Have you ever found yourself driving down the highway when that dreaded tire pressure warning light suddenly flashes on your dashboard? While driving on a flat tire is never recommended, you may wonder if you can safely drive on run-flat tires when they lose air pressure. Keep reading to find out what can happen if you do.
Here’s a quick answer:
Yes, driving on flat run-flat tires can damage rims and other parts of the car. Run-flats are only meant for emergencies at limited speeds and distances. Exceeding 50 miles at 50 mph risks expensive wheel, suspension, steering, drivetrain, and brake damage from the overstressed stiff sidewalls transmitting excess impact forces through the wheels.
An Overview of Run-Flat Tires
Run-flat tires are a special type of tire designed to be driven on even when they have lost some or all tire pressure. They have reinforced sidewalls that allow them to temporarily support the weight of the vehicle even when deflated.
However, run-flat tires are meant only for short-term emergency use at reduced speeds. They are not intended to function as a permanent spare tire.
|Yes – Allows driving up to 50 miles at 50 mph when tire loses pressure
|Best ride quality and handling
|Stiffer ride, less grip on road
So while run-flats allow you to drive for a limited time and distance on a deflated tire, they do have some drawbacks compared to standard tires.
Can Driving on a Run-Flat Tire Damage My Wheels?
Yes, driving too far or too fast on a run-flat tire when it has lost tire pressure can definitely damage your rims and suspension.
Run-flat tires are designed to support the vehicle under controlled conditions – driving no more than 50 miles at speeds under 50 mph. Exceeding these limits can overstress the reinforced sidewalls.
The stiff sidewalls transfer road impacts directly to the wheel and suspension parts rather than absorbing them as inflated tires do. Hitting bumps or potholes on a deflated run-flat transmits very heavy loads onto your rims and shocks. This can bend, crack, or even break wheels and damage shocks or suspension joints.
Skidding is also a risk if you need to brake suddenly on a deflated run-flat. The compromised traction can cause wheels to slide and scrape against curbs or barriers. This also bends and damages rims.
Other Vehicle Damage from Driving on Run-Flats
In addition to wheel and suspension damage, driving too far on flattened run-flat tires can harm other systems like:
- Steering system – Loss of steering capability from damaged tie rod ends or gearbox
- Drivetrain – Transmission and driveline damage from wheel misalignment
- Brakes – Excessive wear from extended use dragging the vehicle to stops
The mechanical stress and overheating from driving on deflated tires can add up to extremely costly repair bills!
Best Practices for Run-Flat Tires
While run-flat tires allow you to drive with a puncture, it is critical to follow manufacturer guidelines:
- Drive no more than 50 miles
- Keep speeds under 50 mph
- Slow down on bumps and turns
- Get tire replaced/repaired immediately
- Drive over 50 miles on run-flat
- Exceed 50 mph
- Make sharp turns at speed
- Delay getting tire fixed
Following these rules minimizes the risk of damage to your rims, suspension, and other systems. Exceeding run-flat limitations almost guarantees expensive vehicle repairs!
The Bottom Line
While run-flat tires provide a safety net if you suffer a flat, they are not an excuse to drive indefinitely on a deflated tire. Restrict your mileage and speed to avoid vehicle damage. The small inconvenience of having your tire properly repaired right away beats a huge mechanic’s bill!
So be sure to educate yourself on proper run-flat use, monitor your tire pressures, and get any problems fixed immediately. Taking these steps will help you avoid finding out the hard way what driving too far on a run-flat can do to your wheels and car!
1. How far can I drive on a run-flat tire?
Most run-flat tires allow you to drive up to 50 miles at speeds under 50 mph once they lose air pressure. Driving farther or faster than that risks damage from overstressing the reinforced sidewalls.
2. What if I have to drive more than 50 miles on a run-flat tire?
Exceeding the 50 mile/50 mph limits risks expensive wheel, suspension, and other drivetrain damage. The stiff run-flat sidewalls transfer too much impact to car components not meant to handle it. You should have the deflated run-flat replaced/repaired before going beyond distance/speed limits.
3. Can I damage my car by using a run-flat as a spare tire long-term?
Run-flat tires are explicitly meant only for temporary, short-term emergency use. The compromised ride and handling over time from using a run-flat long-term can damage wheels, suspension components, alignment, etc. Always repair or replace punctured run-flats promptly.
4. How can I prevent damage from driving on a run-flat tire?
Strictly follow manufacturer distance and speed limits, slow down on bumps/turns to minimize impacts through the stiff sidewalls, and avoid sudden braking/acceleration. Get any low or run-flat tire addressed immediately to prevent the need for compromised driving on it.
5. Do I still need a spare tire if I have run-flats on my car?
Yes, having a spare and repair kit is highly recommended. Run-flats provide only temporary mobility, are expensive to replace, and still risk damage if driven too far while deflated. Carrying a full-size spare and plugging any punctures right away is wise.