No more flat tires!
Flat tires are a pain in the rear! They never come at a convienient time. I remember driving down Mckinley in Mishawaka one particularly rainy evening, when my left rear tire decided to become all floppy. I pulled over into a parking lot near a restaurant and got out to investigate. Sure enough, the tire was completely flat. I opened my trunk to get to the spare and found that the spare and the tools had been completely rusted. Evidently the last time I had checked my spare tire and tools was...well...never. I was even working for a repair shop and I knew better. So I bang the rusty jack on the ground a few times to try to get it freed up. It was the style that cranks up by a long, threaded rod. I managed to get it to go up enough to get the tire up off the ground. It required a lot of kicking and banging. At the point I discovered that the lugnut wrench had swelled beyond fitting onto my wheel lugs, I was drenched and fuming. I went into the nearby restaurant to see if I could possibly borrow a lug wrench. Oddly, they quickly produced one from behind the kitchen door. I didn't ask questions. It was a four-way lug wrench and was exactly what I needed. After an hour or so in the rain, and a couple lessons on spare tire preparedness and restaurant security, I finally was able to complete my commute home from work. That was a valuable lesson.
About 5 years later, I discover that Michelin has a prototype airless tire. It was an ugly, awkward looking thing. In spite of that, I knew that this was the right idea. The biggest challenges would be to make it compliment the appearance of a vehicle and handle like a regular tire. Most people don't realize how much tires play into absorbing road imperfections and creating ride comfort. Consider what a car ride might feel like on hard tires. This is why solid tires are only used on low speed, industrial vehicles.
Then I see a new article on airless tires. This one is from Hankook and is far more appealing.
It sounds like they are coming a lot closer to creating an affordable, comfortable tire that actually has curb appeal. There are a lot of advantages even beyond the 'no more flats' issue. Consider that low tire lights could be a thing of the past. With the wheel and tire being a one piece assembly, you basically get new rims each time you replace your tires!
There will be other advantages too, but I think we'll wait and see before I get too excited. There are still other issues that have to be worked out before consumers are able to buy them, but it's definitely something to watch for!
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Erik and Jennifer are the owner/operators of Mobile Service Pros. We enjoy working with our customers and community.