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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 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.

Town Fair and also Tire Rack, which we looked at as a reference, had pretty much the same price for the rubber. The tire itself costs about $350. Let’s stop here for a moment. We compared a best seller, non-run-flat Michelin of the exact same size and specs, and it cost only $200. So the run flat, in addition to requiring a replacement instead of repair, is also dramatically more expensive. Remember too that the closest tire place we tried does not handle run-flats at all.

I used my portable pump to pump up the tire before setting out the 8 miles back to the tire store. The ride there was the same as my previous trip.

Comparison of Run-Flat to Other Options
My 2007 Highlander Sport could have been the car taken that day. It is exactly the same size as the X3, but with more interior room and more cargo room. That vehicle has a full-size matching spare on a matching rim. Had we been in that vehicle, my matching spare would have gone on, I could have thrown the flat tire in the back, or put it in the spare tire well under the rear of the car, and then had it repaired at my leisure for less than $50. Or I could have replaced it. I just bought tires for that car and they cost $130 each including tax. This run-flat scheme is supposed to be progress?

Another alternative would have been a temporary spare. This is the direction most manufacturers are now going with most models. At least with this option I would have probably saved the cost of the new tire. Also, had we ripped a side wall from hitting a road defect, the run-flat would not have been an option and we would have had to be towed twice. Once home, and then again to the tire place the next workday.

Why Do Manufacturers Use Run Flats?
Manufacturers claim that run-flats save both space and weight. Baloney. I checked the specs of the Pirelli run-flat. Its weight is 33 pounds. The non-flat Michelin with the same specs is 26 pounds. That means a temporary spare weighing around 28 pounds would have been a zero-weight added solution compared to the run-flats. Also, a car this size with its massive cargo area can afford the small wafer of a temporary spare, or even a full-size spare, as my Highlander proves.

Conclusion – Avoid Run-Flat Tires
Manufacturers are doing everything in their power to save money, increase their profits, and to do the best they possibly can on the EPA mileage estimation test. That is understandable. However, it is hard to justify this move away from customer convenience and customer value in terms of affordable tires and repair options. This author’s opinion is that run-flat tires, and models that use them exclusively, should be avoided by consumers. We are not alone. J.D. Power surveyed customers about tires and found that customers scored cars with run-flats significantly lower than those with conventional tires. Some customers who bought run-flat tires have even sued BMW in a successful class action suit.

Other Sources of Information:
Should I buy a wheel and tire warranty?
The free run-flat tire road hazard warranty your tire shop forgot to tell you about
Will BMW move from run-flat tires to Michelin airless tweels?
Autoguide – Why You Should or Should Not Buy Run-Flat Tires
Jalopnik – Everyone Hates Run Flat Tires
Consumer Reports - My luxurious BMW 750Li run-flat nightmare
BMW's Run-Flat page

Images by John Goreham


Rosemary (not verified)    July 15, 2014 - 5:33PM

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.

Lucas (not verified)    December 24, 2014 - 5:44PM

In reply to by Rosemary (not verified)

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.

tom (not verified)    July 28, 2015 - 12:02AM

In reply to by Rosemary (not verified)

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

Bill Sucevic (not verified)    December 30, 2015 - 8:51PM

In reply to by tom (not verified)

I thought that I was the only person having this problem after I went into the dealership to yell at them after blowing out 2 run flat tires in less than a month on my 2015 MINI hardtop, which happened just a few months after blowing out a tire on my BMW X3. Each time I took the cars to the BMW/MINI dealership (they are one in the same) and the 3 tire replacements cost me over $1000. I found cheap non-run flats for $96/tire. I can get a complete set of tires for just a little more than replacing a single run flat at the dealership! All 3 blowouts were on the sidewall (that is supposed to be hardened for running flat) and from hitting small potholes.

