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Why Tire Repair Shops Can’t Ignore Airless Tires

Posted by Brandon Weaver | Wed, Jul 29, 2015 @ 02:00 PM

flintstones-fred-barneyWe’ve come a long way since the Flintstones drove around in a stone-manufactured, foot mobile contraption. If Fred and Barney were racing around town today, they would undoubtedly be in favor of tire improvements to ensure a smoother, safer ride.

That being said, here’s a look at the future of tires. Some are coming down the pipeline, and some that have already arrived. The shortlist below is not all-inclusive but highlights those items most likely to impact sales.

Why You Should Care: The Airless Movement

Some of the biggest names in the tire game have begun to produce and continue to innovate versions of the non-pneumatic (“airless”) tire. This gives credence to the fact that “75 percent of American drivers state it is likely they will equip their vehicle with completely airless tires by 2033.”


Airless tires address three of the biggest problems with traditional radial tires and increase driver’s safety in the process.

  • No punctures and blow-outs
  • Hydroplaning: With multiple openings (normally restricted to wheel rubber), water sheds quickly – drastically reducing the chance of floating on water.
  • Reduced emissions in production and recycling cost: In some airless versions, only the tread needs to be replaced (not the entire unit) so there is less wasted material.

Michelin’s Tweel

michelins-tweelMichelin initially showcased their “Tweel” airless tire back in 2005 for primary use in lower-speed, lower-weight vehicles such as Segways. Fast forward to the present day and the company has invested $50 million opening a North American plant in Piedmont, South Carolina for the sole purpose of Tweel production.

For now, the company continues to target agricultural and construction markets – those industries with front-end loaders and commercial lawnmowers who suffer from long downtimes if a tire goes flat. The Tweel may still not be ready for the passenger car market but it’s safe to say Michelin is dedicated to making ‘airless’ a reality for the masses.

Bridgestone’s Airless

bridgestone-airless-tireBridgestone originally introduced its airless version at the 2011 Tokyo Auto Show and has completed several successful tests on single-person vehicles in Japan traditionally used for elderly people. The tire is 100% recyclable, puncture-proof and only the thin tread needs to be replaced – not the entire wheel – thereby reducing recycling waste and consumers’ expense when they do become available to the general public. To see a technical review of Bridgestone’s airless tire watch this short video.

Hankook’s iFlex

hankook-iflexHankook’s airless tire recently passed a series of tests involving durability, hardness, stability, slalom, and speed. The electric car Hankook used for the 5-stage test reached 81 miles per hour without causing any damage to the tire.

As the picture shows, the tire looks like something you would have used to spice up your Hot Wheels racer as a kid. But Hankook is aiming for passenger cars, considering this is their fifth iteration of a non-pneumatic tire.

Not only does the iFlex cut down on waste and consumer expense, Hankook says the material used in production has allowed them to halve the number of steps in manufacturing. This creates a faster production cycle when they do become available for mass market distribution which they expect to result in a reduced cost.

Goodyear & Electric Cars’ Battery Problem

Tires affect battery drain, and that matters since plug-in electric car sales rose to about 118,500 in 2014 – a 27-percent increase over 2013’s total. This is also the third annual increase in full-year sales in the U.S. since electrics went on sale in December 2010. With the number of electrics on the road, drivers face the real possibility of draining the battery after a long drive. So much so that three of the top six reasons why people don’t buy electric cars are related to battery power:

  • goodyear-power-generating-tire#3: Limited access to a recharge station
  • #4: Hills, mountains, and passengers quickly drain batteries
  • #6: Home charging stations cost extra

Goodyear is developing a power-generating-tire solution to help solve this problem. The BH03 is the first of two concept tires Goodyear introduced at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show. It takes the heat generated while driving and transfers it to the battery. Its outer tread is made of Thermo-piezoelectric material that absorbs light and heat while the car is parked, whereas sunlight warms up the tire in preparation for its next trip. Not to worry, though, it also has a built-in structure cooling system to help prevent overheating.

The BH03 may only be a concept tire now, and may not produce significant juice for the battery yet, but we’re probably not that far off from having energy-producing tires on America’s roadways – in some form or another.

The company’s Triple Tube is also in concept-only development, but instead of generating electricity to power the vehicle, the tire literally changes shape depending on driving conditions. The three tubes lie beneath the tread and an internal pump moves air between the tubes causing the tire to shift its shape between “Eco” and “Sporty.”


As Gizmag says, the tire industry is “hungry for solutions contributing to productivity, safety and bottom lines.” The airless movement is making significant progress but until these concepts make their way to mainstream usage, drivers will continue to need multiple, radial, tires when visiting your shop.

Even if airless tires are concept-only at the moment, your customers may still be paying for their tires with a tried-and-true payment – checks – and your need for a Multiple Check payment service is as important as ever.

Multiple Check allows tire repair shops and the customer to agree on a payment schedule to pay off the order in full. It requires no financing or credit check for the consumer. Your sales are guaranteed and the customer is happy because they’re back on the road safely.

See how Multiple Check works in action by watching this webinar or reading this free guide.

Multiple Check Insider's Guide

Topics: Technology, Auto Repair

Written by Brandon Weaver