/ Motoring

Marooned on NYE: going spare with a puncture repair kit

Tyre making skid mark on road

When you’re stuck at the side of the road with a punctured tyre and no spare wheel, a tyre repair kit is little consolation; as I found out on New Year’s Eve.

If there’s one night you need to be able to rely on your car, it’s New Year’s Eve when you’re driving home very late at night. And if there’s one infuriating place to end up with a flat tyre at 2am, it’s outside a closed tyre shop. However, this was the start to my 2014.

And so we return to one of Which? Convo’s most popular debates – spare wheels. Have you ever been marooned at the side of the road, all because you didn’t have a spare?

Spare tyres vanish from new cars

Driving back from a family party, the tyre pressure warning light came on in my mum’s 2012 Skoda Octavia. Having bought the car recently, none of us knew whether the Octavia had a full-sized spare, a skinny space-saver tyre, or nothing at all.

Sadly, flipping up the boot floor revealed nothing more than a tyre repair kit. If we’d had an ordinary spare tyre it would have been a simple tyre swap and we could have been back on our way.

However, we ended up fighting with the puncture repair kit for nearly 30 minutes. And one thing was clear – with tyre sealant spewed all over the road and the tyre refusing to re-inflate – the tyre was dead, leaving us marooned at the side of the road. And now we also had a spent tyre repair kit.

Forced to call for roadside assistance

Consequently we had to wait 53 minutes for a recovery truck to tow us home – all because most car companies don’t think it’s worth including a spare tyre. Madness.

Still, nearly 40 miles from home and with RAC Roadside cover only allowing 10 miles of towing, the RAC wanted to charge around £150 to take us home – twice the price of a temporary space-saver spare wheel from Skoda. Thankfully, the car is under warranty and covered by Skoda’s breakdown cover, meaning we got a free tow. But we still didn’t get home until after 4am.

Had the car been fitted with a spare tyre, we would’ve been home over an hour earlier and not left with an undriveable car. Suffice it to say, my mum has now bought a spare tyre…

What do you think the solution is? Would you rather a full-size spare, a space saver tyre, run-flat tyres or are you happy with a puncture repair kit and roadside assistance? I’ll leave you with Which? Convo commenter The Bobster’s thoughts:

‘I have recently purchased a Mazda 6 Sport and am dreading having a puncture as it is only supplied with a sealant kit.

‘Car companies will argue that so much weight is saved, but if they were stuck in the back of nowhere and unable to continue their journeys perhaps they would change their minds.’


How many Conversations bemoaning the lack of spare wheels to we have to go through before we qualify for a Which? campaign to get something done about the problem? 🙂

Clearly this is not just a UK problem and hopefully fellow motorists in the EU are equally frustrated. I think this would be a great opportunity for Which? to work with similar organisations in EU countries to get manufacturers to reinstate the spare wheel.

Which? has a useful summary of how many models each manufacturer currently provides with a spare wheel. Unfortunately in a couple of browsers that I have tested, a pop-up obscures some of the information.

I rather though this topic had been concluded – for the vast majority of us a spare wheel is essential with many preferring a full size spare. Should we not now be pursuing the manufacturers / retailers to do what most want|?

Ron W says:
16 January 2014

I agree with Malcolm, the sooner the car makers are forced by public opinion to revert back to Spare Wheels the better. I have recently purchased a Merc B class and was very disappointed to find no spare.
OK I may need to make some space under the boot floor, however I am determined to revert back to a proper spare wheel by purchasing a new wheel and getting rid of the solution based repair kit.

Before you go any further, measure the size of the big run-flat tyre and see if there is anywhere to put a spare. I fear that you could be disappointed again.

