/ 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.

Bern says:
10 April 2017

I have a screw embedded in a front wheel tyre. I don’t have a spare wheel, so I cant leave it to be looked at whilst carrying on with use of my car, cant even go home!
I drive a Honda Jazz

The AA I believe carry temporary wheels, but have you asked a mobile tyre service to attend your car?

Thomas says:
11 April 2017

I have had two Nissan Qashqai*s and paid £200.00 for the space saver kit for the 1st one and then transferred it to my 2nd one. I did have to buy new wrench as the wheel studs were a different size. For me it was a no brainer to get a s/s, kit as I understand that the glue with the repair kit has a shelf life of approx. 12 months. this means buying a new one every year at a cost of approx. £25-00. Also if you did manage to do a repair with the glue most tyre suppliers would not repair the tyre after using the glue. Therefore you have to buy a new tyre even it was repairable before using the glue. If I change to another make of car would put the s/s kit on E Bay and put the glue kit back on the car. I have not had a puncture in either car but I am a lot happier knowing that I have a spare with me.

Stephen. says:
26 June 2017

I have never understood the whole space saver. Where r u suppose to put ur full size after u replace it? Especially if u have a full car of people and luggage. Makes no sense. I havnt had a puncture yet thankfully but i know its going to be a stressful day when it comes.

Three days ago, a friend turned up for coffee, parked on the drive and announced that her rear tyre was flat. Fortunately the rain had gone off and we changed the wheel without difficulty, fitting the space-saver spare. This evening I had a puncture, the first in the five and a half years since I had bought the car. I jacked up the car but the foot of the jack slipped on a cobble-stone and jammed itself so that the car was still off the ground and the handle could not be turned.

The last time I called out the RAC was in 1989 and now I had some unknown cover through NFU Mutual, my insurer. They said that they would get the RAC to attend, but it would take 90 minutes. The space-saver spare wheel was fitted within minutes. I had been concerned that half my 20 mile return home was on a motorway, but the car handled normally. The last time I had driven with a space-saver wheel was many years ago and the diameter of the tyre/wheel was markedly less than a proper tyre/wheel – a worrying experience.

Tomorrow I will find out about local tyre fitters.

bishbut says:
10 November 2017

You can travel a long way with a space saver tyre but it is recommended that you do not exceed 50 mph at all Under 50 mph they are safe to use as a normal tyre

The RAC mechanic did remind me about sticking to 50 mph and there is a conspicuous label showing 50 mph on these wheels.

My understanding is that the speed limit is a legal requirement and not just a recommendation, but I’m happy to be corrected. If you presented a car with a space-saver wheel fitted for an MOT it would rightly fail.

Michael Mcewen says:
21 January 2018

I was looking to buy a C60 but with no spare wheel I will be looking at another manufacturer sorry Volvo must try harder.

You could always buy a spare wheel and keep it in the car on, maybe. longer journeys if you’ve found a car that otherwise fits the bill.

Some new cars don’t have space to carry a full size spare wheel. It the manufacturer just provided a space capable of holding a full size wheel the owners could decide for themselves whether or not to carry one, even if they just bought one from the breakers yard, it would be better than the skinny and inherently unsafe doughnut tyres.

29 July 2018

Just had a blow out after running over debris on the A1. No spare just a repair kit. Useless as the hole was the size of my thumb. Even a space saver would have been better.
Wasted 2 hours getting the AA, fortunately covered , Then going to Tyre place ,some miles away , and then had to drive back in the opposite direction to get to where we were going. Ridiculous when I could have changed the wheel at the roadside in 10 minutes.

If people refused to buy cars without a spare wheel this nonsense would stop.

BirdCeed says:
3 November 2018

Kia Ceed came with a space saver. Although we mainly only do city driving, the first ‘accessory’ I purchased was a full sized steel wheel with tyre. If we ever do long motorway trips or a weekend break somewhere then that will be going in instead of the bicycle wheel. The wheel well is fine diameter but the height is shorter so all I did was put some lightweight timber struts either side to keep the boot liner nice and stable – job done with very little depth reduction.