Daryl (not verified)    July 17, 2014 - 1:13AM

Rosemary, WOW. I am surprised that you either kept the car or did not change to NON run flat tires after going through only 5 tires. Something is definitely wrong. Has anyone come close to working out why you have this problem. I must admit though that I had a bigger choke when I saw the cost of your 650i. A new 650i coupe here in Melbourne, Australia has a drive away price of US$232,755 whereas a 2012 650i can be bought for US$156,00. I hope the cost of tires in NY is in proportion to the cost out here. Mine cost approx US$470 per tire fitted. Good luck.

Rosemary (not verified)    July 17, 2014 - 10:07AM

In reply to by Daryl (not verified)

Daryl, As to why we haven't replaced them...our BMW dealer told us that if we replaced the tires with non-run-flats, we would invalidate our 3-year warranty. The streets in the NYC tri-area are very bad after our disastrous winter (and failed government), and the dealerships just blame it on that. However, when we took this car in 2012, the salesman INSISTED that we buy tire insurance. He was so adamant that we did, and this has covered the cost of towing and tire replacements, which would have had a retail cost of more than US$8,000 by now. Still, it doesn't compensate us for the time it takes to get these tires (we often have to leave the car for 3 - 4 days), and it surely doesn't make up for being left on dark roadsides awaiting the tow man, who invariably says that he "tows a lot of these BMWs with run-flats." Worse still, the RFTs run so hard that we've also had to replace the front suspension! We've been patient because we do love the car...but our affection has been defeated by these tires.

Paolo (not verified)    July 28, 2014 - 6:41PM

I have had runflats for 10.5 years on a e60 530d and now an e63 635d.
These tyres have saved me on several occasions.One rear slashed RFT re050 got me home 72 miles away-where i have spares to fit. Recently i had a double nearside blowout at speed and my steering wheel needed pulling over to compensate and i was 91 miles away from home and i got home on them,- Pirelli Pzero rear and Goodyear Excellence on front..
I buy tyres when i see them not when i need them. RFT's may be a bit hard but also have been repairable in the UK for some years now.

jennifer55 (not verified)    August 30, 2014 - 8:54AM

BMW X3 gives a higher performance according to the above article. The car has some latest feature which allows a user to move fast with a safety condition. The car run-flats & the tires are long lasting. It can move on tough roads without any problem. The efficiency is quite better than others. The car mainly based on sports purpose which will be acceptable by many users. The car requires service to keep moving for long time.

jimmoo (not verified)    September 1, 2014 - 6:38AM

i have been driving for 21 Years, and i drive a lot. My current car has 630,000 klm on the clock. This article almost put me off buying the new BMW i am looking at.....Then i thought in all my years driving, i have had 3 flat tyres and i replaced on all 3 occasions as its hard to know what damage has been done to the tyre etc.. Runflats look like they are about $100 more than conventional, so that means $300 over 21 years...or $14 per year more for runflats........ so I am still going to go for the Bimmer.... Im a glass half full kinda guy!

REP (not verified)    September 22, 2014 - 3:19AM

I think most of the problem with all of this is the failure of the manufacturers to supply a spare tire of any kind, even a "doughnut". (With most new models, BMW doesn't supply anything. Perhaps this is to cut costs or trunk size, or to try to cut weight in order to meet fuel efficiency requirements. Whatever the reason, it is short-sighted.) With a spare, road service (free for 4 years with a new BMW, or, later on, well under $100 per year for AAA) will then be able to replace a failed tire with the spare, so that no owner will have to lie on his back in the rain on a busy freeway.

But I also think that, even with run-flats and no spare, no owner should have to lose the use of his car for several days while waiting for a replacement run-flat to be ordered and delivered. That is, some cheap non-run-flat tire of the right size will pretty much always be available to be purchased and installed immediately, and that tire can serve as a temporary spare until the exact run-flat match shows up. Again, it is an annoying extra $100 cost, but cheaper and better than being without the use of your car.

