Tubeless Tyres – Everything You Need To Know

Image showing tyres
By - Sahaj Palla
September 11, 2021

As kids most of us remember using our bicycles to commute from home to school and back, and when the bicycle tyre got punctured there was a dedicated puncturewallah around the corner to fix the perforated tube. Mending a puncture was not a menial job and required a considerable amount of skill and time to be repaired. Same was for the automobiles back then as well, the only difference being the much larger tools used and an air machine to inflate the tyre. Things have come a long way since then and the very humble tyre has seen lots of evolutions in its structure and architecture. One influential evolution was the advent of tubeless tyres. Here is everything you need to know about tubeless tyres.

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Why Choose Tubeless Tyres?

Tubeless tyres are simply tyres that unlike the conventional tube tyres don’t have a tube in them. These were introduced to the world by an American tyre company with the name BF Goodrich in the 1950s. However, it was only in the 1990s that the tubeless tyre was able to make its mark in India, and since then they have expanded their reach over the years.

Tubeless tyres are safer than the conventional tyres due to their puncture resistant features and their build quality makes them more durable.

Let us suppose that you are going for a solo drive through a long desolate stretch of the highway with absolutely nothing in sight except the tarmac. You run over a stray nail on the road. A tubed tyre would suffer an immediate puncture due to the nail piercing the inner tube. On a tubeless tyre, the nail becomes embedded in the tyre, causing a slow puncture. This allows you to continue driving to your next fuel stop and have the tyre repaired with a puncture repair kit, without changing to the spare wheel.

Tubeless tyres today are at par with their tubed counterparts in terms of price and are available for all purposes and in all designs, that make them a wonderful and a safe choice.

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Difference Between Tubeless Tyre and Tube Tyre

Tube tyres have long reigned the roads and still have an undeniable road presence in India as they have penetrated every nook and corner. Tubeless tyres on the other hand are a rage in cities but have less reach in rural areas.

Here are the differences between tube and tubeless tyres.

Parameters

Tube Tyre

Tubeless Tyres

Durability

Less Durable

Highly Durable

Safety

Unsafe

Safe

Weight 

Heavy.

Light

Fuel Efficiency

Less

More

Maintenance

High

Low

Cost

Low

Low

Durability The presence of a tube makes these tyres have less durability as tubes are highly prone to punctures. Friction between the tyre wall and tube can cause a puncture, tube pinching i.e., when the tube presses too hard against the rim, can also cause punctures. Tubeless tyres on the other hand are more durable than tube tyres as they do not possess a tube. An inner liner made out of synthetic rubber and the rim act as the air container.

Safety Since friction and tube pinching happen during the movement of the vehicle, there is a high probability of sudden air leak from the tyres, due to creation of multiple air outlets. This sudden leak leads to bursting of the tyre tube, which can lead to loss of control of the vehicle. In tubeless tyres, an inner liner and the tyre rim act as the air container, so, in the event of a puncture there are no extra outlets for air escape. This results in air seeping gradually from the puncture and giving the driver enough time and control to drive the vehicle to the nearest tyre repair shop.

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Weight  Tube tyres have three components: a rim, a tyre and tube, which makes them heavier compared to tubeless tyres that have two components: a rim and a tyre. Lesser components make tubeless tyres lighter than tube tyres.

Fuel Efficiency Although efficiency is measured via the engine, tyres too have a say in them. Due to the extra weight tube tyres tend to be low on fuel efficiency compared to their tubeless counterparts. Tubeless tyres are more fuel efficient as they are lighter and dissipate heat better as the rim is in direct contact with the air inside.

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Maintenance Since tubes are prone to punctures, it costs much to get the puncture repaired every now and then. This is the reason why tube tyres are high on maintenance. Plus there is the requirement of disassembling the tyre to repair the puncture. Tubeless tyres don’t have a tube, which is why the maintenance cost of these tyres is relatively low. There is no need to disassemble the tyre for fixing the puncture.

Cost Tube tyres cost less than tubeless tyres, but unfortunately they make up for it in their high maintenance costs. Tubeless tyres, although higher in cost are worth their value in the long run.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tubeless Tyres

Like every other commodity, tubeless tyres also have their pros and cons. Have a look.

