Tyre change is always a headache regardless if you’re in a compact budget hatchback or a full-sized luxury SUV. It costs a substantial amount of money and the process of making the right tyre choice can prove to be quite a challenge (if not a frustrating ordeal) for most.
With the plethora of tyre choices available, it usually boils down to picking one that suits your budget and driving needs. There is, however, one particular type of tyre that is becoming increasingly common as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) fitment, particularly among premium brands. Owners of newer generation BMWs would be familiar with this term – RFT or Run Flat Tyres. But what exactly are RFTs?
RFT technology has been around since the mid-1980s but only found its way into mainstream application in early 2000s. RFT allows drivers to continue driving after a puncture or on zero air pressure, giving you greater control of the car in emergency situations and the allowance to carry on driving before stopping at a safer location. For carmakers, another benefit is the liberty of not requiring a spare wheel & tyre – saving weight and space in the process.
RFTs are specially constructed with reinforced sidewalls and support ring making it more robust than a regular tyre. As such, they’re able to hold the tyre’s structure and support the vehicle even without any air pressure. Generally, tyre manufacturers and car makers only recommend driving these RFTs up to speeds of 80 km/h for not more than 80 km in the event of a puncture – plenty of buffer for you to get to a tyre shop safely.
RFT then sounds like the best option out there for a tyre change but that’s not quite the case. You see, due to the stiffer structural component of RFTs, you do sacrifice on ride comfort and to a certain extent fuel economy (due to the increased weight brought on by RFTs). Another unfavourable factor for RFTs is the higher cost (between 20 to 30 per cent more) compared to non-RFT when it comes to replacements.
If you choose to replace your OEM RFT to a regular tyre and your car does not come with a spare wheel, we highly recommend you to have a set of tyre repair kit (or sealant) ready for the unfortunate event of a puncture, unless you prefer to have tow truck services on speed dial.
Having said that, research and development have come a long way since the early days of RFTs to make them a more appealing option – lighter, grippier, more comfortable and most importantly, cheaper to replace.
Having RFTs equipped on your car certainly gives you an added peace of mind and convenience but that does not mean you should brush off the early signs of a puncture and neglect on the usual tyre maintenance timeline.
On the topic of whether you should opt for Run Flat Tyres or just regular ones during your next change, it really boils down to picking one that suits your budget and driving needs. Besides, a set of regular tyres and a tyre repair kit will get you out of the pinch just as well, if you prefer being hands-on.