Statistically, all drivers experience a flat at one point or another, hopefully not while driving and even more important – not a catastrophic one that shreds the tire at once while driving. Logically, Everybody that ever had to change a flat tire, drive to a tire shop, fix the flat, pay and change them back, must have though – why not go with a solid tire that can’t go flat!?
The obvious reason is the added suspension we get as air is more “flexible” then solid rubber, it makes our ride softer as the tire ‘gives’ a bit when contacting a rock, and the energy we would have gotten up our spine is made into heat energy that flexes and heats the tire.
But some (me) would say – I’ll rather have a flat-less tire then a softer ride, after all I have the car suspension system to do my suspension, and it has come a long way since the days when Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire to soften the ride. With 3 flats in the resume (one off-road in the desert and another in a foreign country) you may share my view.
So we should mention some more advantages to that air filled tire-
The fact that it flexes on impact means it keeps better contact with the ground, since “every action has an equal re-action” and if the tire won’t take the energy the wheel and car will. Think of a solid metal tire – every small rock will make it “fly” a bit as it cannot keep the contour of the road as a rubber tire can. Check this nice clip to see it for yourself.
If you read what we wrote on alloy rims you should consider the fact that air is much lighter then rubber and so the weight of a pneumatic tire is another reason to have it over a solid rubber one.
The fact that the tire is filled with air means that you (or the car maker for that matter) can control it’s drag, grip, car handling and ride softness just by changing the pressure in one or more of the tires.
So you see, the pneumatic tire still has some advantages to the solid one, and until they invent a tire with the same qualities minus the air pressure it seems that we are stuck with it. The best we can do in the mean time is make sure we lower the chances of a flat by maintaining the right tire pressure, changing the tire when it has come of age or lost its edge (as in tread or just too many cracks).