/ Motoring

Got a puncture? Spare wheels need to make a comeback

Getting a puncture has to be one of the most frustrating and irritating aspects of driving. But is the situation made worse when you lift the boot to only find tyre sealant and a pump, rather than a spare wheel?

It wasn’t that long ago when every new car came fitted with a full-size spare wheel. Yes, that did mean carrying extra weight on every single journey, but when you needed one, they were little hassle to fit and would instantly remedy the issue, allowing you to continue driving as normal.

But now, with the introduction of space saver wheels, run-flat tyres and puncture repair kits, the days of full-size spare wheels are almost over.

The alternatives aren’t up to scratch

As you might have guessed, a space saver wheel isn’t quite as wide as your car’s full-size wheel and tyre, which allows for more boot space. However, you can only drive on it at certain speeds. Run-flat tyres have stronger side walls, meaning you can still drive on them when they’re deflated. However, these tend to give you a harsh ride, even when you don’t have a puncture.

But as much as I have my gripes with those two, it’s the tyre goo and pump kits that I dislike most. Not only are they fiddly to use, they don’t fill you with too much confidence that the rest of your journey’s going to be a safe one.

At best, these repair kits should only be a short-term fix for your flat tyre.

Bring back spare wheels

That’s why finding out whether a car has a full-size spare wheel in the boot is important to me when I’m shopping for a new car. Despite the weight-saving advantages and improved boot space offered by repair kits, I’m not willing to compromise on the practicality and safety provided by a spare wheel.

So, it’s a massive disappointment that the full-size spare wheel is edging closer to extinction. But does it matter to you?

Are you happy for your future punctures to be rectified by goo and a pump? Or would you like to see spare wheels making a comeback, even if they limit the space in your car boot?

Fill in our new Which? car spare wheels survey and tell us what you think.

What should carmakers offer as a remedy for a punctured tyre?

A spare wheel should come as standard with all cars (79%, 1,053 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should come as standard (15%, 203 Votes)

A spare wheel should be an optional extra (2%, 32 Votes)

I don’t mind what carmakers offer (2%, 23 Votes)

A puncture repair kit is fine (1%, 16 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should be an optional extra (1%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,343

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David James Bond says:
9 June 2013

Worse case scenario without a spare tyre? You are at the top of Ben Nevis without a spare wheel and also have no food nor drink. But you have a can of foam that doesn’t repair your puncture and you are left stranded for 24 hours. Never mind worse things happen at sea and also changing a tyre at the side of the motorway.


Get a sense of perspective people for Gawd’s sake.

Lawrence A. says:
9 June 2013

So what are we saying here?
If you are hit by a lorry because the driver has nodded off at the wheel it doesn’t matter if you’re changing a tyre or trying to inflate one. This article is tragic, but it doesn’t add weight to either side of our spare wheel vs gunge debate.

David James Bond says:
9 June 2013

Yes it does? A spare tyre is not the end and be all. If you really want to be safe? Then join the RAC or AA in order to tow you home or to change your tyre after a puncture. Simple as.

Lawrence A. says:
9 June 2013

No it doesn’t. Think it through.
AA/ RAC membership is no guarantee of safety. You still have to wait for them to show up.
The official recommendation is to leave the car and scramble up the bank out of harm’s way. In which case it doesn’t make any difference whether you have a spare wheel of can of gunge, because you aren’t using either. If you attempt any repair on the motorway hard-shoulder there is an element of danger.
Having said that, the spare wheel has a better chance of getting you under way again once the professionals arrive.

David James Bond says:
9 June 2013

Be my guest do it your way and change the tyre at the side of the motorway. Me? I will get away from the car as far as possible and will wait for the AA to change my tyre. Now which one of us is more likely to be killed? You changing your tyre at the side of the motorway, or me waiting on the other other side of the barrier and up on the embankment whatever the weather. I think that I will be more safe than you.

Lawrence A. says:
9 June 2013

DJB, Did I say I was going to change a tyre on the hard shoulder? Or did I already state that “The official recommendation is to leave the car and scramble up the bank out of harm’s way.”

