/ 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.

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.

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.

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.

Steven Carter says:
8 December 2020

I would never buy a car without a full sized spare.
I have a Hyundai Santa Fe which has a full sized spare under the car. It is about time the government made it mandatory for a car to have a full sized spare so the car behaves in the correct way for steering and braking safety. Only buy cars with a full sized spare or space for one in the boot.

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.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

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.

Darren says:
29 December 2019

We had a zafira which is similar design – no it won’t but what you can do is you can get a cage for the underside of the vehicle and the spare will go in that. When we had a zafira someone before us had already changed the tyre to a full one in a cage underneath – so handy.

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!

give me a full size spare wheel every time!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

My Father had a Morris 1000. One year driving to holiday in Norfolk, the coil failed, so next year he had a spare in the back. Then another time the dynamo packed up. So, spare dynamo in the back. Points, starter motor, distributor, carburettor, fuel pump, fan belts, inner tubes etc. When he eventually finished driving there were all kinds of spare units in the back, along side the spare wheel.
So just how much do you carry?
I had a puncture in an AUDI 80, on a German autobahn, in the rain, towing a trailer. The space saver did what it was supposed to do, got me to a tyre shop. However driving at 50 mph on an autobahn is NOT to be recommended.
VW Polo hit kerb on chicane, ‘traffic calming’ two wheels flat. What good would one spare wheel be?
The VW Touran was loaded, we’d cleared her Mothers home. Puncture on the motorway, about 6 miles from home. ‘Tyre mobility kit’ in the back did what it was supposed to do, got us home.
I ride a motorcycle, there’s no spare on that. A friend had a puncture on his BMW bike, I had an ALDI canister in my bike, that got him home, about 50 miles.
The push for more economy, miles per gallon is driving manufacturers to shed unnecessary weight. And it is unnecessary, tyres nowadays are just so good. As are most of the parts of the vehicles, alleviating the need to carry spares of everything.

In seven and a half years I have had three or four punctures, requiring me to fit the spare wheel. Sadly it’s one of the skinny ones that’s reminiscent of those on a Morris Minor. Perhaps we should be given the option of an inflation kit, a space-saver wheel or a full-size spare. I would choose the latter.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

To add to Trevor’s experiences, a few years ago I had the misfortune to drive over a concrete fence post that was lying across the carriage way.

As it was late at night and the car remained mobile and controllable, I drove it the remaining 5 or so miles home. On arrival, the front off side tyre was still just partially inflated but the alloy wheel was written off, so both tyre and wheel were replaced. A matching replacement alloy wheel and tyre were obtained from a breaker’s.

Tyres ain’t that good – I recently pulled a thorn out of my Continental tyre’s thickest tread area and it went flat in a couple of minutes. Fortunately I had acquired a full sized spare on Ebay not long before, so no worries. NO SPARE NO SALE.
Why was the requirement to provide a spare dropped?

I think run-flat tyres will obviate the need to carry a spare in the next few years.

Didn’t they say that in 1974 about the Denovo?

Yes, I remember that.

Run flats are fine, of you don’t mind the slightly firmer ride. I had occasion to use mine at the weekend when, going out on Saturday afternoon to an appointment, I found a flat. Pumping up revealed a hiss. I drove to my destination at 50 m/h with no apparent detrimental effect on handling. However, I had a longish journey, partly on motorway, the next day, Sunday, that would be well beyond the suggested range of the tyre. No easy way to get to buy a new tyre, certainly not to shop around.

With this scenario in mind, and travelling back at night from holiday as another, I had bought a complete spare wheel when purchasing the car. It is now deployed. I needed 4 new tyres anyway, so just 3 to buy.

To my mind a proper spare wheel should be an essential for both convenience and safety. By all means have the advantage of run flats, but they are rarely repairable so have a convenience cost.

Some of my friends who live in hilly places near here actually own two complete sets of wheels for their cars, as used for their summer and winter tyres.

I seem to remember an earlier discussion on this where it was suggested all season tyres were a good option?

Malcolm is right. Comparatively recent developments (last 5-10 years) mean that, with the exception of highly flexed heavy duty tyres (off roaders, heavily laden trucks) where all weather tyres are not flexible enough in the winter, and particularly fast cars driven at high speeds for sustained periods (where the opposite applies), the reputable makes of all weather rubber is as good as the winter in winter and summer in summer these days.

If all-season tyres are the best option then it would make sense to fit them on all new cars.

Global warming probably means we only need summer tyres – with good performance in the wet.

Nigel Cottrell says:
11 May 2020

Had 5 runflat tyre failures in 5 years only one of which allowed further progress (screw in tread), no failures since junking the useless runflats.
Runflats are probably fine on German roads but seem unable to survive the potholes of modern British roads.

Darren says:
29 December 2019

Our old car had a full size tyre – our new Mercedes though doesn’t – only has a space saver. So annoying as on Boxing Day we had a flat tyre. RAC came out to check tyre and found a massive screw lodged very near the sidewall so was not repairable.

