/ 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.

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.

When I bought my last car, a Vauxhall Zafira I had to argue long and hard to get them to supply a full size spare wheel . Later I discovered that they had supplied a wheel that was narrower than those fitted to the car. After further discussion in which they argued that the wheel supplied was recommended by the manufacturer, as a full size wheel would not fit in the wheel holder ( Lie), they eventually agreed to supply the correct wheel. On this vehicle if the wheel holder wouldn’t hold a full size wheel, you couldn’t continue your journey if you had seven passengers or a full boot. It seems some dealers will say anything to avoid selling you what you actually want!

Keith Ollier says:
21 March 2021

I agree entirely my next car will have a spare wheel, if not Ill find another model.

William Graham Vale says:
5 April 2021

When electric vehicles are the only ones you can buy in the not-too-far-distant future, it seems likely that none of them will have space for spare wheels because of the batteries.

Yes, and the other reason is that weight saving is more important in electric vehicles.

Will airless tyres be the revolution we have been waiting for? https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/news/motoring-news/video-michelin-unveils-new-revolutionary-airless-tyres/

Airless tyres are not new but one problem is dissipating heat at speed. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airless_tire
Another “report” – https://www.wintertyres-yorkshire.co.uk/michelin-tweels-airless-tyres/ – how about the grammar.

That seems to be the main problem. At least it does not prevent airless tyres being used on most construction equipment, which does not venture onto the motorway racetracks.

It would be interesting to know if any current electric vehicles do come with a spare wheel, either as standard or an option. This is more likely on battery electric vehicles than on hybrids, where space is taken up by an engine as well as batteries.

Andy R says:
13 May 2021

This just adds to the trend of car manufacturers making changes that customers absolutely do not want. Industries all too often follow fashions and trends, instead of listening to customer

How many people have made a spare wheel their top priority when buying a car, Andy? Some don’t discover there isn’t one until they have a puncture.

I have just had a problem with a puncture, but fortunately I had paid for a full size spare. This meant I could return the unrepairable tyre to the supplier for a warranty replacement. Without a full size spare, this would not have been possible. I don’t mind paying for a full size spare but I’m now finding many cars don’t have a well deep enough to accept one. I find this odd as if you fit a space saver to the car you still need somewhere to put the full size tyre you’ve taken off. I wish the manufacturers would listen to their customers and ensure that the option is still available. The big problem is that you only find out how inconvenient the lack of a spare is when you have an incident !

If your car has a well suitable for a space-saver wheel it may be possible to get or make something that will raise the floor of the boot, but obviously this will reduce the capacity of the boot. Sadly, some cars have no provision for even a space-saver wheel. I would be interested to know if any electric vehicles comes with a spare wheel or even has provision to store one.

I would be interested to know how you could get a warranty replacement on a punctured tyre, Chris. It’s not the company’s fault and you would need accidental damage cover.

When I bought my estate car it was supplied with run-flats, but they limit you to around 50 miles. Not good returning from holiday in the evening when the the suppliers are closed. So I added a full size spare to take on those occasions, a spare that could be used when the other tyres needed replacing. But you do need space – wheels and tyres can be big and heavy these days.

I don’t like spacesavers as a solution; they cannot be as safe as a proper wheel. Runflats are fine in a rather limited way but can’t normally be repaired. Tyres that don’t puncture are around for specialist applications but don’t seem on the horizon for cars. Puncture repair kits only fix some punctures. But where do you put a large spare wheel? At the moment, just sacrifice space in the boot seems the only answer, unless a fixing is provided on the outside of the boot as with some 4x4s for example.

Some vintage cars had the spare wheel enclosed in a smart casing mounted on the running board. Such cars usually had a chauffeur as well.

Certain bespoke Riley and Sunbeam models had this feature with the wheel housing stylishly streamlined into the front wheel-arch fairing.

I bought the tyres from AA tyres ( National Tyres) at a very competitive price and the insurance was included. It covers all punctures/failures for the life of the tyre, i.e. for as long as they are road legal. If the tyre is not repairable, it is replaced (less a fee for the % wear). I’ll be buying from them again in future.

I live north wales about 10 miles from Chester am looking get my Volvo Cx60 boot altered to take a full sized wheel any one know where I can get it done , thanks

Ian Clark says:
18 October 2021

I’ve just taken delivery of a 21-plate VW Arteon to replace my 67-plate VW Arteon. The latter had a full-size spare supplied as standard equipment. The new car has a can of sealant, even though the new car still has boot space for a full-size spare. I was unaware that VW had changed their spec & the dealership didn’t inform me either. Needless to say, the new car is going back & I’ve got 6 months left on my lease to find something else.

Sadly, fewer cars come with spare wheels and the introduction of electric vehicles has made the problem worse. I understand your disappointment, Ian.

Nevertheless, it is the customer’s responsibility to check the specification of a product before buying. If you bought the car unseen, for example online, I presume you are legally allowed a refund, as with other products. On the other hand if you bought from a dealer you have had the opportunity to inspect the goods and it seems likely that you will offered a credit against a future purchase. If you had been told that the car had a spare wheel (ideally in writing) then that would form part of the contract and hopefully will obtain a straight refund.

Perhaps someone from Which? can advise, because I have no expertise in legal matters.

Ian, I sympathise because a can of sealant has limited use and, as I understand it, the tyre will need replacing if it is used to repair a puncture – the AA say:
” Once you’re satisfied that you’ve repaired the tyre using the kit, drive your car to the nearest garage or tyre fitters to replace the tyre. A tyre that’s been repaired with sealant will almost always need replacing, however small the puncture was.

There’s likely to be a restriction on how fast and how far you can drive on the repaired tyre. This should be in the instructions but if in doubt, stick to a maximum of 50mph for 50 miles. Make sure you drive carefully, especially when cornering and braking.

I knew my knew estate car came without a spare so, even though it had runflats, bought a complete matching spare wheel that I keep in the back. It takes up space but I don’t want to be stuck a long way from home – beyond the distance you are supposed to drive on them – at night when the tyre depots are closed. It gets used when new tyres are needed.

On some cars you can get a fitting to attach a spare wheel to the back of the vehicle. In the good old days posh cars had them in housings let into the swept front wings.