Twenty-six years after the world watched a tyrannosaurus rex bite into the tire of a Ford Explorer, the automaker has finally decided to equip the more expensive trims of the new 2020 Ford Explorer with “self-sealing” rubber.
The 20-inch Michelin self-healing tires will be standard on the Explorer Limited hybrid and Platinum trim models.
It’s not actually designed for something major, like a dinosaur biting your tire, but instead for the small stuff, like getting a nail puncture. In that case, a specialized rubber coating inside the wheel seals the air leak around whatever is stabbing the tire and helps keep the tire pressure up.
Here’s an explanation of how the tire works from The Detroit Free Press:
The inside of the tires is coated with viscous goop that flows into punctures to seal them.
“When the sealant works as designed, most drivers never know it’s working. There is no pressure loss, and odds are the driver doesn’t see the object in the tire or it’s fallen out,” [Woody Rogers, director of tire information for Tire Rack,] said.
Creating the rubbery sealant was tricky, Michelin engineers said. It must flow into punctures, but it can’t pool at the bottom of the tire when it’s parked. The material also must form an airtight seal, and flow at temperatures from scorching desert blacktop to a frigid winter night.
According to the listing for the tire technology on Tire Rack, the tech can handle punctures up to a quarter-inch deep.
Michelin claims the technology is an improvement over traditional run-flat tires by offering a more comfortable ride, since it’s more like instantly repairing a traditional tire than replacing the air with a harder layer in the event of a flat. In certain conditions, the tire can go a few more days before having to be professionally repaired or replaced.
The Chevy Bolt also comes with Michelin’s self-sealing tire tech, and other companies like Hankook, Pirelli, and Continental also offer specialized tires with a similar self-healing technology.
All of this investment in self-healing tire tech probably has some sort of intent or interest for use by the military, but it also gives automakers an excuse to avoid throwing a full-sized spare in consumer vehicles, which helps save some weight and potentially provide more cargo space.