Jaguars sell a space saver wheel for £150-00 or a full size spare for £350-00

Derek Ash says:
8 January 2014

christofer’s mum’s car must have had a really serious puncture because from my experience tyres do not deflate quickly with punctures these days, giving you plenty of time to have a repair done. when I bought my landrover freelander 2 at auction I took it home and after a few days discovered : “no spare!” I contacted the previous owner (a landrover dealer) and asked them if they had it in their workshop and had mistakenly failedto refit it when sending it to the sale. I had not realised some cars these days have no spare fitted but that is exactly what I was told and despite my comment regarding modern tyres I still find it unnerving to know I have no spare (only a repair kit). I have tried to get a second hand spare but have had no luck after 10 months and am seriously thinking of buying a new rim (I have a tyre). My view is that spares should be included when selling cars new but for a vehicle with big wheels and tyres such as a landrover they should be the slim, get-you-to-the-garage size because they would be liftable by most people.

Here is another reason for tackling the problem.

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. It is evident that the puncture repair kits supplied with many cars frequently do not repair punctures and therefore are not fit for their purpose.

My BMW suffered a puncture on Christmas Eve and I had to abandon my car outside a BMW dealer which was both a long distance from home and a long distance from my destination. Fortunately BMW satnavs can find you the closest BMW dealer quickly. Less fortunately, the so-called “run flat” tyres are often anything but. You’re supposed to be able to continue your journey for 150 miles at up to 50mph, but the tyre had come off the wheel after the 20-mile journey to the nearest BMW dealer. This whole concept needs a rethink, both run-flat tyres and puncture repair kits.

Brian Wootton says:
9 January 2014

My car has no spare wheel, it has however, got ContiSeal tyres. I had the warning light come up on the dash which told me one tyre was significantly different to the other 3. I kicked them and decided they were all hard enough to drive home.
When I got home one tyre had 36psi, the other 3 had 41psi(correct) – I looked at the tyre and saw a screw embedded in the tread. My tyre repair man said ‘pump it back up to 41psi and I will be along with a new tyre(£175) in 3 days. Don’t touch the screw the tyre will be OK to drive around on’.
When he turned up with the tyre he said that the duff tyre had not lost any air and he would just remove the screw and plug the hole in the usual fashion as there was no other damage to the tyre(£30).
The tyre repairer gave me the bit of screw he took out of my tyre and I immediately recognised it as one of the same ones that an odd job man had used to repair the wife’s shed, so I probably picked it up from my own drive, mutter, mutter, that job was done 4 months previously, how long the screw had been in the off-side rear tyre of my car is anybody’s guess but it could have been some considerable time before the car warning system noticed it.
The moral of this story, as far as I am concerned, is that I will only buy ContiSeal tyres for my car, they do a good 30,000 miles by the look of them any way.
They are expensive tyres – one firm quoted me £242 a tyre – ouch.

John Moppett says:
9 January 2014

Everyone is missing the main reason for the present situation – run-flat tyre/no spare reduces weight, improves fuel consumption!
Marketing ploy!!

Agree- the weight saved might not make much difference to the CO2 figure BUT it might help squeeze the car into the next tax band down which customers want !
My Greenline ( Eco version) Skoda didnt offer a spare wheel option or a heated windscreen or a 6 speed gearbox option mainly because these would stop the car getting into band C. However the dealer just supplied the spare wheel parts as a separate order.

I’ve never had a puncture ‘on the go’ in 49 years of motoring. I’ve had a slow deflation a couple of times, but both times the puncture was dead slow, so a quick pump up gave me ample time to get to the tyre centre.

I just don’t see the point of carry around all that dead weight and sacrificing luggage space. Tyre centres should have more mobile tyre fitting vans available. After all, that’s how 44-ton artics get their punctures repaired. You don’t see them queuing up the tyre centre!

Mobile tyre fitting might cost you a lot when you are miles from anywhere in the middle of the night – even if they’ll turn out. And will they have the tyre you would choose? When you need the space you can always leave your spare wheel at home and take a chance, but I’m for having a full size spare wheel in my boot. Minimal weight saving and fuel – and should be minimum cost if provided new with the vehicle rather than buying later as an “accessory”.

The logical solution is to offer options. Terry has extra space in his boot. Malcolm and I would like a full-size spare wheel and others would like a space-saver wheel as a compromise. Given all the other options available when purchasing a car, why not offer the options and keep us all happy?

