/ 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.


Wheel bolts/nuts that are difficult to remove can make it difficult or impossible for a driver to change a wheel at the side of the road. As a teenager, I watched my father put a trace of grease on the threads of each nut, taking care not to put any on the surface in contact with the wheel. This is not generally recommended and the manual for my car warns against this practice. I have changed wheels countless times over the years and never had a single wheel nut or bolt come loose, nor has anyone I know who has done the same. I do not recommend this because it is not recommended by manufacturers or motoring organisations, but wonder if others do the same.

One of the problems with alloy wheels is that they can stick to steel hubs as a result of electrolytic corrosion, helped by road salt. A trace of grease on the mating surfaces can help avoid the problem of wheels stuck to their hubs. Has anyone had this problem or found a better solution?

Mike says:
4 May 2014

If your ally wheel sticks to the hub, jack the car up so that the wheel spins free then spin it and get someone to press the brake, usually does the trick without damaging the wheel or hub, best precaution is to use copper slip or similar grease to prevent it happening.

Brian mentioned Contiseal tyres in a recent Conversation. These are tyres that come with sealant present, the intention being that small punctures will not deflate the tyre. According to Continental, the tyres can be repaired too, unlike the typical tyre sealants provided by manufacturers that think we don’t deserve spare wheels.

This seems to be a better option than run-flat tyres, but still an expensive option. On the basis that cyclists have been putting sealants in their mountain bike tyres for years to avoid flat tyres, I cannot see any reason why Continental should have a patent.

I’m still keen to keep up the fight for spare wheels but if tyres with sealant pre-installed come down in price they might be a better option than a sealant and inflation kit.

Pegsy says:
13 December 2013

My wife bought a new Honda Jazz last year and we thought it unwise to have her travelling on her own without a spare wheel. I managed to get one on-line from a car breaker, which was unused and in perfect condition.
I can’t remember the cost, but it was a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Don’t overlook this option and get ripped off for a new one.

Geoff Hull says:
10 January 2014

I agree fully every car should have a spare wheel! Full size if there is space for one. My BMW 3 series touring has neither, fitted with run flats it went for a service to BMW dealership in Bedford. Report although they collected the car was that it had 2 illegal front tyres (1 was one wasn’t) but Kwik Fit couldn’t get out till next day and they couldn’t now drive car as illegal to do so? I am 30 miles from them and 40 miles in other direction to get home. Very helpful!! Their advice ‘phone for replacement car’ my response – get lift to their premises, collect car and drive to KwikFit (half a mile) good service there and they replace tyres. Oh for a spare wheel!!!

My advice, make sure you don’t buy a car that cannot fit a full size spare wheel in the wheel well.

Peter -Taunton says:
24 January 2014

I purchases a new Nissan Cash Cow and even though I thought I had made firm arrangements with the dealer to get the proper sized spare wheel (at extra cost) I found that they had lied to me and in fact what I got was a ‘space saver’ – in fact the tyre storage space in the boot was only big enough for the ‘space saver’ anyway! I also got a little fed up with almost everyone in the industry coming back at me with responses such as; ‘when did you last have a puncture’ and none of them could respond in any intelligent way when I said, ‘It is not the last one that concerns me – but the next! I got rid of that Nissan (at a loss!) as soon as I could and then bought the Hyundai ix35 4WD – WHICH HAS A PROPER SPARE WHEEL!!!! No bloody can of shaving cream or wibbly wobbly space saver for me!! Stick to your guns out there and if the car does not come with a proper spare wheel (PSW!) then tell them why you are not purchasing!! The Industry will son catch on and adjust!!

Only yesterday (23/01/2014) I was called out by a friend’s wife to help after she had a burst a tyre due to a large pot hole on a remote country road. No tins of ‘glupe’ could possibly help!

Yes, the pot holes are back! A bit of frost and our roads crack up.

Ken, Notts. says:
17 February 2014

Space saver tyres are a waste of space (pun intended) and the tyre repair kits are more than useless by the time you have brought the car to a stop after a puncture !
A full sized spare doesn’t take up that much more space and is well worth the forfeiting of that little bit of extra storage for peace of mind and primarily SAFETY.

