Which Are The Best Low Profile Tires
What is it about low profile tires that makes them so popular? What is the difference between low profile tires and regular tires? If you have nothing but a few vague ideas, read on to learn the differences.
Low profile tires were initially a preserve of the well to do because only high end luxury vehicles and sports models came fitted with them. Now they are in just about every vehicle you come across and you can easily swap your regular tires for low profile ones.
Most people opt for low profiles for aesthetic purposes but there are a few other considerations to think about. If you are swapping your regular tires for low profiles or vice versa, it is important to have the change done by a professional because errors in this process could lead to miscalculations and misreadings.
What Are Low Profile Tires?
For most people, the words ‘low profile’ in relation to tires simply means sleek-looking, more expensive tires. In essence, a low profile tire is any tire with a shorter sidewall than regular tires and larger tread blocks.
Take a quick glance at a low profile tire from the side and you notice that the distance between the rim and the tread is smaller and the tire is thicker or wider than normal tires. If you take a closer look, you will notice a code.
If the code is for example 195/55 R5V, the number after the slash refers to the aspect ratio. Any tire with an aspect ratio of 55 or lower is considered low profile.
Benefits of low profile tires
Now you know what observable features of a tire make it low or high profile. Your next question is probably ‘so what?’ So what if my tires are low profile? What do I gain or lose? Here is a brief comparison of low profile tires and regular tires.
- Overall Appearance
Undoubtedly, aesthetics is one of the many reasons so many people prefer low profile tires to regular ones. With low-profile tires, fewer tires and more wheel is seen. In high-profile tires, more tire and fewer wheels is seen. Wheels are always better looking than tires so a more prominent wheel gives the car a sporty or luxury elegant look.
- Breaking and control
Low profile tires are used with larger rims. This gives more contact patch and can accommodate larger breaking hardware. Wider tires and larger rims also give the driver better vehicle control, especially when cornering. This is especially valuable for vehicles designed for high speed such as sports models.
- Better Fuel Consumption
If you are looking to cut down on your fuel costs, low profile tires will help you do that. Tires take up 20% of fuel consumption when the car is travelling at low speed and up to 35% when it is moving at high speed. Low profile tires offer lower rolling resistance which required less power and less fuel.
Disadvantages of Run Flat Tires
Experts say about 12 in every 100 new cars sold today come fitted with run flat tires. This means that there is a 12% chance that your next car will have run flats. The main advantage of these tires is that you can continue to drive for a limited distance when the tire gets punctured. This advantage comes with several disadvantages including:
These tires are a lot more expensive than regular tires. They cost between 40% and 75% more. Some dealers charge up to 300% more. If you buy a new car and don’t know what these tires cost, you will have to adjust your budget significantly to meet replacement costs.
- Reduced fuel economy
Run flats are quite heavy compared to regular tires. This is thanks to the reinforced sidewall which enables them to support the car's weight even when the tire is deflated. The extra weight can reduce fuel economy.
- Difficult to tell when it is low on air pressure
The tire is designed to continue running normally after a puncture. The only way you can tell if a run flat tire is running low on pressure is through an alert which comes from the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS.)
The alert typically appears on the vehicle’s console where the driver is expected to see it. In the event that the TPMS is faulty, or there is something wrong with the console so the driver does not see the alert, it is possible for a driver to be driving on a punctured run flat tire unaware of it.
- Limited availability
Run flats generally don’t sell as much and as fast as normal tires so most dealers don’t stock them. They are easy to find in major towns and cities but it could be difficult to find them in small towns.
If you are on the road and your run flat tire develops a puncture near a small town, you should be able to get to the nearest garage safely but may have to wait several hours for a new tire to be sent to you.
It’s clear that there are more demerits than benefits to these tires. This is why it is common to find car owners looking to replace their run flats with regular tires.
Do Low Profile Tires Wear Out Faster?
One of the main advantages of low profile tires is their superior grip which makes the vehicle safer. This advantage comes at the expense of durability. This is because low profile tires are made using softer compounds which help to improve traction.
This softer rubber wears out faster and leaves more elements on the road than that used in regular tires, especially if you habitually corner hard at high speed.
The tires may wear out even faster if certain recommended practices are not followed. Here are some negative habits drivers are discouraged from.
- Overloading the vehicle. This increases the pressure of the tire on the road. The more the pressure the faster it wears out.
- Driving up an elevated track at high speed. This increases resistance between the tire and the ground.
- Cornering at high speed. This literally tears the tire at the spot of high pressure.
- Instant breaking. The screeching sound you hear when you break suddenly is actually the sound of the tires rubbing against the road as the vehicle struggles to come to a halt. It is best to slow down gradually and eventually come to a complete stop rather than break and stop suddenly.
Can I Put Regular Tires Instead Of Run Flats?
Your car has low profile tires and you would like to replace them with regular tires. To do this, you need to replace the wheel with one with a lower diameter but maintain the overall diameter of the tire and wheel assembly.
Experts recommend that the new tire and wheel combination be no more than 3% more or less than the original assembly. If the new assembly is more than 3% larger or smaller than the original assembly, you run the risk of inaccurate readings from the speedometer and milometer which presents a whole new set of risks and inconveniences.
