BMW Run Flat Tires Test

We put BMW run-flat tires to the test and give them a thumbs-down

Run-Flat tires are standard on most BMWs. Why we think you should avoid them, and a selection of other opinions on the subject.

We recently had an unplanned opportunity to put run flat tires to the test. Our impromptu test vehicle was a 2013 BMW X3 xDrive 28i crossover. During a Sunday trip to a park we had a puncture that gave us the chance to see how a run flat preforms while driving deflated, as well as explore the repair/replacement options and see how they might compare to other road hazard management options like a full size spare or temporary spare. We learned quite a bit from the experience and hope you find this information helpful if you’re considering a vehicle with run-flat tires.

We first noticed the flat when we re-entered the vehicle because the car told us the front left tire was low via the information screen. A system like this is now government-mandated on all modern cars. Hoping it was just low, and not completely flat, we looked at it closely and could see it was definitely flat. Moving the car slowly with the window down resulted in the crunchy sound of a flat tire and the feeling was noticeably wiggly and sloppy. The sound was so much of a concern we opted to call BMW via the car’s SOS button. After reading, re-reading, and then re-reading the VIN about 6 times to the BMW representative after they already knew us from our name and model number, not to mention the account we called from (frustrating), the person at the other end told us to ignore the sounds and feelings and drive it under 50 miles, and under 50 miles per hour, to wherever we wanted to go. She said as long as we didn’t smell burning rubber not to worry. Off we went.

Run flat tires work by using a much more robust sidewall construction. The stiffer sidewall is able to support the uninflated tire temporarily. However, driving on the tire without air pressure destroys it. In their marketing, makers of run flats try to compare older tire technology to their new, lower-profile tires with the stiffened sidewalls, and claim some safety benefits. We are skeptical. Blow-outs and complete tire failures on new, lower-profile, modern tires (not run-flats) are extremely rare.

Update - Read What J.D. Power and Associates found out about Run Flat Customer Satisfaction and replacement frequency - Added March 27, 2015

My passenger input in a Nav course home (14 miles) that did not use freeways. The excellent BMW Nav system made this pretty easy to do, although we did have to wait a few minutes while it would only display a warning message about the tire. As we drove my passenger also called the BMW dealership the car is serviced at. To its credit the dealership did answer, but since it was Sunday, they could not help us in any way. Take note of that. Next my passenger looked up the local tire place she services her Honda Fit. It was also closed. We looked for a third place along our route home, also closed. Our plan became, “let’s get it home and then deal with the issue Monday morning.”

Driving BMW On a Run-Flat Tire
The feel while driving the BMW X3 xDrive 28i crossover with the deflated run-flat was just what one might expect. Sloppy, pulling to the side of the flat, and pretty apparent something major was up. It would be very hard to ignore this even if the dash wasn’t constantly telling us about the issue. We looked in the owner’s manual, which is the size of three Korans, and in the section under flat tires it had a note about the 50/50 miles driving, and that was pretty much it. I mainly wanted to know if I should try to re-inflate the tire. I figured that would help, but I wanted to also make sure it would not cause a rupture of the sidewall. I saw a gas station with an air hose and pulled in. I checked the pressure and it was “0.” I pumped it up to 45 psi. Driving off the car felt dramatically better, but still slightly odd. 4 miles later we were again flat. I found a second station with a lousy air hose and put in about 20 psi. Again it felt better than flat.

The sounds of the car on the flat were the most alarming. It sounds like rubber crunching and is pretty loud. I ignored it. Keeping our speed steady and slow (about the 30 to 35 MPH speed limit) we got the car home OK.

Dealing With the Run-Flat Repair
The BMW dealer was much farther away than the local tire chains, so a local place became our repair plan. Travelling to the BMW dealer would have taken us close to our limit of 50 miles and it was also out of the way for our Monday work plans. Calling around we found that a local Town Fair Tire chain only 6 miles away had the ability to replace our Pirelli Cinturato P7 245/50/18 run flat. Here is the first point we wish to make. This was a puncture from a nail in the middle of the tread. If we had a spare we could have easily put on the spare, driven home and then to a tire place to have the puncture repaired properly (inside patch/plug, tire-off method). That would have either been free, or done for a nominal fee of less than $50. Instead, we are now looking at replacing a tire.