Dave says:
11 June 2013

Puncture repair kit or space saver, both completely useless, compounded by the fact that when you finally get to a tyre centre they don’t stock the size of tyre your car needs. I’m not talking about exotic cars with fancy wheels, I presume there are a lot of Ford Focus deisels about, but no tyres available in under 48 hours apparently.

Dave as a Ford Owner if you ever experience this problem again you could try and use Rapid Fit at a Ford dealership. They will get the right size for you pretty damn fast if you’re stood in their showroom with customers about. Cant believe you’ve had to wait 48 Hours for a Focus! Last Time I ordered Tyres they only took 36 Hours from ordering and I get mine sent direct to me From Germany!

Sandra says:
14 June 2013

If you have a bulge in the wall of your tyre it is essential to change the wheel no puncture repair kit would be of any use. Therefore every car for safety reasons should carry a spare wheel. I have had this happen as well as punctures at separate incidents and if you drive on the flat tyre you will ruin it and again no puncture repair kit its of any use

Gray says:
21 June 2013

If I’m going to an important event not having a full size spare could be very costly and inconvenient.
I was in a garage a while ago and a customer came in asking for the spare to be put on urgently as they were on their way to a funeral, fortunately the car had a spare and the dealer got them going again quickly.
I asked in my local Audi dealer if I could have a full size spare before getting my last Audi and was told no as I would forget I had a puncture and not get it fixed! I bought my car elsewhere!
My current A4 Avant Quattro comes with a space saver and the full size wheel does not fit in the spare wheel well – I was going to buy a full sized spare. Not sure where I put the punctured wheel and tyre if I have to fit the space saver! So I could miss lectures, meetings, funerals, flights, etc. just because they try to save a few quid on a £40k car! If I can buy a car with a full sized spare next I will, but at least I have a space saver – I also carry a sealant system as well.

Full marks for walking away from the dealer. They will eventually learn. ( Who ‘forgets’ they have a puncture !!!??? )

David James Bond says:
22 June 2013

“Who ‘forgets’ they have a puncture !!!??? )”

The people who have a car shod with run flat-tyres?

David James Bond says:
22 June 2013

More a comment on paying £40,000 for a car than a puncture. But if you got it then “flaunt it” and “Lucky Old You Gray.” But I’ve spent less than £40,000 on five new cars since 1998 and only one of them was unreliable.

David James Bond says:
22 June 2013

Looked at all the “excuses* and the reasons why we should all carry a spare wheel? Agree with most of them but excuse me there’s someone at the front door.

Trev says:
10 July 2013

I recently gashed a tyre when I clipped the kerb on a tight corner, ok, it was my own fault but hey, it happens, I had a spare wheel 10 minutes, job done, a goo kit would have been useless. I recently bought a new trailer and I bought a spare for that, so I am not likely to buy a car without a spare Wheel

Johnny Corona says:
17 July 2013

Hello my European friends. I’m from the US and we’re having the same problems over here. Space saver spare times started in the 1980’s. I found out when I purchased a new Pontiac Bonneville. I opened up the trunk, lifted up the hinged floor and there it was, that skinny, emaciated mass of rubber pretending to be a tire. First thing I did was with the purchased the car was order a proper size steel wheel and I bought a cheap radial tire thinking its better than any donut. Fast forward to the present and I see the donut is about to go the way of the dinosaur to be replaced with a tire inflator and a can of inflator goop. Thanks but no thanks. If every car purchaser demanded a proper spare tire and jack or no sale, they’d all soon get the message.

andy robertson says:
17 August 2013

just traded in my 3 year old corsa with nics new spare wheel .bot new astra energy 1.4 did not think to ask about spare wheel just thout there wood bee one in boot . sales man never menshond it to bias seleing me car mats . that’s my last car from peter vardy . bring back car desiners with comin sence

Eddie says:
18 August 2013

Just bought a one year old Mazda 2 and knowing the lack of spare wheels, my priority was to check the boot. I needn’t have worried as it comes with a space saver which suits me fine. A space saver will guarantee you are not going to be stranded on a cold wet winters night.
Can I also mention how exceptionally well equipped this car is – the best spec I have ever had and the space saver to top the lot. Well done Mazda!

