Tires—they are the most important part of a vehicle other than the frame. From wheel loaders to cranes, semi-trucks to buses, racecars to passenger automobiles, tires are responsible for traction, steering, braking, and overall vehicle handling. However, when tires rupture, they hamper handling, alter vehicle steering, and hinder braking. Each year, flat tires cause hundreds of motorists to wreck or lose control of their vehicles. On an even sadder note, the dangers of tire changes on interstate highways cause many deaths. In spite of all these circumstances, tire technology has progressed rapidly, and safety is improving steadily. One of the most recent innovations in tire technology is run-flat tires, but these tires are actually not new.
Run-flat technology has existed for years, but it was never available for civilian usage. Instead, run-flat tires have made appearances on military vehicles and the rides of dignitaries. One of the most prominent users of run-flat tires is the Presidential limousine, the Beast. However, despite the similarity of technology, run-flat tires for civilian applications serve a different purpose from those in security applications. Civilian run flat tires are not made to outrun terrorists, drive over explosives, or escape ambushes. Run-flat tires are made to prevent a motorist from being stranded.
When a regular tire goes flat on the highway, the corner of the vehicle that the flat supports lowers nearly to the ground, thereby changing the vehicle dynamics. In many cases, a sudden tire blowout will cause a complete loss of control and can result in a crash. The benefit of run-flat technology is that it prevents a complete deflation of the tire. A run-flat tire is actually not a special type of tire. It is a regular tire with a special system inside. This system is composed of a set of large rings that encircle the tire and a heavy lubricant in between them. Once the tire is flattened, the rings maintain part of its shape, preventing the tire from contacting the rim. However, an unpressurized run-flat tire cannot be driven as if it is whole. The run-flat system only allows one to travel out of danger or to a repair shop where the tire can be patched or replaced.
Run-flat tires are a great innovation for they reduce the worry that comes with flat tires. Instead of having to make a death-defying tire change with traffic whizzing behind you, a run-flat tire allows you to safely exit the danger zone and make appropriate repairs in a safe location. As a formerly-secret innovation, run-flat tires have proven their worth on the battlefield and in dangerous cities. They can definitely provide peace of mind to any road-loving traveler.