So you’re wondering if run flat tires are a good choice for winter driving? It’s a fair question. Run flat tires provide benefits like allowing you to drive for some distance even with a flat tire. But do those benefits also apply in cold and snowy conditions? Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s a quick answer:
Run flat tires allow limited driving on a flat tire but have compromised winter traction due to stiff sidewalls. While beneficial in emergency situations, most experts don’t recommend run flats for snow and ice driving. For best winter performance, use standard winter tires with flexible walls and deep snow tread whenever possible instead of run flats.
What Are Run Flat Tires?
First, what exactly are run flat tires? They are tires that are reinforced with stiff sidewalls that allow you to keep driving even if the tire loses all air pressure. Certain run flat tire designs let you drive up to 50 miles at a maximum of 50 mph after losing air in the tire.
Run flats achieve this through a reinforced sidewall that remains rigid enough to support the weight of the vehicle when the tire no longer has air inside. This avoids having the tire peel off the rim or bubble out to the sides, allowing you to still steer and brake enough to pull over safely.
Run Flat Tires Pros and Cons
- Lets you keep driving if you get a flat tire
- Avoids being stranded at the roadside
- Gets you to a safe place for tire change
- Still maneuverable enough for safe stops
- Stiffer sidewalls affect ride comfort
- More expensive than standard tires
- Heavier than comparable standard tires
- Can’t be patched if punctured – need full replacement
So run flats offer clear benefits. But do these pros outweigh the cons specifically for winter driving conditions? Let’s examine further.
Winter Driving Factors to Consider
Driving in the winter poses some unique hazards to take into account:
- Snow, slush and ice on roads
- Greater stopping distances
- Reduced traction requiring delicate throttle control
- More potholes and road hazards
- Rapid tire pressure loss in very cold temperatures
Additionally, winter conditions can increase chances of:
- Skids, sliding and loss of control
- Getting stuck in snow
- Ending up in a ditch or accident
So clearly, winter driving places demands on tires that go beyond basic everyday driving. How do run flats measure up?
Run Flat Winter Performance Pros and Cons
Looking specifically at winter performance reveals a mix of advantages and disadvantages:
- Lets you drive for some distance with a flat
- Avoids being stuck if you get a flat in snow/ice
- Gets you somewhere safer for tire change
- Stiff reinforced sidewalls remain rigid in cold temps
- Harder rubber compound can lose flexibility
- Stiffer sidewalls reduce grip and traction
- Can’t add winter air pressure that improves snow traction
- Higher chance of damage means higher replacement likelihood
Key Factors to Consider
When weighing if run flats are a smart choice for winter, consider these key factors:
Winter rubber compounds – For the best snow and ice traction, you want a tire with a specialized winter rubber formulation that stays flexible in sub-freezing temps. Run flat tires can’t always use the most ideal winter rubber compounds due to heat buildup from the stiff sidewalls.
Traction limitations – The reinforced sidewalls that give run flats their unique capability are stiff by design. This stiffness reduces grip compared to standard tires optimized for winter traction.
Lack of extra air pressure – Adding 4-6 psi extra air pressure helps standard winter tires get a “bite” into snow and ice. This isn’t an option with run flats since it risks damaging the rigid sidewalls.
Increased replacement likelihood – The stiff sidewalls also mean run flats are more susceptible to damage from potholes and winter road hazards. Damaged run flats usually require full replacement.
Emergency maneuverability – While run flats allow you to drive for some distance with a flat, full maneuverability and control in an emergency situation may be reduced compared to standard winter tires.
Many tire and automotive experts advise against relying solely on run flat tires for winter driving. While run flats provide clear benefits in everyday conditions, the consensus is that standard winter tires with deep tread and specialized rubber compounds handle snow, slush and ice better overall.
Recommendations if using run flats:
- Get run flat tires with winter tread depths and patterns
- Limit driving distance and speeds after a flat
- Carry a winter emergency kit
- Focus on cautious driving techniques
Recommendations for best winter performance:
- Use dedicated winter tires, not all-seasons
- Choose standard tires over run flats if possible
- Get tires with snowflake symbol and mountain/snow rating
- Consider narrower tires that cut through snow better
- Equip all four wheels consistently
While run flat tires provide reassuring benefits for everyday driving, the compromise in winter performance makes them less than ideal for areas with cold and snowy conditions. For the very best winter safety and handling, go with purpose-built non-run-flat winter tires whenever possible.
If you do opt for run flats, take extra precautions like reduced speed, no sudden steering or braking inputs, and focus on highly cautious winter driving. Carry an emergency winter kit and know your limitations driving on a flat run flat tire.
So are run flat tires good in winter? The bottom line:
- Run flats allow limited flat tire driving
- Winter performance is compromised
- Non-run-flat winter tires recommended instead
Focusing on proper winter tires remains the best way to stay safe on snow and ice. But in a pinch, run flats provide a backup option to limp your way to safety in case of a flat. Drive cautiously and don’t expect peak handling until you can get your tires properly repaired or replaced.
|Flat Tire Capability
|Standard Winter Tires
|50 miles max
Can I drive normally on a run flat tire in winter?
No, you should not drive normally once you get a flat tire, even on a run flat. Reduce speeds to a maximum of 50 mph and drive only as far as needed to get to a safe place to change the tire.
Do run flat tires have less grip on snow and ice?
Yes, the stiff reinforced sidewalls on run flat tires reduce flexibility, grip, and traction compared to standard winter tires. This makes them more prone to slipping and sliding in winter conditions.
Should I get winter tires or all-season tires if my car has run flats?
Dedicated winter tires provide better snow and ice traction than all-seasons. But with run flat tires, even winter tread may be compromised. Get the best winter tires possible, or switch to standard non-run-flat tires for better winter performance.
What if I get a flat run flat tire in a blizzard?
A flat tire hugely compromises handling and control in any situation. In a full-on blizzard, try to pull over ASAP and get to safety, even if only a short distance. Driving far or fast risks losing control. Call for assistance and remain with your vehicle.
Can run flat tires be repaired if damaged in winter?
Unfortunately no – punctured or otherwise damaged run flat tires cannot be properly patched or plugged due to the rigid sidewalls. Any damage will require complete tire replacement. Take extra caution around potholes and winter road hazards to avoid needing replacements.