What is the RFT tire?
Simply put and as the title of the article indicates it is a tire that can drive even without air pressure. The manufacturers and all resellers claim that you can drive on the defected tire minimum 80 kilometers (at reasonable speed – means around 50 Km / hour). As far as I am experienced with the RFT tires, you can move the car much further than if you had regular tire, but it is far from actual driving. Thanks to the reinforced sides there should be smaller chance to damage the tire e.g. by hitting a sidewalk, pot holes etc.
Main reasons why runflat tires were introduced:
- safety – with conventional tires you can not drive further than approximately 1 – 3 Km after the defect. The runflat tires can last easily 40x more. Speaking from personal experience you can do 120 Km. The drive is terrible, slow and noisy, but you do not need to change the tire on the spot. Sometimes the spot can be very dangerous: tight corner, big highway with fast traffic etc. If the defect is fatal for regular tire, you can not drive at all, RFT tires are likely to sustain much greater damage.
- safety – RFT tires provide much better results at the time of the defect. The video explains better than words.
- comfort, style, cost-efficiency – BMW which is the biggest promoter of the RFT technology and its cars are understood as vehicles for managers. Managers are paid well and thus two hours of manager’s time spent on the highway changing a tire is in fact more expensive than allowing the manager to reach the nearest service point without need to change the tire on the spot.
- safety – VIP’s, politicians or other “important” people can be victims of assassination, in such cases the tires can be shot. Regular tires are done, the run flat tires can provide the needed escape mechanism
- comfort, space and more mileage – by having RFT tires you do not need to have the spare tire in the vehicle and thus you gain additional space. In case of multiple defects of multiple tires you can reach the nearest garage and have the tires replaced. If you do not use the extra space your mileage may increase due to the lower weight than regular cars that have the spare tire. Also there was an intention to produce tires that will have better rolling resistance results than regular tires.
We have driven over 350 000 Km by BMW cars equipped with runflat tires as well as regular tires. There are 3 different models in our fleet: BMW 5 series station wagon Lifestyle edition with air suspension, BMW 5 series station wagon Sports Edition with M-Suspension (very tough) and BMW X3 where we use the tires designed for 4×4 vehicles.
Factors affecting tires comparative life time
The runflat tires wear off significantly faster on the Sports Edition than on the SUV and Lifestyle edition. Unfortunately the comparison is not accurate as the drivers and routes are not the same. In addition the Sport edition provides better traction and driver naturally drives faster through corners. On the other hand the Lifestyle allows faster speeds on bad roads and bad tarmac, where the Sports edition has to drive a lot slower. The SUV is mainly driven by a lady driver, who is matured enough not to race with random challengers you encounter on every second traffic lights. The SUV tires wear similarly to the Lifestyle edition with the air suspension. I reckon that if the SUV was driven by me or another male driver, the results would be more similar to the Sports edition BMW. The conventional tires last longer on the Sports edition than the RFT tires. SUV with the lady driver and Lifestyle edition were both driven on RFT tires and drove over 80000 Km on each set. The regular tires were used on the Lifestyle edition for about 50000 Km and so far do not seem to be doing better/worse than RFT tires.
Regular tires summer 225/45/R18 Firestone Firehawk SZ90 – 3600 CZK (roughly 133 Euro per tire)
RFT tires summer 225/45/R18 Goodyear EfficientGrip – 4800 CZK (roughly 177 Euro per tire)
Regular tires winter Vredestein Wintrac Xtreme XL 225/50 R17 H98 – 3700 (roughly 137 Euro per tire)
RFT tires winter Pirelli Winter 210 SottoZero – 4900 CZK (roughly 181 Euro per tire)
*according to http://www.e-pneumatiky.cz/ today 8.1.2014; of course different dealers can offer special deals and you can get much better bargain, but to give accurate comparison, I believe it is better to use figures from one shop.
As you see the price differences are dramatic. Surprisingly in my opinion it is still worth investing money in RFT tires, because when you work as a professional driver, taxi or other kind of transporter, you simply can not afford to risk that you will get stuck somewhere due to multiple tire defect. On the RFT tires you have the option to deliver the passengers to their destinations or at least to safer area than busy highway.
Martin’s pro’s & con’s versus producers’ pro’s & con’s
- I do not agree that the diesel consumption is positively affected by any type; in fact the winter tires provide worse results than summer tires even though the summer tires are wider.
- I prefer the RFT for safety issues. Especially because of the results they provide if the defect is experienced while driving at higher speeds. Of course I like the idea that I can get the car to the garage and do not have to replace the tires myself
- I prefer the RFT as they provide more confidence and lower risk overall
- I dislike the RFT for being less comfortable than the regular tires, even though the producers claim that driving comfort of both types is comparable.
- one can not drive fast, comfortably or safely on the punctured RFT tire, but even the worse performance is better than no performance
- Do not rely on solely RFT, get a spare wheel too. Why? Because imagine that you drive overnight say to Budapest. You have a defect at 2 am, 500 km away from home and all nearby garages are naturally closed. The client needs to be in the destination in time. The spare tire can save your day (or night?).
- The RFT tire can be repaired even though the producers claim it is not possible. I tested it. It works.
If you drive for living and do a lot of kilometers a year, RFT tires are definitely worth your money. If you are occasional driver, you can evaluate the risks and probably buy the significantly cheaper regular tires.
Objections? Different experience?
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