But, if a spare of any sort came with the car (or if the trunk were big enough to hold your own), then I imagine the best solution for most ordinary people would be run-flats (of the newer variety) with a run-flat spare. That would allow some possible further driving after a tire failure, and an immediate exact swap. For substantially less money, equipping cars with non-run-flats and a matching spare would solve almost all of the same problems (and allow performance aficionados a wider choice of tires and their concomitant benefits).

But the real villains in the story remains the manufacturers, who saw the invention of the run-flat tire as an invitation to eliminate the spare tire altogether, and a stop-gap solution to their size-weight-fuel problems. Run-flats do have some benefits, but, in any case, let's bring back the spare tire.

spauldingsteep (not verified)    July 23, 2015 - 11:28AM

In reply to by REP (not verified)

I just got off he phone with BMW on this very issue -- no spare. They were such jerks I told them they have lost a customer and that I will use all means to ensure others don't buy their vehicles. I think it borders on criminal that they are selling cars with no spares in the North American market. I live in Colorado and after an awful experience waiting three days for a new runflat during a roadtrip through Idaho, I decided to go for regular tires and an "inflator kit" for emergencies (as with motorcycles). But I gashed a sidewall in the spring, and was left needing their roadside assist to get down to the city from the high mountain pass I was on. Only problem: BMW assist will only tow you to the nearest dealer. And if the dealer doesn't have a tire? Or if it is the 2/3 of the hours in the week when their service area IS NOT open? You are screwed. Put another way, chances are if you need a replacement tire and must get towed because you have no spare, better make sure this happens Mon-Wed from 7am to 3pm or chances are you will need to wait until the following week to use your car again. I still like BMW's cars but the insane decision to put runflats on, with no spare, reveals that they, well, SUCK. So long BMW. So long. Oh, and all the other complaints are valid -- esp the need to replace all tires on AWD BMW's. I have lost thousands on that due to two flats, and will lose thousands more turning in my lease early. Lessons learned, And shared

MZMPortland (not verified)    October 7, 2014 - 9:44PM

I have a 2013 BMW X3 with Pirelli tires and have experienced three punctures requiring the tires to be replaced. Guess what? Pirelli warranties their tires, INCLUDING ROAD HAZARDS. I found this out on my own (called Pirelli) after BMW quoted me to replace them all new. They claimed to be surprised that Pirelli offered a warranty. I told them they should know their product better, but then of course they wouldn't be selling those ridiculous tire warranties they sell would they? FYI, the warranty is complete replacement free of charge for the first year and prorated I believe up to three years. My car was just under 1 year old and had 9,000 miles, when all three tires were injured, due to independent causes (can you believe???)


I would only buy Pirelli tires for a car that requires run flats for this reason.

Dtiger77 (not verified)    November 2, 2014 - 11:54AM

In reply to by MZMPortland (not verified)

I will confirm what MZMPortand said. I agree with you...they should know their product and tell people about this warranty and not just blindly quote full replacement costs. I have a 2014 X3 with the Pirelli's. Both the BMW dealer and Discount tire were surprised that Pirelli runflats have a 1 year road hazard included from Pirelli (not BMW). My tire with 3,000 miles and a screw in the middle of the tread was replaced totally free by Discount Tire, after he confirmed the Pirelli warranty - which I had researched and found on my own. While I was at the tire store, I bought the road hazard warranty the tire store offered for all of the tires, knowing these cannot be repaired and my 1 year will soon be up. I also sent BMW an e-mail explaining my situation, and replied to their form letter response that their form response, on top of them not offering an option for people to opt out of run-flat tires, is why this will be my 4th and last BMW.

fanta (not verified)    October 9, 2014 - 7:55AM

I drove on a flat RTF many times and have never heard any sound, like you reported and the ride was smooth. On the other hand they are expensive and pain in the ass.

