Car spare wheels: why they’re a dying breed
Almost 23,500 of AA’s callouts each year relate to its members using tyre repair kits, with most phoning because they’re not confident using them. That’s why we want spare wheels to at least be a no-cost option on cars.
My last Conversation about spare wheels resonated with many of you. More than 400 comments were made, and the vast majority were fighting the corner of the spare wheel. So I think now is a good time for an update.
We’ve now launched a Spare wheels survey so you can let us know about your experiences and opinions on the matter.
And since the previous Convo was published in April, we’ve been in talks with the AA and carmakers about puncture repair kits and (the lack of) spare wheels.
What the AA says
When we approached the AA to talk about how their members deal with tyre repair kits and spare wheels, it told us:
‘In most cases, the member is not happy about using the sealant and would rather ask a patrol for help. When the patrol arrives, the driver has not even attempted to use it, as most expect there to be a spare in the boot.
‘We understand why some manufacturers don’t supply spare wheels as standard, but it can make things quite difficult for drivers and our patrols. We can get members back on the road much faster if the car has a suitable spare.’
What car manufacturers say
Of the mainstream car brands available in the UK, just Hyundai, Mercedes, Ssangyong, Toyota and VW offer spare wheels in 90% or more of their entire current model range. At the opposite end of the spectrum, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mini, Skoda and Subaru all don’t offer a spare at all, instead opting for a puncture repair kit.
Here are just a few responses we got from manufacturers when we questioned them about these numbers:
BMW: ‘Most BMWs now come with run-flat tyres as standard. This, in theory, makes the spare wheel redundant as the ‘flat’ tyre can be driven on safely until it can be changed.’
Skoda: ‘We use this puncture repair kit in our overall strive for environmentally friendly car operation to decrease weight and improve efficiency.’
VW: ‘Our customers expect a Volkswagen to have a spare wheel, not a repair kit. It also helps to keep consumers happier in the event of a puncture if they have a spare wheel.’
Check for a spare wheel before you buy
Many of you asked if we could give information about whether a model is available with a spare wheel in our reviews. Well, we already do.
If you’re a Which? member, once you’re in a car review, click on the ‘Model finder’ tab, select the spec you’re looking for and scroll down to the section on ‘Standard equipment’. When you select ‘Wheels’ this will tell you if the car comes with a spare wheel as standard or not.
And if you’re buying used, make sure you check under the boot floor or the underside of the car for a spare wheel. If there is one, make sure there’s plenty of tread on the tyre and all the equipment to change the wheel over – including the jack – is present.
We think spare wheels should come as standard (and for free), or at least as a no-cost option. What do you expect carmakers to offer when it comes to a remedy for a punctured tyre?
What should carmakers offer as a remedy for a punctured tyre?
A spare wheel should come as standard with all cars (78%, 1,053 Votes)
A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should come as standard (15%, 203 Votes)
A spare wheel should be an optional extra (2%, 32 Votes)
I don’t mind what carmakers offer (2%, 23 Votes)
A puncture repair kit is fine (1%, 16 Votes)
A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should be an optional extra (2%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,343
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