Nowadays, run flat tires, also referred to as RFTs, have become very popular. In fact, some vehicles come standard with run flat tires since they have many advantages. As their name suggests, these tires are capable of running without air pressure or when they’re flat, allowing the vehicle to travel to somewhere safe to get a replacement. Many run flat tires can go up to 50 miles at speeds up to 50 mph while flat.
Typically, run flat tires use one of two supporting systems. One is a self-supporting system, while the other is the support ring system. Run flat tires that use a self-supporting system feature reinforced sidewall construction that continues to support the vehicle if the tire loses air pressure. You will want to pay close attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the distance and speed that the tire can operate once it loses air. Run flat tires with a support ring system feature a ring of hard rubber or another structure that will support the vehicle when the tire loses air.
It is highly recommended to only use run flat tires on vehicles equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Without TPMS, you may not even know you’re driving on a flat if you’re running run flat tires.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular and best run flat tires currently available. Some of these products have very limited sizes available, so you will have to do some research to make sure a particular product works on your vehicle. To learn more about run flat tires, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick / Ultra High Performance All Season: Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP
- 2. Ultra High Performance Summer RFT: Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval RFT
- 3. Max Performance Summer RFT: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Pole Position RFT
- 4. Max Performance Summer RFT: Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP
- 5. Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 RFT
- 6. Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 Run Flat
- 7. Light Truck/SUV Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Pirelli Scorpion Ice & Snow Run Flat
- Pros and Cons of Run Flat Tires
1. Editor's Pick / Ultra High Performance All Season: Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP
Although this tire is available in limited sizes, it’s one of the best-performing run flat tires money can buy. The Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP is an ultra high performance all-season run flat tire, developed as an Original Equipment (OE) replacement for the Chevrolet Corvette C5 and C6 models. But so long as the tire size fits your vehicle, you can also get yourself a set. It’s a low-profile, high-speed tire designed to temporarily support the weight of the car even after loss of air pressure. It combines enhanced all-weather performance, wet grip, and treadwear with year-round traction, including in light snow.
This tire features Michelin’s TriFusion Compound, which molds a total of three different tread compounds side-by-side using the company’s precise “C3M” tire manufacturing process. The tread compound used in both shoulders is designed to improve dry handling, while the compound used between the shoulders and center rib improves wet, snow, and cold weather traction. The compound found in the center rib enhances wet traction.
All three compounds on the Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP have been molded into a directional tread design, which features a continuous circumferential center rib, high angle directional tread blocks, as well as circumferential and high angle lateral grooves. The circumferential center rib helps to improve road feel while driving, as well as reducing noise on dry roads, while the high angle directional tread blocks sharpen steering response and dry road handling. The circumferential high angle lateral grooves help the tires resist hydroplaning and enhances wet traction.
Internally, this tire includes two high-tensile lightweight steel cord belts under the tread area. Those belts have been reinforced with Michelin’s “Filament at Zero” (FAZ) technology that spirally wraps an individual strand of polyamide across the entire tread. This helps increase treadwear and ride comfort, along with providing high-speed durability and predictable handling.
To temporarily support the vehicle after a loss of air pressure, the Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP tires have reinforced sidewalls. The Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP is available in 275/40ZR18 size.
2. Ultra High Performance Summer RFT: Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval RFT
Another tire designed as an OE replacement for the Chevrolet C6 Corvettes is Firestone’s Firehawk Wide Oval RFT. Again, this tire can be used if the fitment (245/40R18 and 285/35R19) fits your vehicle and it’s an ultra high performance summer tire. This tire focuses on delivering responsive handling and traction in dry and wet conditions and should not be used on snow or ice, or in near-freezing temperatures.
The Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval RFT sports three core elements: CO-CS, O-Bead, and Long Link Carbon (L. L. Carbon). CO-CS is a Computer Optimized Component System used in the design and manufacturing process, so that they work more cooperatively to create a tire that doesn’t significantly sacrifice one area of performance for another. O-Bead provides the tire with a more round structure, minimizing overlapped joints in the bead area. This also helps result in an improved ride. Lastly, L. L. Carbon helps the rubber compound resist microscopic tread tearing, normally related to wear.