Most of my tyre problems have been the usual nail causing a slow puncture so was able to take terfar’s approach. A few days ago, though, I was unfortunate enough to catch a particularly bad pot hole which resulted in a tear in the side wall and very rapid deflation. Fortunately I do have a spare wheel so was, after some effort, able to continue my journey. With no spare wheel I would have been thoroughly stuck. There is no way that I would be happy with a car which didn’t have a spare wheel.

Martin says:
10 January 2014

This issue is similar to that of insurance. When you don’t have insurance you regret it only when you need it. The problem is that people are not informed at the time of purchase. Perhaps we should be? I purchased a new car a few years ago and did not realise that I was getting a repair kit! Now I adjust my travel to the fact – ie I don’t travel by car on 31 December, or long distance journeys at night. But I do have breakdown cover which is some minor consolation.

The real issue is customer choice. If the customers are informed and chose not to buy then the manufacturer will act. I suspect there is a marketing strategy at play here – don’t inform the customer ….

If you drive a car and you are ignorant to what is in the boot then, sorry I think you are contributing to your own misgivings and severe inconvenience when you suffer a blowout. Both our new cars, a Kia Picanto and a Mitsubishi ASX unfortunately came without spare wheels. The first thing I did was to equip them with a spare wheel and dispensed with the unwanted glue bottle and cheap compressor.
I consider the spare wheel to be a safety factor as important as working brakes. I support the Which campaign to make it a requirement of all vehicles.
I’d like to see it written into law.

Dave says:
10 January 2014

Please do start one of your excellent campaigns and get spare wheels back where they need to be – IN THE BOOT. My own BMW X3 hasn’t even got space to store a spare wheel at all. The arrogance of BMW “customer services” who say the spare is not needed nowadays and it is “in my interest” to save this weight. If that were true they shouldn’t sell their cars to fat blighters like me !

And as I found out a couple of years ago. Once you use the aerosol tyre repair the tyre becomes unrepairable. I had a flat and tried to fix it with sealant, didn’t work, got a friend to drive me to the local tyre repair and they would not touch it once sealant had been used. Bought new tyre.

Just bought new car and insisted on full spare tyre

When negotiating for a new Ford Focus three years ago I told the dealer that if he did not include a spare wheel free the deal was off.
I have a Focus and a spare wheel.

Christopher Lloyd, Which? Cars & Tech Researcher is marooned on New Years eve for the lack of a spare tyre. Oh dear, I hope he didn’t tell the RAC man what you did for a living.


Most car journeys take place with just one or two occupants. What next, the back seat an extra also? The “no spare” syndrome is just another cynical way of manufacturers increasing profits.

You’re being the cynic. You have to pay for a spare wheel, whilst the puncture repair kit is free. So you actually save money not having a spare wheel in both the initial cost and thousands of miles driving around with unused dead weight.

So how does that increase the manufacturers’ profits?

Because it costs far less to supply a can of gunk than a spare wheel. We have has spare wheels for as far back as I can remember and were not consulted by the car industry about their removal. So many motorists are still unaware they have a can of gunk in the boot instead of a spare wheel. If this was a positive move the manufacturers would be taking out adverts to make us aware of the great news. Their silence speaks volumes!

Finding my tyre completely flat and not inflatable, I sent for breakdown assistance knowing the dreadful experiences of friends trying to use the repair kit – and often failing. Due to the high demands for help because of flooding, I actually had to wait until the following day to be towed to the garage for a new tyre. I was lucky my wife has a car. A spare wheel would have been replaced very quickly. I am looking at buying a spare wheel for my Skoda Superb which I hope is unlikely to be vastly more expensive than a new tyre and replacement repair kit – if I had used it!

When I bought my new Skoda there was an option buy a spare wheel. Having once had a near shredded tyre I didn’t think having only a repair kit would be sensible.

