/ 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.

Comments
Stuart Blackstock says:
6 January 2021

I have a BMW 525D. In 2016, I was in Glasgow (Scotland) for a week seeing my mother. I had to drive back down to Bedford on the Friday afternoon for work the next day.
I got a bad puncture on the M74 not far from the England/Scotland border, but as I had run-flat tyres, I was able to limp into the nearby services. On looking into the spare wheel well in the boot – no spare wheel, and no tyre repair stuff – as per BMW policy)
NOBODY was willing to come oput on a friday afternoon to fix it. So I drove at 35 MPH back to Glasgow and found several garages that do repairs, but none would touch a repair of a BMW nor of a run-flat. And of course, no-one had new tyres in my size. So I had to dump the car and get a taxi (I had already limped my way through nearly 40 miles on the split run-flat) back to my mothers place and cancel the weekend work I was booked to do, and wait it out till the garage where I’d dumped the car got delivery of my size of tyre on Monday.
I then drove home, but then went on to buy a full size spare wheel and tyre, and a small trolley jack and nut-spanner thing. To my amazement, the spare wheel well in the boot does NOT take a full size spare wheel – only room for a plastic space saver. So now it takes up considerable space in the boot, and I’ve had 2 punctures since then where that spare wheel was invaluable (one in a puncture on the A1 in north Nottinghamshire).
It’s as if the car manufacturers are conspiring against drivers to cost us a LOT more money when we get a puncture. I’m in two minds to take them all to court under consumer law stating thjat such cars are actually “Unfit for Purpose”

When I bought a new car in 2012 I was determined to have a car with some sort of spare wheel, and this will be top priority when I replace the car. There are still some models that offer a space-saver wheel but sadly few with a full-size spare.

I’ve never owned a motorbike that came with a spare wheel. In spite of that, I have toured all over Europe. When I did that, I always had appropriate breakdown cover. Usually, it was never needed, but it did help me out on three occasions.

I bought a BMW touring that came with runflats and at the time of purchase added a full size matching allow wheel and tyre. That was 5 years ago and I have had one puncture when the wheel was used; the AA changed it for me.

Stuart’s unfortunate experience was exactly why I did this. If I had a puncture when the tyre facilities were closed or had no stock I could remain fully mobile.

The wheel does take up a lot of room but it is not space I normally need. The size and weight of wheels these days is considerably greater than when I started driving; even my old Ford 8 and Mini had room for full size spares. Nevertheless I am all for compromising space to accommodate a spare; unless there is good evidence to show that spacesavers are dangerous that would be an acceptable solution.

john d robinson says:
17 January 2021

After experiencing several punctures in the last decade on the UK’s deteriorating major roads, two of these with run flats which slightly mitigated the inconvenience. However whilst currently this limits the choice significantly I will never purchase another new car without a full size spare that fits into the vehicle’s spare wheel bay. Interestingly when I have mentioned this to garage new car sales departments most staff, after a brief period of effected surprise, acknowledge this has become an issue.