What is the deal with run-flat tyres and can we trust them? - Ace, Mabopane
Like all new advanced technology, run-flat tyres are intended to help protect drivers and vehicle occupants, but they need a fair degree of trust from the end users like ourselves.
The whole point of a run-flat tyre is to have a tyre reinforced so that in the event of a puncture or blowout, the car need not lurch spectacularly out of control.
The introduction of run-flats in South Africa was very much a convenience as well as a security measure so that motorists need not have to stop in the middle of nowhere or dangerous junctions on highways to change tyres.
Basic run-flat technology makes use of a reinforced sidewall on the tyre that allows it to keep operating but at reduced speeds of up to 80km an hour.
Tyre company Bridgestone inserts reinforced heat-resistant rubber strips into the sidewalls of its run-flat tyres so that in the event of a puncture or sudden loss of air the strips go to work by preventing the sidewall from collapsing. It's like an athlete running a marathon and whose weary legs are about to buckle underneath him. Before he can crash to the ground his two fellow athletes grab him on either arm and help him stay upright and push for the finish line.
You need to get your mind used to the fact that run-flats are going to be the industry standard, particularly as companies like BMW and even Audi move toward the use of this technology. Like ABS brakes, traction control and seatbelt warning signals, these safety systems are there to help and need some getting used to.