John Evans says:
4 March 2014

I have had Skodas for the past 11 years as private hire cars. The licensing authority will not approve any car that has no full size spare wheel, for fairly obvious reasons.
So the lack of one is now an additional set-up expense for me on my new Rapid.

from punctures. I watched the Vauxhall video on how to use their puncture kit. What a scream. No irrate husband or kids, a nice sunny day in a secluded spot. How real is that? So as a female with a slight disability using the puncture kit is a no no for me. Hence some research and I solved this problem. I found a company that produces a fantastic product that protects my tyres from punctures, extends the tyre life and promises fuel economy on longer journeys.

I am ecstatic and have done many journeys without any problems. I do check my tyres frequently and so far have pulled out a nail and unscrewed a screw. I heard of someone else who has this gel, puncturesafe, in their tyres and they are happy too as their tyres lasted 7 years. Wow.

I am not aware that such products are commonly used in new cars, so I presume that there must be some drawbacks. After all, users of mountain bikes have used this solution for years.

Does Puncturesafe affect wheel balance, cause problems when a tyre is replaced (other tyre sealants certainly do) and does it affect the operation of tyre pressure sensors?

I’m going to carry on the campaign for spare wheels for the time being.

While I agree that we should continue to press for the provision of a matching spare wheel in all new cars [unless the buyer expressly refuses it], there is a lot of sense in exploring alternative ways of keeping going safely following a puncture and I think Which? should address this issue in their next tyre reports. There was quite a bit of blatant commercial plugging for a tyre sealant in a related Conversation [“Only a third of new cars come with a spare wheel” – 30/05/2013]. Just a quick-&-dirty product round-up would be useful listing what’s on the market, what it is, how it does it, how much it costs, and where you can get it. As Wavechange says, there are concerns about the after-effects of these systems but I see two angles to the safety question: on the one hand, anything that avoids the need for people to carry out a wheel-change at the roadside has massive safety benefits, but on the other hand we must be sure about the possible risks of continued driving on a sealed tyre and that it doesn’t pose new hazards with potentially serious consequences.

For the proprietary puncture sealant referred to in the other Conversation, it was stated that “once installed it will indicate a puncture by showing a green dot where the product has sealed the hole”. If that’s the only way you can tell then I don’t think that is satisfactory. It means you would have to carry out a full 360 degree examination of all four tyres after each journey in order the spot the dot. I might have misunderstood the processand there might be a more physical indication: if there was rapid deflation there might be a a noticeable jolt or bump when the puncture occurred and before the sealant was forced into the rupture [the driver would have to remember this on completing the journey and get the tyre repaired or replaced]. But as I said in the other Conversation, many punctures occur at low speeds when moving off from the kerb or in car parks where debris accumulates; the driver might not have noticed since the air pressure in the tyre will have forced the sealant into the hole and any change in performance or stability would be imperceptible. Until a reliable product is available I think the only choice with new car purchase should be to decline a spare wheel rather than having to buy one as an optional extra.

Having just purchased a Mercedes GLC 250 AMG ,I found out there was no spare wheel at all only a can of spray gunk to fill tyre with(even worse no Jack or wheel brace).Having enquired at my local MB dealer about a space saver ,i was told the cost of a space saver was £538-00 and a Jack kit would be an extra £194-00.,the dealer could not guarantee that it would fit in the underfloor compartment & said it may have to be just laid il the boot (this creates a problem as we always have our 2 dogs with us in a crate so there would not be room for a spare in the boot.)
If we ordered a spacesaver & it did not fit in underfloor compartment we would not be able to return it..I believe the only answer is not to buy a mercedes next time round

Andy C says:
28 March 2016

I made my choice of new car mainly on one thing…….it had a spare wheel. Any make and model without one, was crossed off the list. I even e-mailed BMW and Mercedes to confirm if they had spare wheels and to the reasoning why they didn’t, I then told them I would not be buying one. If you want this to change, you have to vote with your feet and stop buying cars that only have run flats and puncture repair kits……….it’s as simple as that! If you keep buying them, they wont change!!!!!