What is a Tubeless Tire?

Dan Cavallari

A tubeless tire is simply a tire on a car, truck, motorcycle, or even a bicycle that does not need an inner tube to be inflated. Just about all cars and trucks manufactured now come with tubeless tire systems as standard equipment because of the system's increased safety, decreased risk of improper installation, and ease with which punctures can be repaired. In order for the tubeless tire system to work correctly, the tire and the rim must form an airtight seal so air cannot escape, thereby deflating the tire. A special rubber is used to form such a seal, and liquid sealants can be added to some tubeless tire systems to reinforce such a bond.

Tubeless tires do not need to be inflated.
Tubeless tires do not need to be inflated.

A tubeless tire on a car or truck is made of butyl rubber, which is flexible enough to allow the tire to conform to road conditions and impermeable enough to keep air from escaping at the bead of the tire. When a puncture in a tubeless tire occurs, the air is released slowly and more safely than an inner tube puncture, which could cause the tube and tire to explode. Tubeless tires can often be repaired using a special patch kit, whereas tube and tire systems, when punctured, may simply need to be replaced entirely.

Most modern car tires need no inner tube.
Most modern car tires need no inner tube.

Installation of tubeless tires is also easier than the installation of a tube and tire setup. When installing a tube inside a tire, the tube may become pinched and punctured before it is even initially filled with air. The tube can further be punctured due to friction between the tube and tire, making installation cumbersome and somewhat inefficient. Tubeless tires need simply be placed correctly on the rim and quickly inflated to form the bond between the rim and the tire. There is little risk of puncture during installation, though seating the tire correctly can be somewhat difficult.

On other tubeless systems, particularly on tubeless bicycle tires, a latex sealant may be added to the tire to reinforce the seal and the impermeability of the tire itself. The latex sealant is a liquid that is added directly to the tire before the bead of the tire is sealed on the rim. Once inflated, the latex coats the inner wall of the tire, forming a strong seal. If a puncture occurs, the latex sealant will fill the hole and harden almost immediately, preventing too much air from escaping from the tire.

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