Ford and Michelin announced that select trim levels of the 2020 Ford Explorer will come equipped with Michelin Selfseal tires — tires Michelin claims can seal "90 percent of tread punctures up to a quarter-inch in diameter." The tires will be standard equipment on Explorer Platinum and Limited Hybrid four-wheel-drive models, and optional on Explorer Limited two- and four-wheel-drive models.
Self-sealing tires have been on the market for some time now, but this is the first time Michelin Selfseal tires have been offered from the factory. Previously, consumers would have to purchase the tires after the fact through third-party tire suppliers and shops. Self-sealing tires use an integrated puncture-sealing compound — in this case, according to Michelin, natural rubber — to slow or repair leaks and allow drivers to continue on without having to stop.
Run-flat tires — more frequently offered by manufacturers than self-sealing ones — are a type of tire that allows for additional driving on a flat tire via stiffer sidewalls. That stiffness can translate to a harsher ride, but if included as factory equipment, it's possible for the vehicle's suspension tuning to offset the ride penalties. When going flat, a run-flat tire can drive for a manufacturer-specified distance before repair or replacement is needed, the goal being to get the vehicle to a safe location where the repair or replacement can take place.
The technology won't work on larger punctures or blowouts — a run-flat tire can blow, as well — but would ideally let drivers remain blissfully unaware of small punctures that might occur by sealing the hole and preventing further loss of air, removing the need to stop and call for assistance, or to change or repair the tire on the side of the road. As a bonus, owners could theoretically avoid being unpleasantly surprised by a flat tire after letting their car sit for a few days with a slow leak. Ride comfort benefits may also exist, as self-sealing tires lack the stiff sidewalls of run-flats.
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An unfortunate side effect of either tire option is that it usually means there is no spare tire included in the vehicle — a problem should a more serious incident with a tire occur that necessitates the need for roadside assistance. With more and more manufacturers offering tire repair kits or "doughnut" spare tires instead of full-size options,however, having self-sealing or run-flat tires might provide additional peace of mind.
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