Full size spare wheel essential, the more so the older the car gets. But even new cars and new tyres get punctures as I know to my cost. So more power to your elbow Which? and fight our corner please 🙂

Mike Aberdeenshire says:
29 May 2014

I have had several tyre problems with our two family cars, and hire cars, one in particular on New Years Day in USA. It is extremely clear to me that you are always better off with a full spare wheel which will cover you for all tyre and wheel damage.

My two previous cars have been a Ford Focus estates, which I was reasonably happy with. The last one came with a space saver but I bought a full spare which fitted into the spare wheel well. I did not want to get stuck with the 50 miles at 50 mph routine again.

I had resolved not to buy another car which did not have a full sized spare. My Ford dealer was aware of this and checked the new model which had a space saver. On my request he checked to see if the space would take a full spare, eventually he found out it would not. Some design halfwit had reduced the size of the space ignoring the 78% of us that want a full spare.

After some research I found out that the VW Passat estate comes with a full spare, an alloy no less, and I am now the proud owner of a lovely Passat estate. Now I am safe in the knowledge that I can complete any journey without the worry described above.

Ford you have lost yourself a loyal customer. People can always VOTE WITH THEIR FEET.

GJH Barton N.Yorks says:
4 June 2014

Volvo V40R-Design is an absolute cracker that makes the Audi A3 look like a Skoda without the extras; apart from the looks. However, no spare wheel – just gunk. What is even worse is that in this highly commercial and competitive world, I am finding it difficult to locate a full-size spare, alloy or steel, just to put in the boot (the underfloor compartment will only accommodate a space saver, which I do not want). Halford and Kwikfit have no idea -perhaps it’s not in their interest?
Anybody got any ideas?
GJH – Which? member.

Buy a Golf.

Interesting to read that the emissions go up by 5% if you have the 18″ wheels instead of the 17″ !!

I cannot see the width of the tyres in my very cursory look but if you can source a steel wheel from a breakers yard of the correct width and diameter and then offer it to a tyre outlet I see no problem. I would not recommend alloys as they are structurally more suspect over time.

namrow says:
6 July 2014


Flintoff says:
12 July 2014

Nov 2013 I purchased a Skoda Fabia I insisted I wanted full size spare tyre, They assured me it was full size. But what they didn’t tell me it was not alloy but steel. Imagine the my disappointment when I had a puncture. Its better than a skinny but I expected it to be alloy to match the others.
They can say what they like but I feel I have been tricked. They must have known what I expected.
I have been in this situation before, unless you frame your question exactly, they will tell you what you want to hear. I think the word that fits in is ‘disingenuous’
The thing is its twice the work, I remove the punctured tyre from the car take it to be repaired bring it back, take steel spare off put it back in the boot and refit the repaired tyre.
I won’t get caught again. Ps. I managed to lose the locking screw key. the garage where I bought the car wouldn’t help I’m still trying to solve that one. any ideas?

Buy a matching alloy from a breaker or eBay.
Buy 4 plain wheel nuts and throw away the locking nuts they’re more trouble than they’re worth, especially if the tyre shop over tightens them (don’t ask how I know this).

L.Kay says:
12 August 2014

August 11, 2014, On Aug 7, 2014 I bought a Volvo S60 (Year 2012) in the USA. I do not want to keep this car because it has no spare tire. In the USA we are use to spare tires. I was once caught at night with my children in the Mohave Dessert and had a flat tire. Auto Club service, tow truck driver could not find me and cell phone service was not very good. Finally a Police Officer came; after waiting for about two hours. Thnx be to God I had that spare tire. So, today I discover, no spare in my new car? and the tricky salesman knew this and did not disclose this very important fact to me? Everyone I have spoken to is very surprised. What? A Volvo? The safest car to buy? No spare tire? Only a canister and some gunk. I hope they will take back the car, cuz I am very unhappy!
PS: Theyb want to thro in the spare whch takes all of the trunk room. I need the trucnk room and the back seats to go flat to carry stuff for my work; like Real Estate signs and 6′ ladders! Shame on Volvo! I will never go back on the lot if they take this back tomorrow.

david carter says:
12 August 2014

its disgusting that we drivers are being short changed by the car manufacturers,just so they can claim greater boot space in their models,its like buying a house without a staircase,and the seller stating well we thought you had your own ladders.
We all need to raise this car manufacturers short cut by refusing to buy cars that do not come with a full spare wheel or at least a skinny wheel,that would start new thinking when sales drop,they would soon change their minds,I have raised this issue with the society of motor manufacturers and they are fully aware its unfair to make it an extra charge for supplying what should already be there.

