Advances in technology have allowed many new safety features into our cars: seatbelts, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, airbags, and most recently Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (https://www.performanceplustire.com/tech-info/tire-pressure-monitoring-systems-tpms/ )and Run Flat tires. And while it seems ridiculous to argue if it’s better to be thrown free from a crash because you are not wearing a seatbelt, hear us out on the downside to TPMS and runflats – specifically how they may just leave you stranded if you’re not prepared. That said, if you are buying a wheel and tire package or replacing your old tires and need to replace worn our sensors, we absolutely think you need to keep your TPMS system working – but keep a few things in mind when relying on them.
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems have been mandatory on passenger cars, trucks and SUVs in the United States since the early 2000s, and unquestionably give the driver great insight into the pressure of their tires. While knowing if a tire is losing air pressure is an absolute benefit to the driver and safety for all involved, there is a downside – some manufacturers have given up on the spare tire. According to Consumer Reports, in 2017 approximately 1/3rd of cars did not come with a spare tire as standard equipment – and even less new cars have them today. Sometimes you have to know to order it separately, or get a particular package that adds the spare to the vehicle – but it is actually not easy to find this out when researching the vehicle – so be sure to ask if your car has a spare tire when you are shopping for a new or used vehicle.
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Runflats are also a great new technology that has left manufacturers removing the spare tire. In fact, a sure fire way to know the car or SUV does not have a spare is if it has comes with runflat tires. Runflats have a special, reinforced sidewall that can usually be driven on for up to 50 miles – plenty of range to get to your local tire shop if you are close to home, or to get to the next exit if you are on the freeway. They weigh a little more than a standard tire, and drivers may notice a rougher ride than a standard tire (chassis engineers have mostly tuned this out though – who wants a rough ride in their new luxury car?). And if you need to shop for runflat tires, you know they cost quite a bit more than a standard tire, but that’s the price of safety, right? So you’re paying more for runflats and can drive up to 50 miles with them, so why do we think you may want to reconsider a spare tire? Simple – you can still get stranded if it’s late at night or you are more than 50 miles from a shop.
Imagine you’re headed out of town on a Friday night and your TPMS light comes on, you’re only a few PSI down, so you fill that tire and continue down the road away from home. An hour later, the light comes back on, and it’s the same tire. This time as you’re driving to the next exit, the pressure has kept dropping. You get off the road and can hear the hiss of the tire losing air. Now you’re 100 miles from home, all the tire stores are closed, and you don’t have a spare – now what? Your real options are to get a hotel, rideshare, or hope you know a friend or family member that can come and somehow bail you out (tire plugs are not an option in our book as they can damage the tire worse than the flat itself!).
The moral of this story? Make sure your tires and TPMS are in good shape before you head out of town (we love to see customers stop by to have us top off their tires before they leave town!). Most TPMS sensors are designed to last about 5 years, so usually if you are getting a second set of tires on your car, replace those old sensors with new ones! We sell them set to the vehicle, so usually you don’t have any extra programming to do. Also, check to see if your vehicle has a jack and a spare tire, and not just an air pump. If you don’t have a spare tire, make sure you have a membership to AAA or another roadside service plan that can tow you to an appropriate location without being charged an exaggerated price (most plans charge to tow after the first 25 miles), and consider if you should get an spare tire (eBay motors probably has a new or used spare wheel and tire for your car!) – even if you just put it in the truck before you go on longer trips! If your car is equipped with a runflat, there probably isn’t even a place for a spare tire or jack – so have a contingency plan in place before you leave town!