/ Motoring

Discovering the value of a spare wheel first hand

Volvo wheel

What do you do when you’re 280 miles from home, have a puncture and a damaged wheel, but you don’t have a full-size spare wheel in the boot of the car?

We try to put as many miles on each car we road test, so I took our Volvo V70 test car on a 460-mile round trip to Newcastle with friends. Four adults, four lots of luggage and more sandwiches than you’d find on a birthday party buffet table loaded into the car in London, we set our sights on the Angel of the North.

However, a handful of miles from the Tyne, tyre-tearing disaster struck. Changing lanes on the A1, I managed to drive over a sturdy piece of debris that took a sizeable chunk out of one of the Volvos alloy wheels, puncturing the tyre in the process.

Limping into the next available SOS slip road, I suddenly recollected a meeting I’d had with Volvo earlier this year…

78% of you want a full-size spare wheel

Car breakdownWhen I first brought up the subject of spare wheels, we polled your opinion and took the results to some of the manufacturers who were charging additional money to have a spare in a new car.

One of those brands was Volvo, who I visited myself with the results showing 78% of you wanted a full-size spare wheel in cars.

In the meeting, Volvo said they’d not received feedback from owners complaining about not having a spare wheel, and that £150 extra for a temporary space-saver wheel was adequate on all models.

Imagine my relief when I lifted the boot floor of the V70, worth more than £37,500 I should add, to find the car had been specced with the space saver optional extra.

280 miles from home – a space saver won’t cut it

Rob Hull with Volvo wheelHowever, with speed restricted to 50mph and a restraint on distance due to the limited tread depth of a space saver, and the wheel too damaged to put a new tyre onto, the problem was far from sorted to make the return trip.

With all the technicians at the local Volvo garage in Newcastle already clocked off on the Saturday, no replacement wheel available in stock, and me due to fly to Rome on Monday morning, I had no other option but to leave the car with the dealer to be recovered. We then had to book a train back to London – an additional £172 for the four of us.

Had the Volvo been equipped with a full-size spare wheel, the issue would have been rectified in a matter of minutes at the roadside, rather than costing us a good portion of the day, a fair bit of money and a huge logistical headache.

We’ll continue to tell manufacturers that we think all new cars should have a spare wheel of some capacity as a no-cost option, and I’ll happily use my own experience to back that up.

Give me some more ammo, though, and post a comment below with your car puncture nightmare stories.

KJ says:
10 May 2015

It’s a stupid, short sighted, money grabbing, decision made by motor manufacturers that should not only be rejected by the public, the Govt, Police and motoring organisations should demand that full size spare wheels are reinstated on all cars as standard.

Twice we’ve been stuck on a long journey with only the crappy puncture repair kit that only fixes a small % of punctures. On both occasions we’ve had to wait hours for the breakdown chap to go and get the tyre replaced.

The motor manufacturers are lying when they say motorists don’t mind / care. I haven’t met anyone who feels that way.

It should simply be illegal not to have a spare tyre. That would solve it.

One of the worst decisions ever made by motoring industry – stupid stupid stupid!

Spence Coaker says:
14 May 2015

I recently had a puncture in one of the front tyres on my Mazda 6 Tourer (2011 model) Fortunately I have a full size spare so soon on my way. This is not the first puncture I have had. Normally I would have updated to a new Mazda by now but new Mazda’s do not have space for a full size spare a gross retrograde step in design. My local dealer says most people would not be able to change a wheel anyway, not the point, when roadside assistance called they will have a full size wheel to replace.
Manufacturers say that they are saving weight and therefore giving greater economy and improving emissions. I think they are saving costs, at least provide a full size spare wheel stowage so a spare can be purchased. Meanwhile they in my case are losing a sale.

tommy blows says:
6 August 2015

same as the goverment, cameras are for safety!!. we all know the reason.MONEY


I agree as I do not do this I call the AA but from taking the spare out and fitting it the time is a few minutes. A friend had a flat the other day and she said he spent ages on her tyre as comes with some can instead. I personally find this unacceptable and many have said not a deal breaker but it definitely is for me.

Nicholas Forth says:
13 November 2015

Looking to purchase XC70 in the future.

I have been driving for 35 years now and have covered nearly 1 million miles in that time. I am a Mechanical Engineer and know one or two things about cars. I consider myself to be a safe driver but in those 35 years I have had 3 major blow outs due to being unable to avoid road debris with the approach of oncoming cars. Two of those blow outs were so catastrophic that significant alloy wheel damage was caused and the tyres deflated immediately.

