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Should You Repair Run-Flats?

(Clacton, U.K./Tyres & Accessories) Surveying the current state of the run-flat aftermarket reveals that there is a fair amount of discontent amongst dealers when it comes to so-called “fail-safe” tyre technology.

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As you would expect, retailers are interested in the financial benefits, but are not so keen on the short supply and customer satisfaction issues some have faced.

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One of the lingering problems in this respect is the question of whether or not to repair run-flats. For some dealers it all comes down to a question of customer service. One business told T&A recently: “A customer got a flat run-flat on his BMW. When we told him that he had to fork out £200 to replace a two-week old tyre, he was not impressed.”

In this case the dealership lost the sale and further business, not to mention goodwill. “He’s only going to take it a disreputable dealer for a repair anyway, so why not get a better job done here?” the dealer added. And that’s why T&A asked it readers what they thought about repairing run-flats in our most recent question of the month.

The results show a clear majority of respondents were in favour of repairing run-flats. Sixty-six percent agreed that they are “over-engineered to out-perform the guidelines.” The comments left by those surveyed show just how concerned some readers are.

“I was incensed to discover that dealers can’t repair a month-old tyre that just has a screw in the centre of the tread. Dunlop advice was that they’re repairable. Why can’t dealers follow tyre manufacturers advice?” one reader commented.

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Other readers were confused about the manufacturers’ global position on this subject: “Some of the manufacturers who are saying in the U.K. that they are not repairable endorse their repair, as long as not run flat, in other countries.”

(For the record Goodyear Dunlop U.K.’s official position on repairing its products is: “Goodyear recommends that RunOnFlat tyres be changed after they have been used under deflated conditions. However, Goodyear understands that customers might want to repair their RunOnFlat tyres for cost reasons…The [qualified] professional who is going to repair the tyre will be responsible for his work in any case.”)

However, the 33% of respondents who voted against the repair of run-flats were equally clear about their position. “If the major tyre manufacturers will not recommend or state repairability of their tyres, why should tyre dealers take on responsibility and liability?”

A U.K. reader commented: “How do you determine the continued safety of a tyre that is designed to be run underinflated or flat for an extended period of time? Therefore, can we risk repairing a safety device on the information relayed by the customer of a grudge purchase product?”

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Some U.S. readers questioned how much real demand there is for run-flats. “I have never heard a person who is buying a new car ask for run-flat tyres or TPMS. This is another occasion of the government forcing the consumer to purchase new products and systems that have not been proven before releasing them into the market place. In effect, we allow the manufacturers to use real life situations in order to perfect their systems. The cost is always the burden of the consumer,” one U.S. reader observed.

A Chinese reader furthered the international perspective by commenting: “Run-flat tyres are high technology and high performance. Customers may like them, but the cost is not acceptable in China. We will have very good market if we can make the cost be accepted by customer.”

Senior technical staff from Pirelli Tyre U.K. summed up the tyre industry’s general position on the subject during a TIC-organised run-flat seminar at the recent Autosport/Aftermarket show.

Pirelli’s Ken Brown explained that the industry is becoming “more and more aligned on this subject” and that “most, if not all, manufacturers do not recommend repairing run-flats.” He pointed to the BRMA statement as the best example of the combined manufacturers’ positions. The BRMA and TIC run-flat advice statements appear to agree on the subject stating: “The BRMA does not recommend repairs to a run-flat tyre,” the TIC statement reads. “The prudent thing,” Ken Brown continued, “…is not to repair.”

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On the subject of the legal classification of run-flats, Brown commented: “Technology has rather outstripped regulatory requirements,” implying that there could be new legislation on the way. If and when this happens, it is likely to come in the form of a rule similar to the regulation prohibiting cross-ply and radial tyres from being mixed across an axle. Any new legislation is expected to stipulate that run-flats of the same specification should be fitted in pairs, if not sets of four.

But what about retro fitting run-flats? T&A asked if the fact that Pirelli has developed its aftermarket tyre pressure monitoring for exactly this market. “Generally speaking we would not recommend this unless the vehicle was designed for run-flats, features a TMPS and has extended hump design wheels.”

Quizzed on the whys and wherefores of towing with run-flats, Brown said: “Performance criteria is very much dependent on the vehicle. Run-flats could be fitted to a trailer with the addition of an aftermarket TPMS.” However, for further advice he directed drivers and retailers to the vehicle maker’s handbook.

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