“We all need to raise this car manufacturers short cut by refusing to buy cars that do not come with a full spare wheel” That is my position.

The critical point is that the car should at least have sufficient stowage space for a full size spare wheel, regardless of whether or not the wheel is standard or optional equipment.

One can understand that car makers do not want to be left behind in a competitive market.When the makers have arranged for But none of them supply cars with no windscreen wipers, just a yellow duster. So the answer is for EU construction rules to require a full size spare wheel and tyre of the same specification of the other 4 wheels. So a level playing field would apply to all. This might be a rare example of EU rules actually being a help. The extra cost would be peanuts.

Robert Read says:
5 September 2014

Puncture in France at 4pm on a Saturday on the way to the Channel Tunnel. The tyre wall was damaged so a repair kit would have been useless and in any case they are a very short term solution. No chance of getting home that day as a fitted new tyre would probably not have been available until Monday. Mercedes advised continuing my journey on the space save keeping to 80kph. This speed on main french roads is stressful and potentially dangerous. Arrived home 4 very stressful hours late (helped by very sympathetic Eurotunnel staff on one of their busiest days of the year). I am surprised that insurance companies are not vocal on this matter. Apart from the potential safety issues of driving on a “repair kit” tyre of a space saver, it must increase their risk of incurring costs through having to rescue (and possibly pay for the accommodation) of people who could otherwise have continued their journey on a full time spare wheel. Manufacturers argue that not providing full size spare wheels saves them money, increases mpg, gives more space etc and that they are rarely used. I would bet that most people would want the security of a full size spare wheel over these other claimed advantages. Punctures are always inconvenient some desperately so. I will never buy another car without a full size spare wheel.

Kenneth Lang says:
21 January 2015

I average 2 punctures a year, a combination of the roads and building sites I visit. I live in rural Scotland and a spare wheel is essential. The cans of foam just don’t cope with a torn side wall or anything other than a slow puncture. I am surprised Volvo say they haven’t had feedback as I have sent messages to Volvo UK saying I wanted a car with a proper spare. Volvo never responded, so I’m hanging onto my 8 year old V70 and the full size spare I bought for it. Which raises another issue, there is no space in modern cars for full sized spares yet the space could easily be provided. Not having a proper spare is a safety issue as even at the correct speeds skinny spares don’t have the same handling and braking properties. I am amazed spares aren’t compulsory on safety grounds, either due to the obstruction of abandoned cars on the road or the shortcomings of the foam. By not providing spares Volvo are negating all the good work they do on car safety.

A space saver wheel will mean an MOT failure. The argument is that space savers are for temporary use.

Is it OK if I exceed the speed limit temporarily?

F Vadean says:
8 February 2015

My wife and I bought a V70 SE LUX in 2012. While we are quite satisfied with the car in general, we are frustrated with not being able to place under the cargo area a full size spare wheel. In the last two years we had two punctures that could not be repaired and had to be recovered. Due to the speed and distance restrictions that apply to space saver spare tyres, we decided to have on long trips a full size spare. However, because the space under the cargo area is too small for it, we have to place it in the cargo area and loose a lot of luggage space. Quite frustrating for a £30,000 car!

Jeff Thomas says:
3 April 2015

I’ve just replaced my Madza 6 (after 10 years of ownership from new) and bought a new Skoda Octavia hatchback – brilliant. I wanted a decent sized family car and one that took a fullsize spare wheel for convenience. The Honda Civic Tourer salesman was mortified when at the last moment I declined to buy the new car as I discovered, with his help, it would not take a full size spare – it almost did but not quite!. Similarly, the new Mazda 6 would not take a full wheel – so another lost sale to them. I researched most of the other family car brands too before deciding. I can understand all about CO2 emission savings and how manufacturers can keep down the new car costs but I think they should at least provide the space for a full-size wheel and allow the customer to choose if they want to buy/install one. They should also provide the space for the knackered wheel so you can carry it home.