The L. L. Carbon tread rubber compound has been molded into an independent block, directional tread design to deliver responsive handling, as well as wet and dry traction. There are circumferential and lateral grooves to help prevent hydroplaning. This tire’s internal structure uses twin steel belts that have been reinforced with spirally wrapped nylon ply to provide strength, stability, and high-speed capability. It also has run-flat sidewall reinforcements to allow a vehicle to move up to 50 miles at 50 mph, even after air loss or a flat.
3. Max Performance Summer RFT: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Pole Position RFT
Yet another run flat tire developed for the Chevrolet Corvette C6, more specifically the Z06 variant, the Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Pole Position RFT is available in 275/35R18 and 325/30R19 sizes, and you can use the online tool to see if they will fit your car. This is a max performance summer run flat tire that combines athletic capabilities on the street with temporary extended mobility if the tire gets punctured or experiences complete air pressure loss. This is a summer tire, so it’s not recommended to use the Potenza RE050A Pole Position RFT through snow, ice, or in near-freezing temperatures.
Featuring high-silica content tread compound that has been molded into an asymmetric tread design, this tire features stable shoulder elements, large tread blocks, and a continuous center rib on the outboard side that provides responsive handling and traction on dry roads. There are also wide circumferential and lateral tread grooves that help dispel water from under the tire’s footprint, which enhances hydroplaning resistance and aids wet traction.
Bridgestone has also outfitted this run flat tire with another continuous circumferential rib that is adjacent to the inboard shoulder blocks. This rib enhances wear quality, helping reduce road noise throughout the life of the tire.
The internal structure of this tire includes twin steel belts reinforced by spirally wrapped nylon that stabilize the tread area and enhance high-speed capability.
4. Max Performance Summer RFT: Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP
Originally introduced as an OE tire for the BMW 3 Series equipped with the Sport Package, the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP is now available in a variety of 18-inch sizes and 325/30ZR19. This tire focuses on delivering dry road traction, handling, and cornering and should not be used on snow, ice, or in near-freezing temperatures.
For this tire, Michelin molds an advanced tread rubber compound into an asymmetric design. It features the company’s Variable Contact Patch that helps keep more tread rubber on the road while aggressive driving. Its tread design has large outboard shoulder blocks and continuous intermediate and center ribs, providing a solid connection to the ground. This enhances control during cornering, braking, and acceleration in dry conditions.
There are also wide circumferential grooves and lateral notches, which channel water through the footprint to improve wet road traction. Internally, the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP features two steel cord belts reinforced by size-optimized, spirally would polyamide. This helps improve steering response and resistance to distortion, while enhancing ride quality and high-speed durability.
As a run flat tire, the Pilot Sport PS2 ZP incorporates a heavy-duty rayon casing that has been reinforced by rubber zero pressure sidewall inserts. This is a max performance summer tire.
5. Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 RFT
If you’re looking for a run flat tire that delivers performance in winter and snow conditions, the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 RFT is available in 16-, 17-, and 18-inch sizes. Mainly developed for the MINI Cooper, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Lexus IS, Toyota Sienna, BMW X5, and BMW X6, this tire combines driving traction on dry, wet, and snow-covered roads with the ability to drive up to 50 miles at up to 50 mph even if the tire goes flat.
This tire combines the basic tread design of Bridgestone’s Blizzak WS60 with a high-silica tread compound so it offers high-speed durability with dry road, cold weather handling, and snow traction. The high-silica content winter/snow tread compound is molded into a directional tread design on this tire and features independent tread blocks with 3D zigzag sipes that help keep water away from the tire’s contact patch. The combination of these two features provides hydroplaning resistance and greater driving and braking abilities on snow-covered roads.
The internal structure of this tire features Bridgestone’s UNI-T Technology, using twin steel belts reinforced by spirally wound nylon. That internal structure has been specifically tuned on a size-by-size basis for each application.