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Thanks, John. I personally hate run-flats and have spare tires for all of our vehicles. Even if they do work, we are often more than 50 freeway miles from home anyway.
I'm glad (but disappointed) to see That I'm not the only one having problèmes with BMW Pirelli rue flat I Own a 2013 328 XI équiped with Run flat. I acquired the car in November 2013.Since I live in Quebec I'm obligated to install Winter tire by December 15 (the tirés had 7months of Road driving) In the spring of 2015 when I went to the dealership to Get the tirés back on they tôld me the tirés were Worn out insiste eventhough from the outsider the Tréad measurement Was at 97% good. Afterr 3months of argument with Pirelli (No help from BMW Canada)I finally got full reimbersment. This week I showed up for Winter installation (2 sinters of usage) the Tréad measurement is at 98% and You Know what same issue. I'm out of pock $1900.00. This Time BMW Will deal with the claim ( can't wait to see the résults) Either way if BMW çannot offer Standard tire as an option in future car (i havé owned 5 BMW) This is the end of the Road for me After 20 years
This was really interesting. I didn't even know such tires existed. I wonder if they were created for people who don't know how to change a tire? Maybe BMW owners don't know how.
The new BMW i3 has no run flats, has no spare of any kind, and uses tires that are exclusive to only it. I wish I lived in a world where that made any sense whatsoever.
I thought that was a very interesting and useful article. Couple of counter points however, I have noticed that some people will just drive their car to the nearest garage whether they are run flat or not. Perhaps these folks might benefit from having a run flat tire. I recently noticed that the car in front had a flat tire. So at the next traffic lights I jumped out and told the senior citizen lady that she had a problem. Oh for Christ's sake she said, and drove off. It was clear to me she was not going to stop on the road and change the wheel. Also once on a dark rainy night on a busy highway my tire went and there was no way I was going to stop right away for fear of being hit.hit. So I had to drive a mile or so to find a safe place to pull off and change the wheel; but that tire was a goner anyway. Perhaps a run flat would have survived the experience. What do you think?
Good point. Yes, run-flats are better for people that will drive on and on with no tire pressure. However, I too have driven short distances on a flat and as far as I know all modern tires will allow a person to drive slowly for about the distance of a highway exit before coming off the rim or cutting through it. My understanding form the BMW literature is that if one drives at all on a run-flat tire, it needs to be replaced, so there is no real financial upside I can see.
It would be better to just stop and call a tow truck and save the $320+ tire. The bill for the tow will be less.
Punctures with a run-flat can/will not be repaired either, so are also a "goner". However you were able (even at 11pm - >100mls away from home) to replace that tire, my BMW 5GT has nothing to offer in those situations. Some numbers: my tires needed replacement after 25,000 mls (with some front-rear swapping). Conventional tires are £500, saving £300 against run-flat. Even if I would have a puncture every 25,000 mls I would be cheaper of calling a garage and do their thing. Bottom line: run-flats for me are: expensive, promise a solution which quite often is still not enough to get you out of trouble and are less comfy than conventional tires. Run while you can!
Punctures with a run-flat can/will not be repaired either, so are also a "goner". However you were able (even at 11pm - >100mls away from home) to replace that tire, my BMW 5GT has nothing to offer in those situations. Some numbers: my tires needed replacement after 25,000 mls (with some front-rear swapping). Conventional tires are £500, saving £300 against run-flat. Even if I would have a puncture every 25,000 mls I would be cheaper of calling a garage and do their thing. Bottom line: run-flats for me are: expensive, promise a solution which quite often is still not enough to get you out of trouble and are less comfy than conventional tires. Run while you can!
Hi John great article I recently bought a 2014 Q50 infinity, which has run flat tires. I had the car for about a month and I noticed three of the tires had lumps in them. I took it to infinity to have the tires rotated and the mechanic told me that the tires needed to be replaced. I went to talk to the manager because to replace the tires would cost 1200 dollars and to my surprise they told me that the warranty would not cover the repair. I was very upset and ask to speak to the general manager and after a heated exchange and a visit from my husband the tires got replaced by infinity. Needless to say I would use rubber air filled tires over run flats any day. #notfeelingrunflats
Thank you for your kind words and for adding your experience. Do you know what brand of run-flat tire was on the car? Curious because the Pirellis and some other brands offer replacement warranties.
I have a 2011 X3 that I have driven for 40k miles. At first I didn't like the idea of run flats but three years later I have a different view. 1) At high highway speeds 80 MPH I take comfort in knowing if the tire blows out I'm not going to lose control of the vehicle and find it provides confidence while driving. 2) I'm at ease knowing when my wife is driving alone that she can make it home or to a safe location to get assistance. A real concern with her driving at night on the local express ways. 3) I have had three tires punctured and replaced but purchased a warranty that paid for the replacements. I have more than recovered the cost of the warranty and have three more years of free coverage! 4) I have had to put a spare on a car before on a road trip only to have a second tire go out 300 miles further down the road and been totally stranded needing a tow. The run flats avoid this scenario. Are they a perfect solution ...not by a long shot but as with all things there are trade offs. For me I'm sold. SO much so that I would likely trade out regular tires for run flats if my next vehicle din't have them.
