How do Tubeless Tires Work?

Published: 01/24/22 •  6 min read

Tires are the main components of any automobile. Before the development of rubber, the tires were wooden, with metallic strips wrapped around them.

Then, with the invention of rubber, only solid rubber was wound around metal rims. With evolution, the solid rubber tires became inflated rubber tires, with a tube inside.

At present, the dominant tires in the market are tubeless. That’s how the tires have evolved in the past.

Now, do you know tubeless tires work? How are they different from the tubed ones? What pros and cons do they have?

Let’s explore all these things in this article.

How Do Tubeless Tires Work?

Tubeless tires, as the name indicates these are tires without an air-filled tube. Instead, the air is filled directly into the tires, in the space between tire liner and rims. Tubeless tires are pneumatic tires without any separate inner tube.

Figure 1 - Construction of A Tubeless Tire © SlideShare
Figure 1 – Construction of A Tubeless Tire © SlideShare

Figure 1 shows the basic structure of tubeless tires. The air is filled completely inside the rubber casing. But you may be wondering what keeps the air inside, why doesn’t it escape? That’s due to the rubber lining inside which makes the tire, airtight.

This inner liner is made up of butyl rubber which is a copolymer of isobutylene (98%) and isoprene (2%). To improve its compatibility and for use in the inner lining, butyl is halogenated with chlorine or bromine to form chloro-butyl, which has very small air permeability.

Some modern tubeless tires can be filled with liquid sealants which are helpful in case of small punctures. When a sharp object such as a nail cuts the tire, the sealant seeps through it and dries, closing the leak point.

What are the differences between Tube Tires and Tubeless Tires?

The tubeless tires were introduced because they were better and provide a better puncture resistance compared to tubed tires. One may say that the only difference between these two tires is the presence and absence of air-inflated tubes. But that absence of tube creates a lot of difference.

For instance, let’s say you are driving at higher speeds. At high speeds, the temperature of the air inside the tire is quite high, which creates a low pressure inside. The ordinary tire or tube tire is vulnerable to this kind of situation. In this case, any nail or stone, which in normal circumstances just causes a puncture, may burst off the inside tube since the temperature is high inside. As a result, all the air escapes, and your rim is in contact with the ground. The car becomes imbalanced. And can cause a severe accident.

But if you had a tubeless tire, any protrusion would create a small hole. The air escapes slowly through the only hole which is punctured. This slow deflation rate gives you time to reach near repairing center. Figure 2 shows, the difference between puncture of tube tire and tubeless tire, what happens when a tube and tubeless tire get punctured.

Figure 2 - Difference between the Puncture of Tube and Tubeless Tire © LearnMech
Figure 2 – Difference between the Puncture of Tube and Tubeless Tire © LearnMech

Tubeless tires are quite lighter than tube tires. A tubeless tire is 500 grams lighter than an ordinary tire. This increases the handling and sometimes the fuel economy of the vehicle.

Advantages of Tubeless Tires

Tubeless tires offer a lot of advantages over tube tires.

Puncture Resistance: In tubeless tires, the punctures are not caused just by the pinching of the tube, like in old traditional tires. In tube tires,

the whole tube needs to be replaced, in case of a severe puncture, while that’s not the case with tubeless tires. They can be repaired easily.

Light Weight: Since the tubeless are lightweight, they provide stable handling and more fuel economy. These tires are also very useful for off-roading.

Stability at Low Pressures: If you are running your vehicle with low-pressure tires, this would severely affect the tube wires. While, very little damage is caused, in the case of tubeless tires.

Slow Rate of Deflation: During a puncture, the air seeps out quickly from a traditional tire, but in tubeless tires this process is slow. The deflation of tires takes place at a very slow rate, and one can reach the nearest repairing facility without tire replacement.

Use of Liquid Sealants: Some modern tires can be filled with liquid sealants, which automatically heal any small leakage on the periphery of the tire.

Heat Dissipation Rate: Tubeless tires provide a better heat dissipation rate since the air is directly in contact with the rims. This can be further enhanced by using alloy rims.

Long Life: Tubeless tires last longer and are durable. On average, a tubeless tire can last between 25000 to 30000 km.

Drawbacks/Disadvantages of Using Tubeless Tires

Despite a lot of advantages of tubeless, there are a few drawbacks, that I think need to be mentioned.

Expensive Upgrade: If you are thinking to replace your tube tires with tubeless tires. Then, it is an expensive upgrade. The tubeless tires are much more costly than normal tires.

Complex Fitting: Since it does not contain a tube, the air is filled inside, the fitting of the tire is quite important. It cannot be done by a layman. It is fitted at a dedicated facility with a skilled worker. Similarly, its removal equally requires good grip strength.

How to repair a tubeless tire?

If unfortunately, your tubeless tire gets punctured due to a nail what is the procedure to repair that? We can fix that in a series of steps.

First, locate the puncture point, if it is due to a nail, it would be embedded inside the tires. Remove it using pliers. Then, a needle-like tool, a rasper tool is inserted in the hole to smoothen the hole. Leave it inserted so that more air does not escape. Place the rubber strip inside the inside insertion tool, it is like placing a thread into the needle.

Now, using the same tool, insert a rubber strip into the hole. It should be inserted two-thirds of its length into the hole. Then, cut the excess rubber strip which is outside the hole, using a cutter. Your puncture is repaired.

I hope by now, you would have understood how do tubeless tires work, and what advantages do they have over conventional tires.