Trends and New Technologies

Tires evolve as technology improves, and they are subject to fashion, also. Good and bad, here are the current trends.

  • Original equipment tires are larger and have increasingly lower profiles. This is usually an unfortunate development: many new cars have tires with an unnecessarily low profile that are poorly adapted to our roads; these low profile tires often come with high speed ratings (V for sustained running up to 240 km/h!), so they also wear out faster and are more expensive to replace. The large alloy wheels that are matched to low profile tires are expensive and vulnerable to rim damage.
  • Higher performance tires are now more affordable, thanks to stiff competition in the segment and improved manufacturing techniques.
  • "Run-flat" tires that remain roadworthy with little or no air pressure are becoming more common on high-end vehicles, most notoriously on the all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna minivan, and BMW 3-series as of 2006. To a certain degree, tires that can run normally after losing air pressure represent an added safety measure in the event of a blowout at speed. However, run-flat tires are expensive, and heavier than their conventional counterparts, which increases fuel consumption. The stiff sidewalls run-flat tires require to support them when air pressure has been lost, make them hard riding and increases the force of impact transmitted to the wheels. Run-flats also tend to wear out quickly. Finally, "run-flat" does not mean you will never have to replace the tire in the event of a flat. Major damage that slices the casing will require tire replacement, and for minor damage the retailer has to go through a precise inspection procedure before repairing a flat -- frequently, the tire is rejected. If the failure occurs on a driving wheel, it is often necessary to replace TWO tires, as tire wear must be relatively even on the same axle. 
  • Low rolling resistance tires are a welcome change from the current "fantasy era" of tire and wheel design. These tires, frequently identified as "energy saving" by their manufacturers, are reported to save 1-3% of fuel consumed; that's equivalent to a tank or two of gasoline a year. In theory, their extra cost is repaid in fuel savings over the life of the tires. 

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