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No Spare: Do You Care?

Posted in Car Buying, Car Tech, Safety by Kurt Ernst | April 17th, 2011 | 16 Responses |

A flat spare tire? Bummer. Image: Flickr User kvanhorn

When I was shopping for my current MX-5 back in 2006, one of the first things I noticed when I popped the trunk was the absence of a spare tire. The old MX-5 Miata had a space-saver spare tucked into a corner of the trunk, which provided a handy storage bin for a first aid kit, rags and a few tools. The current generation of MX-5 had no spare, just a compressor, a bottle of Slime and a valve stem removal tool. I’ll admit that it did give me cause for concern, because experience has taught me to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. A little research showed that I could use the spare from either the Mazda RX-8 or the Mazda 3, so I made a mental note to start shopping junkyards when I had the chance. Five years later, I still haven’t added that spare tire to my trunk, but I have stopped worrying about it. I carry a few different types of plug kits and I have AAA membership, so what’s the worst that could happen?

In close to 30 years of driving, I’ve experienced exactly one high speed blowout, driving the Florida Turnpike in a rented Mustang. I’ve had plenty of flat tires, but virtually all were repairable, at least temporarily, with a plug kit and a portable compressor. If I find a nail in the tread, I usually don’t even bother pulling the wheel (especially on the road), since it’s quicker and easier to fix the tire on the car. A surprising number of new cars now come without spare tires, and run-flat tires seem to be losing market share each and every year. Some cars. like Ford’s Mustang, don’t offer a spare tire with the bigger Brembo brake kit. Other cars, like Hyundai’s Elantra, offer a spare tire only as an option, since the spare would have a negative impact on fuel economy.

Here are my questions, RideLust readers: does your current ride have a spare tire, and if not, do you care? Would the absence of a spare tire cross a car off your shopping list? If you drive a car without a spare, what precautions do you take? When was the last time you had a flat tire that couldn’t be repaired via a plug kit?

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16 Responses

  1. chris carrara says:

    I do not have a spare… sometimes my tire goes inexplicably flat while i’m driving. i just pull into a gas station and fill it with air.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Chris, that would make me more than a little paranoid. You may want to figure out why your tire is losing air (check the valve and valve stem if you have no punctures) before it does leave you stranded.

  2. PFULMTL says:

    I have a small one in my current car. Don’t mind lugging it around since it’s pretty compact. It wouldn’t bother me if a car didn’t come with one as they are pretty cheap.
    Actually it doesn’t sound like a bad idea to keep one at the house.

  3. Set says:

    I have a full spare on my Jeep, never been used. I have a tiny donut in my TDI. Used it once because I didn’t have an air compressor handy.

    Some sort of rescue device is needed, I think. Which particular one is soley based on your ride. My jeep needs the full size. The bug, I would use an air compressor.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Set, my FJ has a full-size spare, but I still carry a plug kit and small compressor in it. No such thing as “too prepared”.

      • Set says:

        True. I intend to get on-board air so I can run any number of things from my Jeep (Including some ARB gear). However, I have to win the lottery or get a better job first.

        • Kurt Ernst says:

          Brother I feel your pain on that one…

          The compressor I’ve got in the FJ is my old motorcycle touring one. It’s tiny, so trying to fill up a 265/70-17 tire probably isn’t going to end well. At best, the outer metal casing will his surface-of-the-sun temps as it tries to put out 100x the volume it was intended for.

  4. eddie_357 says:

    the people that used to know about slime are motorcycle guys,its a great product unlike fix-a-flat that turns your tire into a block of cement.you cant drive on that for long.i used to drive around with a bottle of slime,until i hit a curb and slit the sidewall(i misjudged a entrance way at a shopping center).i now have two spares because they match each other but not the ones on the car and when or if i get a flat i can put both on, front or the rear.then take my time ordering a new tire.

  5. inthebuff says:

    All of my cars have spares. As a non-wrench-turner, I wouldn’t know what to do without one.

  6. 68SportFury says:

    In September 1992, I was on my way to report for jury duty and ran over a five-inch roofing nail on the onramp to I-97. It went in through the tread and out through a nice V-shaped tear in the sidewall, utterly destroying a Goodyear Eagle GA with only about 10,000 miles on it.
    I had to hoof it about a quarter mile to call the courthouse and explain why I’d be reporting late (my first cell phone was over nine years in the future) and it cost me $125 to replace the tire.
    Every other flat I’ve had, I found when I came out to leave for work and they all just needed plugs.

  7. J D Stadler says:

    I’ve got a spare in the 6. Have never had a flat tire (and feel like I need to knock on some wood, quick, for even saying that). I know how to change a tire but a) if it happens on a highway or busy road I’m not trusting my fellow drivers not to run my butt over, b) I’m often in a dress/skirt and heels for work which are not exactly conducive to wrenching, and c) the dealership/tire shop/whatever often over-tightens the lugnuts anyway and cracking them loose can be impossible sometimes. My family gave me a AAA membership so hey, it’s free and I’m not gonna pass up the opportunity to use it if need be.

    So to answer your question, nah, not too concerned if one comes in my new car or not. Would prefer it to, but if it doesn’t, I’d be okay with it. Sidenote, even if a car I bought came with RFT’s, I’d likely replace them with REAL tires that don’t drive like crap anyway, and didn’t cost a year’s salary to replace.

  8. crispy says:

    Once again I agree with Ms. Stadler.

    My current car came with run-flats and no spare. Can’t stand the RFTs, and they are of the ultra high performance variety i.e. stupid expensive, and 20″ to boot. Next set (OEMs only last about 10K miles) will be non-RFTs and I’ll carry some emergency stuff in the trunk just in case.

    I’ve never had a blow out in almost 30 years of driving, but had a few flats. Spares are nice, but plugs work great too if the hole is in the right, uh, place.

  9. Kurt Ernst says:

    Jen and crispy, I agree about run-flat tires. Harsh ride, marginal performance and huge expense make them a no-go in my book.

    I wonder how many new car buyers understand what replacement RFTs cost.

    • J D Stadler says:

      My guess would be not as many as should. But perhaps they’re catching on. RFT’s have been out a few years now and I imagine those who’ve had them have had to replace them by now…and have told anyone who will listen how much it costs. Seems like the new “trend” is the low-rolling-resistance tires now (equally crap IMO, but then, I would rather have grip than fuel efficiency)