Paul (not verified)    October 15, 2014 - 4:29PM

I have a 2011 BMW X3. I bought it almost two years ago as a pre-owned. I had an immediate problem with a sound that was traced to a rear tire. To BMW's credit, they replaced all 4 tires at no charge as I had the car for 4 days. That was the good news. The tires are a little hard and a little noisy compared to "normal tires". In 22 months I have driven 44000 miles and I am now in need of tires. The non-RFT from Pirelli would be about $60/tire less expensive and would last, according to two tire places, about 70,000 miles. I am therefore looking for a spare tire option. Beemer (online retailer) offers a donut spare and wheel for $399 and a jack kit, for an all-together $500 price tag. Another option is a compressor with a sealant kit that is good for $80 with the sealant life of 48 months and $30 to replace.
Not sure which I will do yet, but the RFTs are out!

John Goreham    October 21, 2014 - 8:00PM

In reply to by Paul (not verified)

I had a sealant kit in my Miata. Those kits expect you to remove the valve stem, pour the gunk in, replace the stem, inflate, then drive. I live in New England and this is simply a ridiculous proposition from November to April, and if the gunk is frozen it won't work anyway. Since it was a mainly summer-driver Miata, I got a can of FixAFlat and also made up my own repair kit (plugs and stuff). I had 2 flats with that car in 4 years. Luckily, one at home (Put car on blocks and took tire to store in my other car), and one was slow enough I could drive it a bit, fill up and make it to the tire repair place. I think the repair kits make no sense. A donut lets you drive on the flat to safety and wait for AAA to come and change the tire safely. You can then get the tire fixed or replaced the next business day. Let us know what you decide. Thanks

David (not verified)    October 16, 2014 - 10:16PM

i have 225/35/19 and 255/30/19 I have a pair side cutters, tire plugs and compressor but have driven on deflated tires twice just to give them a true test both over the 50miles and once above 50mph the deflated tires felt solid and safe with no awful noises like stated. First bmw states minimum of 50miles can be up to 150miles depending on vehicle and cargo. Next Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli and continental all make run flats and non run flats in the same models
Pzero, ps2, reo50a And contisportcontact3 all come in both run flat and non so I think it make more sense comparing price and weight with same size make and model not comparing a run flat with a Michilen non Michilen makes some of the lightest tires in the industry
Conti sport contact 3 non and run flat are only about 30-40 dollars a tire different were the re050a might be closer to 80 and the new P7's are probably the furthest apart at 150 per tire from a run flat to a non but you need to compare apples to apples not to oranges

Roger Skagerström (not verified)    October 26, 2014 - 9:57AM

The reason they have RFT's are that they hold up much better against tire explosions. All RFT cars are german and in Germany they are allowed to drive very fast. A tire explosion in 200km/h is not enjoyable. RFT tires hold up much better and the car is controllable. Altso - you don't want to stop on Autobahn to change a tire. On our normal highways in the rest of the world, where the speeds are around 110-120 km/h it's doable. Not safe but doable. On autobahn it's sucidal. So there it makes a lot of sense.

It should be an option for the rest of the world though.

Lawrence (not verified)    November 7, 2014 - 12:38AM

I have a 2009 750i - I have been through at least 6 run flat tires and 4 rims. BMW Canada is no help, they could not care less. It is a shame a company can build a car that cannot be driven on Canadian roads and the manufacturer takes absolutely no responsibility for this. BMW Canada should stand behind its customers. It you blow a trie try to find a replacement, good luck, especially if you are up north on a long weekend. At least BMW road side service can tow your very expensive car back home.

Jarvis (not verified)    January 3, 2015 - 10:48AM

In the last few days, I have been looking at buying a BMW 335i Xdrive. It comes with Run Flat tires, no spares, and no tools of any kind. The trunk is pretty small - barely enough room for my golf clubs! Considering all the reports about the problems with RFT's.. I would like your opinions re: if I should reconsider my idea of a BMW. Thank you for your input before I make a $50K+ mistake...

