Self-Inflating Tires: How Do They Work?

Self-inflating tires are car tires that are designed to automatically maintain proper tire pressure at the recommended level. However, contrary to what you may have seen in James Bond movies, self-inflating tire systems are actually designed to cope with slow air leaks in the safest way possible while optimizing performance. Most self-inflation tire systems are not really designed with keeping vehicles moving along on tires that will not hold air any longer.

So how do self-inflating tire systems work? While currently available tire inflation technological systems do vary from company to company, all of these automatic systems do have some elements in common. All self-inflating tire systems will use some sort of valve or chamber to isolate a single tire in order to prevent a drop in airflow from all of the other tires as the volume and pressure is being checked or increased. These self-inflating tires will also employ some way to sense or measure the pressure of the tire. This information is usually gathered by central sensors inside the tire that then relay this information from the tires to an on board computerized system in the car, which then conveys this information to the driver.
All self-inflating tires will also contain some sort of air supply, usually whatever existing on board supply is already part of the car’s systems, such as pneumatic brake systems. Since the self-inflating tires are essentially borrowing from an existing air source being used by other systems in the car, care must be taken so that the tires don’t negatively affect those systems. This is why all self-inflating tire systems will have some sort of safety checking routine to make sure that will be enough air pressure for the car to use before diverting any air to inflate the tire.
All self-inflating tires have a processes in which they deliver the air in the air supply to the inflate the tires. The air usually is routed through the axle to the tires. Air delivery setups most commonly use a sealed hub chamber that feeds into a hose that stretches from the hub chamber to the self-inflating tire’s valve. Another less-commonly used method is running tubes along the axle rod with the entire axle acting like a sort of air conduit. Any self-inflating tire worth its salt also has to have some sort of pressure relief vale or vent in order to displace air from the tire without accidentally causing damage to the air vent hub or the vehicle’s rear axle compnonent seals. This also helps guard against overinflation of the tire, preseveres the integrity of the tire wall and is a safeguard against sudden tire deflation or wheel well damage.
At the heart of the self-inflating tire is a system called the Central Tire Information System, often abbreviated to CTIS. The main function of the CTIS is to help the vehicle coordinate and provide responsive control over the exact air pressure inside each tire in order to improve each tire’s performance on different surfaces. For example, when the CTIS lowers the air pressure inside a tire, it in turn increases the overall areas of contact between the ground and the tire. This, in turn, makes driving on soft ground noticably easier. The surface of the tires will also take less damage, and reduce the amount of treads cutting into the ground. This can be very important at certain work sites, driving to landscaping assignments, or across agricultural fields. Essentially, with the CITS engaged, the driver has greater control over the overal air pressure of each individual tire. This means that overall maneuverability would also be greatly improved.
While the idea of the Central Tire Information System and self-inflating tires might have seemed like something out of a science fiction novel only years ago, recent advances in automotive technology have made the self-inflating tire an accessible and affordable option for consumers. Hopefully this overview has given you a better understanding of how self-inflating tires work, and you can now decide whether a self-inflating tire is the right choice for your vehicle.
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