Bridgestone Side Support Run-Flat technology uses reinforced sidewalls to support the vehicle if the tire experiences a puncture of complete loss of air. This tire also meets the industry’s severe snow service requirements and feature the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol.
6. Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 Run Flat
Another performance winter/snow run flat tire is the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3. This tire is developed for owners of premium, high performance vehicles and is available in a variety of 17-, 18-, 19-, and 20-inch sizes. Using Pirelli’s Self-Supporting Run Flat Technology, the Sottozero 3 features enhances safety and convenience, as well as temporary mobility for up to 50 miles at 50 mph. The company designed these tires with the philosophy that winter/snow tires should perform in a variety of unpredictable weather conditions. As a result, this winter/snow run flat tire provides traction and handling in cool, cold, dry, wet, and wintry conditions.
This tire uses an innovative compound equipped with specialized polymers that improve the tread rubber compound’s mechanical, thermal, and dynamic properties. Pirelli has molded the compound into a directional pattern with an enlarged contact patch featuring arrow-shaped center blocks and more rounded shoulders to force out water and slush. It also uses high-density 3D sipe technology to improve braking performance and snow-to-snow traction.
The internal structure of this tire includes twin steel belts that have been reinforced by spirally wrapped polyamide, which enhances thermal stability and makes the tires less sensitive to changes in road and air temperatures.
This tire is also branded with the 3PMSF symbol.
7. Light Truck/SUV Performance Winter/Snow RFT: Pirelli Scorpion Ice & Snow Run Flat
If you need a performance winter/snow tire for a light truck, crossover, or SUV, the Pirelli Scorpion Ice & Snow is available in 20- and 21-inch sizes. It’s a self-supporting run flat tire developed for luxury crossover and SUV owners who want enhanced wintertime traction. It performs well on dry and wet roads, as well as in snow and on ice. This tire incorporates special sidewall reinforcements to temporarily support the weight of the vehicle if the tire does experience a complete loss of air pressure. Pirelli’s Run Flat technology allows the tires to run flat for up to 50 miles at 50 mph.
Designed to deliver wintertime driving capabilities on dry and wet words, as well as in snow and on ice, the Scorpion Ice & Snow Run Flat tires have a tread rubber compound that remains flexible even at lower ambient temperatures. This enhances grip and handling in typical winter conditions. The tread compound is molded into a subtly asymmetric tread design, sporting a stable shoulder area that enhances dry road handling. Meanwhile, circumferential grooves helps prevent hydroplaning and maintaining good traction on wet and slush-covered roads. There are also independent tread blocks with circumferential and lateral sipes that help the tire bite into snow.
Like the other winter/snow tires, the Pirelli Scorpion Ice & Snow wears the 3PMSF symbol.
Pros and Cons of Run Flat Tires
We’ve already briefly explained how run flat tires work and although their benefits may seem obvious, they’re worth exploring. Along with being able to drive on a flat, run flat tires also provide better stability after a blow out. Since these tires are designed to support a vehicle even with no air pressure, a sudden puncture or blow out isn’t as jarring as a standard tire. Steering and handling will be fairly similar since there’s less weight being transferred when a blow out occurs.
As you can expect however, there are compromises when using run flat tires. If your vehicle came from the factory with these tires, there’s a good chance it doesn’t have a spare tire or a jack and its accompanying tools. This does however, give additional interior or trunk space for the vehicle.
One of the biggest cons to using run flat tires is that they often have a harsher ride due to the stiff sidewalls. Now if the tires came straight from the factory, the automaker likely tuned the vehicle’s suspension to compensate for using run flat tires. But this is something to take into consideration if you’re planning to use run flat tires on a vehicle that didn’t come with them off the assembly line.
Overall, run flat tires aren’t as popular as traditional tires, which means there isn’t as big of variety and sizes to choose from. They’re also typically more expensive compared to a non-run flat counterpart.
And lastly, as we mentioned earlier, you will want to make sure your vehicle has TPMS if you are using run flat tires. This way, you know if a tire has lost pressure and needs to be replaced.
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