into the size of the tire’s outer circumference and place at the base of the tire [optional: secure the cut tarp with a staple gun]. Lastly, fill with sand (about ⅔-¾ of the way) and all of your favorite sandbox toys! This makes for a lovely self-contained sandbox that your children won’t want to stop after summer is over!

  2. Knit-bombed Tire Swing: A knit bomb is a new trend in which (mostly urban artists) cover ordinary objects with an intricate knitting or crochet design. This is an artsier, more unique, and aesthetically-pleasing alternative to the traditional painted tire swing.


  1. Tire Furniture: Here we have an example of how a creative-type turned a few tired tires into a couple amazing and retro-looking swings! There’s also the tire ottoman and of course the tire pet bed.

  2. An eclectic addition to the garden: Stack brightly painted tires, use a lightweight and place an appropriately-sized cut word in the bottom, fill with planting soil and then seeds or plants, and watch your one-of-a-kind garden grow!


  1. Cover Tires in Tire Quilts: We love this idea because it acts as a very cool springboard into any tire DIY project of your choice. Use it as an alternative tire swing, for tire furniture, or just for fun!

 Which upcycled tire do you like the best? Have any suggestions of how to reuse tires of your own! We’d love to hear from you! Post a comment below!!