Went online to order a new tyre – we’re in a rural area here in South Shropshire – all garages kept saying they’d need to order a new tyre in and it wouldn’t be here till 3rd Jan due to new year.

Great at the moment stuck with a car with a space saver tyre on till past new year – am meant to be working in Cheltenham on NYD – so not only am I going to have to pay out for the cost of a new tyre, but also could lose a day’s work at time and a half if I can’t drive the car from Ludlow to Cheltenham – just because Mercedes don’t include a full size tyre – wouldn’t mind the previous car I had was a Vauxhall, you’d think the high end car manufacturers would throw in a full tyre rather than penny pinching like that.

It will take up room but you could do what I did; buy a complete tyre and wheel and stick it in the back of the car – mine is an estate so easier than in a boot. You can use it when the other tyres need replacing. However, I consider all cars should at least have the provision for a full size spare wheel.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t mind driving the 55 miles from Ludlow to Cheltenham on a space saver spare. I wouldn’t use any motorways and with a maximum speed of 50mph, I also probably wouldn’t be the slowest vehicle on the A49/A417/B4215.

Tried local scrapyards?

Some space savers are only good for 45 mph. The novelty wears off quite quickly.

I know cross-ply and biassed-belt tyres are pretty much a thing of the past, but given, all those years ago, it iwas, and rightly remains illegal – and very dangerous – to run anything other than the same tyre construction on the same axis (ie two radials, two biassed or two cross plies), I struggle to justify the space saver approach at all.

One can argue slow speed mitigates the mismatch between three full fat tyres and a space-saver, but if you put a car with a space-saver on a snow-laden road, particularly if the s-s is on the front, the chances are that tyre would be the only one to get purchase if you braked very slightly too hard, sending you into a real spin that even modern car electronics would struggle to save you from.

And yet here is hypocritical me, as I have a space saver in mine.

Our youngest was telling me (the other day) that the best thing for safety is to use winter tyres. In winter, of course.

“… the best thing for safety is to use winter tyres. In winter, of course”

Snow tyres are best in snow, winter tyres are best in non-snow/ice for off-roaders and Siberian temperatures

Since wider temperature flexible rubbers have been in vogue – at least 4 years – all weather tyres are as good as winter tyres in winter on all except heavyweight Jeeps etc., and as good as summer tyres in summer for the same reason, except on lightweight very fast cars driven very fast.

All IMHO of course.

It would probably be best to always put the space/money saver on the rear in all cases even if that meant moving the good rear tyre to the front axle.

This always assumes the car hasn’t been to a tyre centre or garage recently and that you can actually undo the nuts/bolts. I have to uses a 4′ length of pipe to loosen mine.

Snow tyre/winter tyres usually used interchangeably unless you’re referring to the studded variety that aren’t suitable for road use.

All weather or all season tyres are a compromise and aren’t as good as winter tyres which will provide significant benefits in the snow as this test proves.


Space savers are really money savers. The manufacturers reasoning is that if they can save £1 on each car and they make one million then that’s another £1m profit they’ve made.

It will save the manufacturers even more if they don’t provide a spare wheel, jack and the tools needed to change a wheel, even if they are kind enough to provide a can of sealant. It would be good if all manufacturers gave us a choice when buying a car.

Agreed winter tyres are better in soft snow, but less good in the rain. How many winter days are rainy compared to snowy? https://www.justtyres.co.uk/news/all-season-tyres-vs-winter-tyres is an unbiased article and chimes with my behind-the-scenes knowledge (which in turn has swayed from less than 10 years ago when there was no decent “all weather” tyre.

Most articles about winter tyres mention a temperature of 7°C as the temperature below which winter tyres should be used. While the benefits of having a softer rubber at low temperatures are well accepted, I have seen no scientific evidence to support the use of this figure.

Given the considerable advances in the last decade of both tread patterns and materials, the different messages portrayed by different manufacturers, the vested interests of those in the retail industry and the discrepancy here of opinion among many here who I would regard as august/erudite, could I please put in a plea for W? to do an up-to-date test – in time for next winter – comparing real condition performance of all-weather vs all-season vs winter tyres on snow/rain/dry (cold concrete and cold tarmac) and rain/dry (hot concrete and hot tarmac) surfaces in light small front drive, medium weight saloons and Tonka toy 4WD cars perhaps?

I see plenty of “guides” – but curiously undated, I also see plenty of adv articles from Trusted Traders. However, the most recent test I can see relating to cars’ winter footwear is snow socks – 2012.

It’s long overdue for Which to mount a full-blown campaign to put a stop to this nonsense!

P redefern says:
4 September 2020

Just had three days in Italy with my Mercedes E Class after a puncture waiting for a new tyre to be fitted. With a spare tyre no problem, with a repair kit a pain in the a**e.