Consumer Reports puts car 'run flat' tires to the test

What do you do when you don't have a spare tire? Do you have any other options? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney partnered up with Consumer Reports to find out if the alternative is a good one.

Gloria Strunin recently leased a new car that has no spare tire. she drives long distances by herself to see her family and was alarmed to learn she'd have to depend solely on her run flat tires in case of a puncture. She's worried about their 50 mile range.

"It was a big concern of mine and it still is to this day," said Strunin.

Consumer Reports tire expert Gene Petersen says 'run flat' tires have thicker sidewalls than traditional tires. Most manufacturers say they will support the car at speeds up to 50 miles an hour for a distance of at least 50 miles after most flats. But he has a caution.

"They're not going to work for everything, so if you do have a ripped sidewall, if you do have a large hole in the tire, obviously you may not be able to drive on it," said Petersen.

Run-flat tires are also more expensive than regular tires. Depending on size some can cost as much as $300 each. There are also fewer models available, and might have to be special-ordered. Why are so many car makers ditching the spare for run-flat tires?

"So manufacturers are eliminating the spare to lighten up the load in the car to help improve fuel efficiency, ok. In the case of run-flat tires though it may also be because they don't have room in the car for a spare tire," said Petersen.

Still if you do get a small puncture, with run flat tires you'll be able to continue on your way and won't be wrestling with a jack and a spare late at night or in an isolated area.

If you are buying a new car that doesn't come with a spare and you want one, ask. Sometimes dealers can sell you a traditional spare-tire kit. But make sure it is designed for your trunk and fits securely.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
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