Kevin, you make some good points and I appreciate you expanding on the story. BMW has done its best to make people think its run-flats (really the tire makers' run flats) are safer on the highway in some failure situations. Believe what you like. On its fastest cars (M series) BMW does NOT use run-flats. - With regard to your spare scenario, a run flat would have failed at 50 miles, rather than the 300 you point to according to BMW and the tire information. So I don't get the point. - If you ever do decide to try run-flats on a car that was not designed for them, read up first. The damper (shock absorber) and spring rates on a car design for run flats is not the same as cars that are designed for conventional modern tires. You seem to be all about safety, so you may want to be aware of that. - - Finally, BMW's newest model, the i3, does not use run-flats and has no spare. The tires are also a size only it uses. I have no clue how that makes sense in a world where people like me and you plan carefully ahead for things like punctures and highway damage at high speed, or for being safe in places we don't want to be stranded with a puncture. So my way of seeing this is that in BMW's newest model your wife would not be protected in either scenario one or two, and in scenario 3 and 4 you would have to wait three times for a tow and then skip your road trip.
If you look at video's of test done with run flats vs regular tires in emergency maneuver situations I think the safety advantages are compelling and speak for themselves. I particularly like the one done by motor week in 2009 with a BMW 3 series available on YouTube.
I would love your opinion on a situation I am in... I bought my wife a 2012 BMW 128i Convertible and hate the way it handles bumps and pot holes. I have never been a huge fan of that BMW “feel the road” suspensions, but I think paired with the current run flats on it, makes for an even more terrible ride. Chills run down my spine with every large bump. I have been waiting for a blowout, which I felt was inevitable with such a thin tire, and now this winter, it has happened. I was driving on i-95 and hit a HUGE pot hole. I immediately knew the front right tire was punctured. Plus the dash lit up to confirm. I have to say I was impressed with the cars maneuverability given the flat and how easy the situation was to manage at 75mph. My dilemma is whether to replace the front tire(s) with run flat(s) or if I should get a new set of four regular tires? Would that improve the impact I feel regarding the suspension? Would I need new rims or a re-tuned suspension? I cannot decide which is more practical or safer. Or economical. I am so torn. Any advice would be appreciated. Currently: Turanza EL 400; 205/50R17 89H
Google Fifth Gear Run Flat Tire Test. The video provides a compelling endorsement for the safety value and benefits of run flat tech on BMW's.
John...Just as an FYI..the M series does use run flats. I bout my new M series in August and it has run flats on it. Regardless...They are pricey, not quite as a smooth ride. No 50 repair job on these babies either. But it is a personal choice. I like them. Don't have to worry about changing a tire on a busy highway and when they blow you don't even feel it...I actually blew one last night. Yes my wallet will be lighter but for me they are perfect.
Congrats on owning an M. I saw the new M4 this week and it looked awesome. Actually, on an M car I can understand the use of run-flats. They are heavier than regular tires, which is a negative on a car that puts so much focus on weight savings, but I can understand it. On a passenger car I don't think they make good sense. I understand you got a "blow-out." To me a blow out is when a tire depressurizes instantly due to major damage (from failure or from striking something) and the tire comes apart partially or completely. A puncture or a "flat tire" is when the tire loses pressure due to a hole or a foreign object embedded in it. Blow outs simply do not happen with modern radial, low profile tires that are properly maintained. They are incredibly rare. Punctures do occur and the mandated TPMS system will alert a driver of the drop in pressure. One can always choose to then slowly exit the highway via the breakdown lane. It may destroy the regular tire, but run flats driven flat are also destroyed. The videos I have seen do not convince me of a needed safety advantage. Road debris can also tear sidewalls on run-flats, so they are not a guarantee that if something large is struck they won't also be un-drivable.
I have been using Bridgestone run-flats on two 3 series BMWs for just on 12 years now and I think they are fantastic. I currently have 225/35R19 88Y BS S001 RRFT on the front and 255/30R19 91Y BS S001 RRFT on the rear. I have never had a flat and the noise does not bother me. I drive on both sealed and non sealed roads and as my wife would say, tend to push the limits of the car a bit too much now and then. I find that most negative comments come from motor journalists/drivers who have still got their mind completely locked into must having a spare in the boot. I get around 70000 kms before replacing the tires. I carry two good tyre pressure gauges and always check the pressures every time I fill up with petrol. When you are spending $500/tyre you need to make sure you look after them. I suggest anyone thinking of buying them talks to the manufacturers (both car and tyres) before taking for granted comments written by someone who may have other priorities or pet hates. Happy driving folks.
Daryl makes a couple good points that I neglected to add in the story. I do spend a lot of time on BMW run-flats and they are exceptionally good with regard to noise, durability, and general handling characteristics (though that is very subjective). Thanks Darly, for adding some good perspective.