John Goreham    January 8, 2015 - 1:12PM

In reply to by Jarvis (not verified)

Jarvis, thanks for your question. Honestly, the BMW X3 is an amazing machine. There is no way I would exclude it from consideration, even though I wrote the article about the tires. The 335 version is a rocket, and if you can get one for $50K it sounds like a good deal. I will say this; If you live in a colder climate where there are pot-holes from frost try hard not to get the fancy larger diameter wheels with super-low profile tires. So many people complain about BMW's low profile tires and rims being damaged it just makes sense to get all the sidewall you can. That means smaller diameter tires and "higher" profile. Good luck. Psst. You may want to check out the new Lincoln MKC if power is your thing.

Chris Stoll (not verified)    January 15, 2015 - 7:01PM

I have a 2010 Mercedes ML350. The spare tire was removed on this model to make room for the DEF fluid tank. So run flats are required. I live in the center of the US and regularly drive to both coasts, about 35,000 per year. When pulling a trailer, I have a full size spare along. The tires are a disaster, but, they can be repaired. They can be repaired if they have not been driven on flat, but you have to find someone willing to do it. And I use the Pirelli for the warranty, which by the way is void if you do not have a receipt for them being rotated every 5000 miles. Here is the kicker, on a 4Matic (4 wheel drive vehicle) you cannot have a tire with more that 3/32 difference from the other tires. So if you have a flat and your tire wear is greater than 3/32, you have to replace all the tires. The warranty only covers the damaged tire. I guess you need to keep a box of sheet rock screws in the car to drive over if a tire gets damaged! The run flats are bad news, I know, wife or daughter getting home, etc. Keep the cell phone charged and have AAA come and change it.

BB (not verified)    March 11, 2015 - 11:38PM

I own a 2011 550x. I live in the northeast. Since buying the car I have replaced a run-flat tire every 2-4 months. This winter has been the worst. I replaced 4 tires in 18 weeks. I tried 2 different brands to no avail. I asked tire places in my area to replace the runflats with regular tires and they refused stating safety reasons. I can't do it myself. So...I'm done...pissed...mad...frustrated...I traded in the car for an Audi with normal tires. Sucks because I really loved the 550x otherwise. RUN FLATS ARE THE DEVIL!!!! I'll never buy a BMW again after this fiasco.

John Goreham    March 27, 2015 - 3:43PM

Our thanks for all those that have offered opinions and insights on this popular topic. Just in case you have not seen it, we added an update to the story. J.D. Power and Associates did a comprehensive study looking at customer satisfaction after tow years of run-flat tire ownership. The link is in the story body. The study also revealed some interesting things about which are more likely to be replaced, run-flats or regular tires.

CHRIS SAKELLARIS (not verified)    April 4, 2015 - 12:22PM

I drove 100+ miles home from Atlantic City NJ to Long Island NY on a blown Conti SSR. Forget that it took forever to get home. I had to make frequent stops to let the tire cool down. The sidewall on runflats is way too unforgiving and stiff when it comes to any variation in road terrain.
The tire itself wasnt too expensive for being an 18" runflat but it was a major inconvenience not having a spare.
Also, one has to imagine the added rotating mass and unsprung weight these tires add.

Darren (not verified)    May 4, 2015 - 9:20PM

Replacing my 2nd run flat tire on my 2012 X1. It only has 30000km on it, and we use winter (run flat) tires 6 months of the year... so basically only 15000km or less on both replaced tires. One had a nail puncture then next had a "tumor" in the sidewall. Dumbest things ever. Definitely won't get another BMW due to the tires alone. That's an extra 20 dollars per month on my 4 year financing.

Anand (not verified)    August 30, 2015 - 3:40PM

I appreciate BMW for sticking to RFT despite criticism, I am a trauma surgeon I see lot of accidents in India, many are due to Tyre blow out, thought tubeless tyres claim it will not deflate suddenly it can blowout I have seen many fatal incident. If one has BMW secure it covers tyres, I changed my tyre at 40,000km since two tyres were less than 50% wear they gave 2 tyres free.
When one is buying such costly car, spending money for safety should never have second thought. Life is Precious don't think it is wastage of money go for RFT and have peaceful ride.