If the new assembly is too large, the tire comes into contact with car’s bodywork or suspension parts which should never happen.
There is nothing wrong with making this kind of change, although you are required to communicate the same to your insurer as soon as it is made. The motor insurer under which your vehicle is covered must always be notified when you make a change to the car’s original specification.
Are Low Profile Tires Expensive?
Low profile tires are generally more expensive than regular tires. There is no debate about that. Differences in opinion arise in explanations put forward in an attempt to explain the significant variance in pricing.
Some attribute the extra cost to more steel and other components besides rubber used in constructing these tires, compared to regular tires.
Others explain the extra cost by saying that the technology required to manufacture low profile tires is superior to that used for regular tires and the end consumer must meet the extra cost.
Another argument is simply that low profile tires are a product produced primarily for aesthetic value and not comfort or longevity. They are luxury products and not basic functional ones.
They are priced as they are because the target market can afford and is willing to pay more. It is not clear which of these aspects are behind the disparity in cost though it is likely that a combination of factors come into play.
Do Low Profile Tires Wear Out Faster?
Low profile tires are unrivaled when it comes to grip. This strength comes at the expense of durability. The extra grip is achieved because the tire is made out of softer components, effectively improving road traction. The rubber and these compounds wear out faster and leaves more elements on the road.
It has been proven that there are some common mistakes that contribute to fast wear and tear of low-profile tires. These include
- Driving with lower pressure than the recommended level.
- Overloading the vehicle. If you use your car to transport heavy loads and need to find out the maximum recommended weight for the tires, check the load index.
- Driving over curbs and other obstacles and driving too close to curbs such that the side wall hits or rubs against them.
- Instant breaking. Hitting the breaks hard suddenly makes the car screech to a halt which is bad for tires.
- High speed cornering is popular in racing but it is terrible for tires because it makes it wear out at the spot of contact with the road.
Some car experts say that low profile tires can last just as long as regular tires and can do so if they are properly used. Many other experts have refuted this saying low profile tires cannot last as long as regular ones regardless of how well they are used.
Are Low Profile Tires Bad In Rain?
Low profile tires are fine for wet roads if they have a directional tread pattern. This allows it to maintain grip. If they do not have this feature, you might be in for a difficult drive when it rains. Accelerating on a wet road could make the tires hydroplane.
This happens when there is more water than the tire can scatter. This creates a ‘plane’ of water which separates the tire from the road, making it lose all traction. As a result the driver cannot steer, brake or control the vehicle in any way.
A car can hydroplane at any point of driving on a wet road but it is the first 10 minutes after rain sets in that are most dangerous. At this point, small amounts of water have mixed with oil residues on the road's surface to make it slippery.
This increases the chances of hydroplaning especially for vehicles travelling at speeds higher than 35mph.
To reduce the chances of hydroplaning when it rains, ensure your tires are always properly inflated, keep off outer lanes where water accumulates, drive in a low gear and avoid sudden braking.
Can You Fix A Run Flat Tire With A Nail In It?
Regular tires rely solely on air pressure to support the weight of the car and ensure stable driving. If you have a puncture, you have to stop immediately and fix it. Run flat tires are designed to withstand the effects of little or no pressure.
This means that you can keep driving for some time even after a puncture. How is this achieved? The tire is made with a reinforced sidewall capable of carrying the vehicle’s weight even when the tire is deflated.
You can keep driving but not for an unlimited distance. Run flat tire manufacturers generally say you can drive safely for about 50 miles at a speed of 30 to 50 miles an hour.
Plugging a Run Flat Tire with a Nail in It
Plugging a tire refers to the process of sealing a hole made by a nail or other offending object on a tire. A piece of vulcanized material is fitted tightly into the hole to prevent air from leaking.
When it comes to plugging run flats, there is some disagreement about whether it is safe. As in the case of repair, some companies advocate for it and others don’t.
Goodyear for example is all for plugging on condition that the damage is within the outer grooves and doesn’t go beyond the treads. This manufacturer also specifies the size of plug to be used saying it should be a ¼ inch in diameter.
The final condition is that a patch must be applied over the plug every time.
Are Run Flat Tires Repairable?
Despite having been in the market for more than 30 years, there is still no industry consensus on whether they can be fixed or not. Some say these type of tire should be discarded as soon as the slightest damage is noticed. Others say it is alright to fix them as long as damage is minimal.
Different tire manufacturers give differing instructions. Here are the opinions of some world renowned tire manufacturers.
Pirelli Tire LLC – Run flat tires should never be repaired under any circumstances. Once it is damaged, discard it and replace it with a new one.
Continental Tire the Americas LLC does not recommend any repair on their run flat product. The company argues that even a trained eye may fail to recognize damage to the tire's internal structure after it has been driven with little or no air pressure. For this reason there is no way of knowing if it is safe to return on the road.
Bridgestone Americas Inc. have a different view. They say that their run flat tires can be repaired as long as certain laid out guidelines are met. These guidelines basically call for thorough inspection of the tire to establish the extent of damage. If it is minimal, repair can be done.