I've had many great cars, but just bought a BMW for the first time, for my wife. I get to drive it. The car is great, the Bridgestone run flat tires are the worst tires I've ever had, noisy, so they'll be gone this week. When I mentioned the noisy tires to the salesman, he said they'd never ever had a complaint about noisy tires. He needs to read their own complaint web pages. Typical car salesman. Untrustworthy!
I have a new x1 with run-flat tires with less than 1500 miles. Today my husband drove over a small screw while parallel parking on a street. I was standing on the curb and witnessed/heard the tire instantly deflate to point where it was very very visibly low. The screw is in the tread. It is Sunday and the nearby BMW dealership was open. We called to let them know we were bringing it in, and to ask the best way to get there via backroads. We explained what happened and he said we should not attempt to drive on the tire with it that visibly low as we risked damaging the rim or wheel well or whatever he said. So we called BMW assist and they sent a tow truck. The guy from the dealership called back and recommended we instead go to a local tire shop, such as a nearby firestone which he confirmed was open to see if they could repair it. He explained that not only was the BMW service center not open, they would not repair only replace. While waiting for the tow truck we called firestone, who said our run flat tire would likely need to replaced. He said he would look at it, but it probably could not be repaired (again simple tread puncture). Further, he said that even if he thought it could be repaired, he would not work on it without BMW signing a liability waiver. He said they did not have these type of tires in stock so he would have to order it if needed. We could not take the chance of having the tow truck take us there and then being stranded for however long it took to order a tire, so we opted for a tow to BMW. My car sits there now until tomorrow when the service center opens and they can call me. I am outraged that I have a simple puncture and my new car had to be towed to the dealership. They did give me a loaner car thankfully. This is apparently not supposed to happen to a run flat tire, but it did, and instantly. My question is am I missing something? Could this be a defective tire? Is this something that should be covered by any warranty? I find it outrageous that I had to have my car towed because of a simple puncture. I had no other reasonable options than to have it towed to BMW where I am guaranteed to need to buy a new tire. Even if the RFT had worked as advertised, it apparently would still need to be replaced. That seems absurd. Based on my brief research some places would patch/plug a RFT, but now it seems they want BMW to sign a liability waiver to do so. This was confirmed from what the Firestone guy said. Any help is appreciated.
I really feel for you as I think you have been given a bit of a run around. The following statement comes from the BMW website. "How long can I drive on a deflated Run-flat Tyre? This depends on the amount of people travelling in the vehicle and if the boot is fully loaded: • With low loads, one or two persons without luggage: Approximately 240 kilometres at a maximum speed of 80km/h • With moderate loads, two persons with full luggage or four persons without luggage: Approximately 145 kilometres at a maximum speed of 80km/h • With a full load, while towing a trailer or four persons or more with full luggage: Approximately 48 kilometres at a maximum speed of 80km/h" Based on the above, you should have been able to drive to your dealer. As for repairs. In the past, all damaged RFT's had to be replaced but some makers are changing that. I have Bridgestone S001 on my 3 series and they can be repaired (nails and screws type of damage). Not sure what others are doing.
I hateeeeee run flat tires!!! They are a waste of money! My brand new X135i had a flat 2 days after purchase! I had to argue with bmw in order to get this replaced without a charge. Any little pothole or nail is a $300 problem vs $50 for a regular tire. This has happened a few more times since then. And I've opted to purchase non flat tires and keep a spare in the trunk.
My son drove my BMW 335i with Run Flat tires and picked up a nail. I drove 250 miles at high speed the next day. After the car sat for 3 days the tire pressure monitor showed low air. On Sunday, I drove to a garage, filled the tire and drove at 50 mph home. The return trip was 250 miles to home. The next morning I pumped up the run flat, drove to my local garage. They plugged the tire and the repair is still fine three years later. I am a woman, 70 years old and I absolutely love my run flat tires. I won't buy a car without them. Now I'm looking for a truck and will get run flat tires for it, too. They are terrific for a few dollars more.
Our BMW 650i has just had its SIXTEENTH tire replaced. It is a 2012 model and we have driven it a total of 13,000 miles. We drive in Manhattan and back and forth on the Long Island Expressway -- nothing so exotic. This $109,000 car is rendered completely unreliable by BMW's "commitment" to run-flats. Try as I might, I cannot see the logic in any of this.
Don't you see the huge safety advantages and the incredible weight and space savings as a big improvement in your life? How can you be so blind? My local tire repair shop has told me similar stories.
Sarcasm if that was not obvious.
Replace them with non RFT's. Sorry for saying, but your great car is very likely not doing what it was designed for anyway: 200 kmph (120 mph) plus from Münich to Köln late in the evening.
My 2012 650i has gotten 17 flats in under 30k miles, My prius which has 80k miles in the same driving area has had no flats and my Mercedes gl450 with 28k miles also has had no flats. BMW really is killing their brand by selling a car for 100k that endangers its passengers and ignores its customers when they call for a resoltion. Thie rresponsen was i should have taken tire insurance rather than replacing the faulty rims and tires