Peter Scott says:
2 December 2018

My current Audi A4 avant Quattro with 250,000 kilometres on the clock has had four flats. One near my local garage in working hours was quickly fixed. The other three required new tyres. I live in the mountains in central France, hence all wheel drive, and for some years have used winter tyres all year.
One tyre was damaged in Italy (big pothole at midnight in the middle of nowhere), a second near Shaftsbury (something flew off a lorry). Both over 1,000k from home and neither local tyre shop had winter tyres. Quoted two weeks delivery. The third damaged tyre stayed up long enough to get to a garage which used a spare from home.
Having ditched the space saver, I now have a spare wheel with full size tyre in the boot as there’s just enough room. I’ll be replacing the car soon but will only buy one that will take a full size spare. I drive too far, too frequently to set off unprepared for a flat. Anyone suggesting “ring a local tyre repair firm” has never lived in France. I’ll also avoid low profile tyres. Mine are 235.45.17, currently Uniroyal.

There are varying degrees of low profile tyres Peter and they do have advantages but they also have disadvantages. Because of the design the extreme versions will not stand up to big potholes as rim leakage occurs , while I have low profiles they arent very low and can stand up to holes in the road .
Again it also depends on internal rim corrosion over years and I always carry a temporary “get you home ” pressurised can in case of a flat .
Amazing it works if you stick to the instructions .

You are not alone , plenty of comments on flat tyres in France, somebody agrees with me advising the two types –
1- the “get you home ” as I said (buy truck version )
2-the “ultraseal types
also the “run on flat tyre ” types .
you are also up against various “tyre laws ” in France -the tread must be the same -same make-correct size-rating and different regulations for having a breakdown on an autoroute and off it.
And yes -many complain on a holiday/Sunday the tyre repairers are closed , probably basking in the sun themselves .

Paul Bonatti says:
21 February 2019

Back in the 1970’s I bought a Peugeot 505 GTI with magnesium alloy wheels, nightmare. After a couple of years I noticed my tires would not maintain pressure and I had to check and inflate tyres on a weekly basis. The wheels also corroded badly and looked grubby. I also had a scooter with alloy wheels, same thing. I took the scooters wheels and tyres off and painted them with hammerite, problem solved, no air leaks. I now stick to using steel wheels with £5 embellishers. Cheap, reliable and an easy fix. I try to buy cars that only have a full size spare wheel with the same make of tyre. My little 2002 Mercedes ‘A’ class and my wife’s tiny 2009 Fiat 500 manage to supply full size spares on steel rims with jacks, wheel brace et all.
Now looking to replace my car and find that I am limited to Citroen, Fiat, or Ford. All others only supply the useless ‘kit’. Having experienced punctures in hire cars in the past driving on rough roads on rubbish alloys that crumble on impact with a pothole a good proper spare is no.1 on my list. I’ve survived without a parking camera or automatic wipers for 50 years I’ll swap them for a tyre anytime.

Tony says:
2 April 2019

Had a blow out on a busy main road, stupid resin repair kit only. Result in stead of quick tyre change and move on, day off work, 86 quid to get garage out, took 2 days to sort out. Absolute rubbish, bring back spare tyres as standard.

Mike says:
3 April 2019

I just want to know if a standard road wheel will fit in the floor well of my 2013 Meriva. I cannot find a definitive answer, I am willing to splash out if one would fit

It can depend on which size of wheels/tyres are fitted to your car. The sure way to find out is to jack up the car, take off a wheel and find out. My car accommodates a space-saver and to fit a full-sized wheel I would need to raise the floor of the boot. In one of the Convos I was told that a platform is available to do this, but I have not explored this possibility.

I know a Meriva owner who found their new car had no spare wheel or jack, and had to order both after delivery.

Tim says:
5 August 2019

VW Passat has a full size spare wheel (as an option).
I purchase a new car every 5-6 years and 200,000 Miles. A must have is a full size spare wheel. Its none negotiable and a show stopper. This limits my choice of vehicle. I fancied the Volvo C60 also the VW Touran Allspace. Audi A6 was also on the list . I was put off by lack of full size spare, even as an option. So I purchased a new Passat Estate with the optional full size spare wheel. Well pleased with the car, lost sale for Volvo.

Yes, I was considering a V40 but it didn’t have enough room in the tyre well for a full sized spare so I bough a Golf instead. The Golf boot floor has the option of two support levels, it slides in according to which size spare you carry. Another lost sale for the dummies at Volvo.

Bill says:
27 October 2019

Notice to car makers: no spare – no sale. I lived in Outback Australia where distances are huge and tyre repairs at remote sites exorbitant; so a proper spare was essential. I also lived in South Africa where third world roads and debris gave me a flat every couple of months. With the high crime rate, it is dangerous to be stranded anywhere, so a proper spare is a personal safety item!