Having a full sized spare wheel and tyre in the boot allowed us to continue with our journey all of these occasions. An “Air Cream Glue Can” only, would have been no use at all with a hole in an alloy wheel.

Now imagine your touring in Scotland for example and your seventy miles from nowhere with no telephone signal and you have a catastrophic blow out which destroys tyre and wheel – your “Air Cream Glue Can” won’t help you and neither will your telephone.

True a space saver will assist you if you have one but the motor manufactures should be supplying full size spare wheels with decent telescopic tyre wrenches.

And another thing why are they making cars with spare tyre wells that can’t take a full size wheel and tyre ? Oh could it be because they save 5% on steel usage for that component alone.

And now lets go full circle – the xc70 is designed to be a good soft off roader. Where are you more likely to damage a wheel or tyre – Oh off road unless you hit a flooded pot hole. So why supply a space saver or “Air Cream Glue Can” ? – It does not make sense and in my opinion is a retrograde step for the car industry.

Not all new ideas are good ideas !


” a retrograde step for the car industry”

I could not agree more


Saving weight, people dont care, people cannot change a wheel anyhow. yes Guys I agree B*****t
Yet another con on the paying public.
My wife called me on the 2 occasions she had a flat wheel but without a proper spare there would have been nothing to put on as on both occasions she had driven over something. Aerosol would not have worked
My daughter on the other hand has a degree in dietetics and she’d try changing a truck wheel if she had to. Car, no problem
As to weight. Because of safety cars are gaining weight faster than the western worlds folks so a 15 or 20kg wheel is buttons to carry
Just my opinions


I’m afraid that we only have ourselves to blame here.

First, we are careless or stupid enough to buy new cars that don’t have full size spare wheels.

We then compound this delinquency by not then ordering an upgrade to a full size spare from a good local auto shop.

We then discover, as Rob did, that we have failed to adequately plan and prepare for long journeys.


Yes Derek, You have it in a nutshell. We sit around and take what’s handed out like nice little boys and girls and when we get a bit straight to the point everyone goes quiet. Thats not me. I got fed up with that years ago. If its on your mind say it and to h**** with the outcome. Britain is a great place with great people but the Gov stinks as does no spare wheel. Hows that


It’s the motor manufacturers that have deprived us of full-size spare wheels and – in many cases – somewhere sensible to store them. Many cars don’t even come with a space-saver wheel these days. Some don’t even learn that they have no spare until they have a puncture, which suggests that they don’t bother checking the pressure of their spare. They should because space-saver wheels lose pressure more quickly because the pressure is higher and volume of air lower than a normal tyre.

Perhaps governments could have worked together to insist that cars are supplied with spare wheels. Oh, and bulbs that can be changed at the roadside.


My new car comes with no spare but run-flats. As I have said in another conversation the thought of having a puncture a long way from home when the tyre outlets are shut, with limited miles driving on the run-flat, decided me to buy a full size wheel to take on long journeys. Hopefully I won’t get a puncture. If I do and stop early enough to avoid wrecking the tyre I’ll save money ( and an overnight unscheduled stop). And if I don’t get a puncture I’ll already have one new tyre to use when others wear – and a spare alloy if a wheel gets damaged. The only downside is the space it takes.

If we feel strongly enough about the lack of a spare – and I think we should – then why have Which? and its European counterparts under BEUC not taken action to put this right? They are our voice, aren’t they? Have they ever consulted consumers properly?


If action had been taken ten or even five years ago, we might have saved the spare wheel. There are some of us who feel strongly about the issue but I think we are in the minority. We may manage to save space-saver wheels on some models, either as standard fitment or as an extra.

A BMW owner told me that reputable tyre repairers won’t offer repairs on run-flat tyres because it is not possible to know what damage has been caused by running one under-inflated. I don’t know what happens in practice.


If you run far on run-flats, as you are effectively running on the strong tyre walls they are damaged and even if the puncture could be repaired the tyre wall structure is damaged. I presume (and hope) that if as soon as a puncture is detected you stop the tyre can be repaired. My main concern though is the inconvenience.

A Which? conversation in 2012 raised this issue and found 78% wanted a spare wheel. I wonder what other EU consumer groups found. Why was the consumer’s voice not made known? Perhaps consumer associations do not act co-operatively enough on these issues? What action did Which? take to support its members?


According to the AA: “… many repairers may be reluctant or simply refuse to repair a puncture in a run-flat tyre.”