Hankook Tire America Corp – They say their run flat tires are designed to be repaired after a puncture so they should be repaired just as regular tires are repaired. “We design our tires to be repaired as simply as possible” says the corporation’s senior technical services specialist Juan Britos.
Michelin say their run flats may be repaired only once and a professional must do the repair. A thorough inspection of the tire must be done prior to repair.
Goodyear and Dunlop – their run flat tires can be repaired but only by a qualified tire professional and after a thorough inspection and analysis of the individual tire’s history.
When Damage Is Beyond Repair
Although some tire manufacturers say it is alright to repair your run flats after damage, that is not to say that repair is possible every time. Sometimes damage is extensive and you have no option but to discard it. How badly a tire gets damaged is dependent on how quickly the driver noticed the problem and how promptly he responded to it.
To properly assess the damage, the wheel must be dismounted and the tire removed from the wheel for inspection. External inspection is nowhere near enough. One must carefully look through the external and internal parts of the tire because signs of damage may be hidden on the inside.
Aside from thorough inspection, another aspect to be considered is location, size and type of damage.
According to industry guidelines a puncture can be repaired only if it is ¼ inch or less in diameter and is in the tread area. If it is in the sidewall or shoulder area, do not attempt to repair it. It is important to keep a record of repairs because some manufacturers limit tire repairs to one or two. Proximity to other damages should also be considered. If a puncture is less than 16 inches from another, repair is not an option.
How Long Do Low Profile Tires Last?
It may appear to be an insignificant detail in vehicle maintenance but it certainly is not. Deciding on a set of tires for your car is a key decision because this is the only point of contact between your car and the road.
Features like rolling resistance, grip and stability contribute to the car's overall safety while features like durability determine how much you spend in the long run.
The advantage of strong grip and superior stability in low profile tires, comes with the disadvantage of reduced durability. Such tires are made of softer materials which are likely to get damaged and need replacement sooner than regular tires.
The rate of wear and tear of low profile tires is largely dependent on how you use your vehicle and your driving style. If you frequently use your vehicle to transport heavy loads, these tires may not be a good idea.
Just to be sure how much weight is too much, check the load index set by the manufacturer to guide you. Besides that, certain driving habits could lower the durability of your tires. Your low profile tires will last longer if you avoid some of these:
- Cornering hard at high speed
- Subjecting the tires to excessive weight
- Hitting the brakes hard instantaneously
- Driving with tires at low pressure
- Driving over obstacles such as curbs at high speed
Some experts say low profile tires should last just as long as regular ones if used correctly. Others insist low profiles cannot last as long regardless of how they are used.
How Long Do Run Flat Tires Last After A Puncture?
The single most common question from car owners considering a switch is ‘How long do run flat tires last? Exactly how long can you keep going? Maximum distances and speeds for individual brands are indicated by the manufacturer though most indicate between 10 miles (16km) and 50 miles (80km) where distance is concerned and between 35 miles per hour and 50 miles per hour where speed is concerned.
There is no way of knowing exactly where you fall within these ranges because it depends on variables such as vehicle weight, vehicle load at the time, speed and condition of the road.
How Do I Know My Run Flat Tire Is Punctured?
Run flat tires are a perfect option for car owners who don’t want to deal with a puncture immediately. These tires are designed to withstand the effects of a puncture for a significant distance, allowing the driver to get to a mechanic.
It is so convenient that you may not know that you have a puncture if you don’t know what to look out for.
In fact it could be dangerous because you may end up driving your punctured run flat beyond the recommended distance simply because you have no idea it is out of air. How do I know my run flat tire is punctured?
Any car which is compatible with run flat tires has a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) whose function is to detect loss of pressure in any one of the tires and alert the driver immediately.
This system is crucial because without it, it would be very difficult for the driver to know when a tire begins to loose pressure.
In most vehicles, the TPMS displays the alert on the center console, which fully views the driver. The alert reminds the driver that they will need to stop within the next 50 miles for tire replacement.
In cases where a car owner wants to fit run-flat tires to a vehicle that was not fitted with these by the manufacturer, a TPMS has to be installed.
There is a lot more to low-profile tires than the sporty or luxury look it gives a car. This is not the only difference between low-profile tires and regular tires. If you are considering buying a set for your car, you might want to budget for replacements sooner than you would with regular tires.
You will get to enjoy better braking and control of the vehicle and better fuel consumption when driving on smooth roads. When you drive on bumpy roads, you will have to bear with a significantly bumpier ride.
If you switch from low profile to regular ones, don’t forget to let your insurer know about it.
Are run flat tires really worth it?
If you do not want the inconvenience of having to endure constant tire punctures then your solution is to get yourself run flat tires. The tires will enable you to continue driving the car slowly until you get to a safe location. However, they are often more expensive to replace than other tires.
How much does it cost to have low flat tires?
In most standard cars, the costs should be around $150 to 500 per tire. This will however, depend on your car and the brand of tires you are looking for. In simple terms run flat tires are 200% more expensive than ordinary tires.