Advantages of Tubeless Tyres

No Random Punctures: The chances of a tubeless tyre getting punctured out of the blue are very low as there is no tube inside.

Ability to run at low air pressure: The lack of a tube makes it easier for a tubeless tyre to run even at low tyre pressure.

Liquid sealant: In some tubeless tyres there is a provision of a liquid sealant which seeps out through the puncture and dries out to seal the puncture, so that you can continue your drive.

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Light weight: Lack of tube makes tubeless tyres lighter than tube tyres, this also results in better fuel efficiency.

Stability: Since air is contained in the space between the tyre and the rim, the stability of the tyre at high speeds increases. This happens due to less working components i.e., the lack of a tube.

Disadvantages of Tubeless Tyres

Difficult to install: You cannot go to any mechanic and ask them to install the tubeless tyre, this requires specialised tools, machine and skill. Plus the tyre and seal have to be proper.

Not suited for extreme offroading: Now since offroading is taxing on tyres, tubeless tyres can’t take that much of a beating. It might result in the tyre coming off from extremely harsh climbs and descents.

Cannot be installed in wheels with spokes: The installation of a tubeless tyre requires an airtight rim for the tyre to contain air. Spoked wheels don’t have this facility and that is why tubeless tyre can’t be installed on them.

Sidewall puncture renders it useless: A pretty hard knock is required to get a hole in the sidewall of a tubeless tyre, however if a puncture is beyond repair then the tyre is useless, you can make use of it by using it with a tube, but then it won’t be a tubeless tyre. 

Costly: The initial investment in a tubeless tyre might set many people aback due to the large cost. However, in the long run tubeless tyres cost less.

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How to maintain Tubeless Tyres?

It doesn’t take much to maintain tubeless tyres, a few tips mentioned below can help increase the life of your tyre.

Timely Air Pressure Check: Always maintain the proper pressure in the tyre, over filling or under filling are detrimental to a tyre’s health. Keep the proper pressure always.

Avoid Overspeeding: Always run the car in the optimum speed, over speeding will result in more wear of the tyre and consequently less life.

Check The Treads: Gravel, small stones, glass, metal etc can get embedded in the grooves of the tyres, keep a check on the tread and pry them out to ensure that your tyre has a good grip in all seasons.

Wheel alignment and balancing: Proper alignment and wheel balance is necessary for even wear of all the tyres, any thing off will result in uneven wear which can result in performance and ride quality of the vehicle. Balancing and alignment should be done every 10,000 kms.

Tyre Rotation: Tyre rotation means interchanging them with each other to ensure equal wear and thus extension of their service life. Tyre rotation depends on the ‘drive’ of the vehicle, i.e. front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Also Read – Engine Service

FAQ

Why can’t I go offroading with my tubeless tyres?

You can off road with your vehicle in tubeless tyres, extreme offroading is something which we would not recommend in tubeless tyres, unless the tyres are specifically built for it.

Why are tube tyres still popular?

Tube tyres are popular due to their ease of access and reach. In areas other than big cities of India, tubeless tyre installation is only available in a few places as it requires special tools, the tube tyre on the other hand can be installed manually. The other advantage is its cost, tube tyres cost lesser than tubeless ones, although this is almost negligible now.

How far can I travel in a punctured tubeless tyre?

We recommend that you get the tyre repaired at the nearest repair shop as air is continually leaking from the tyre at a gradual pace. Depending on the puncture you can drive for 5-10kms at a speed of 20 kmph before the tyre gives away.

Do all tubeless tyres come with a sealant inside?

No, sealant is something you can opt for filling the tyre with. This helps in sealing punctures and extending your drive duration.

Why are sidewalls of tubeless tyres weak?

The sidewalls of tubeless tyres are not weak. They become useless if the tyre has suffered damage there, as they are the main weight bearing structure. Tubed tyre can rely on changing the tube in case of sidewall damage, and if the damage is not that bad, then a tube can be installed in the tubeless tyre for emergency use. It is always better to replace a tyre with sidewall damage.

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