What Are Self-Sealing Tires?
This technological advance takes the punch out of punctures.
Any road, anywhere, could be strewn with tire-puncturing hazards, from roofing nails to lag screws to good old broken bottles. It takes just one to put a hole through the rubber, let the air out, and render your vehicle immobile. At that point you'll need to install the spare — if your car has one — or call for help.
But what if your tires could heal their own punctures without any effort from you? Thanks to advances in tire technology, they just might.
How Do Self-Sealing Tires Work?
Self-sealing tires are designed with special materials to flow into and plug small punctures in the tire, in effect creating an instant repair while driving.
They are offered by a number of manufacturers under various trademarked names, but they all work in about the same way. Inside the tire is a layer of viscous material that stays soft and flexible under any expected temperatures and conditions, covering the entire width of the tread area.
If a sharp object manages to pierce all the way through the rubber and structural belts of the tire, this material is forced by air pressure into the unwanted opening to seal it. Even if the puncturing object lodges in the tire and later falls out, the sealing material should prevent air leakage.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Self-Sealing Tires
The primary benefit of a self-healing tire is increased safety, with no need to pull over in a dangerous spot to make repairs immediately after a puncture. In addition, a vehicle equipped with self-healing tires may be able to dispense with the added weight and bulk of a spare wheel/tire and associated tire-changing equipment.
On the negative side, self-healing tires cost more than ordinary tires, and the selection of sizes and types of self-healing tires is limited. Additionally, self-sealing technology is not designed to protect against sidewall punctures, which are uncommon but do happen. Self-sealing tires must be inspected regularly for any objects that may be embedded in the tread, and for damage too large for safe self sealing.
How Do They Differ From Run-Flat Tires and Self-Healing Tires?
Run-flat tires are made with stiffer, thicker sidewalls and sometimes an internal support ring, and they are designed to be driven for short distances even after a total loss of air pressure. Self-sealing tires are designed to prevent the loss of air pressure in the first place.
Self-healing tires use compounds that renew the rubber's chemical bonds at the molecular level. They are still in the experimental stage.
How Can You Get Self-Sealing Tires?
Self-healing tires may be purchased from multiple reputable manufacturers or through your local tire shop. They include Michelin Selfseal tires, Pirelli Seal Inside tires, Continental ContiSeal tires, Hankook Sealguard tires, Bridgestone B-Seals tires, and Goodyear DuraSeal tires.