Brian, Belfast says:
8 January 2014

Got flat wheel going to airport for early flight 7.am family holiday. Large piece flat metal slashed the rear tire. Driving Hyundai Matrix supplied with extra alloy spare wheel. Changed wheel in ten minutes flat and still made the early flight on time. Next car was a Vauxhall Safira, no spare supplied. Bought one for £100 and kept it in the boot. My current car is a Scenic. with steel spare wheel supplied which I have used on one occasion. I would never ever take a car on the road without some kind of spare wheel. Most drivers do not realize the danger they are in until they go looking for their non existant spare wheel. Insist on spare wheel or do not buy. Dealers soon will catch on.

morris from lowestoft in suffolk says:
2 March 2014

Guess what…..Just recently in the last 3 weeks I ‘ve purchased a brand new Vauxhall Astra, and
just checked the boot for a spare wheel only to find out I haven’t one…..just this stupid pump.
And wait for it no locking key to undo the locking nuts.
Shall be straight to the Vauxhall dealers in the morning.
Kind regards MRB.

My911 says:
12 April 2014

Would someone please ask car makers to answer my puzzle?

On a trip with my wife and two guests in the rear seat and a trunk full of suitcases and golf clubs, we get a flat at 30 miles from anywhere.

So, the donut goes on .
(It does not fit in the donut well)


Simples You ask wife to drive and sit with the Road Wheel on your lap. But at least you’ve made it home. But I agree there should be a requirement to fit all cars with a full spare wheel and space to put it!

I admire you for getting someone else to drive when you are tyred. 🙂

my911 says:
12 April 2014

NOT this kid.

I was just negotiating to swap my Audi S6 for a new one.
We were making progress until I inspected the spare well. The new S6 has a donut.
I said ok… I’ll meet your price IF you get me a full size spare.

Answer: We can’t. It won’t fit. How about another $500 off.

My Answer: NO, thank you. My current S6 is just fine!
It seems like it might be a LONG time before I buy a new car.

How about tell them to Use The $500 discount already offered to Pay a Body Shop to Modify the Wheel Well To Make it Fit ! ? Be worth it just to see salesman’s face!!
Had a brand new courtesy car a while back with no room at all in the boot. All it had was a Can of Spray which after closer inspection had a fairly short life span! So not only was there no spare and no skinny rib wheel, If you hadn’t replaced your can of spray at the interval suggested there is no guarantee that it would even spray!! Thereby still leaving you stranded at the roadside!

Lawrence A says:
13 April 2014

Do we actually believe this manufacturer statement that “adding a spare wheel will increase CO2 emissions and push the car into the next road tax bracket”?

Really? We have computer-managed engines and aerodynamics like jet fighters, yet adding a couple of kilos for a tyre and jack will push the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption up that much? I don’t notice any difference in fuel consumption if I’m carrying a passenger, and even a small human weighs a lot more than a wheel rim and tyre.

Something smells of manure. We’re being lied to.
As usual.

my911 says:
13 April 2014

Quite some time ago I was interested in a Saab Turbo.. (1980)
I wanted to select their Diamond Silver paint and was told…..
IF you choose that paint it adds about 70 pounds ( weight) to the car and puts it in the next higher fuel consumption class. It affects the price of the car. Of course if you want you can swap the full size spare for a donut and balance out the extra paint weight.

I bought an Audi 5000T

How about tell them to Use The $500 discount already offered to Pay a Body Shop to Modify the Wheel Well To Make it Fit ! ? Be worth it just to see salesman’s face!!
Had a brand new courtesy car a while back with no room at all in the boot. All it had was a Can of Spray which after closer inspection had a fairly short life span! So not only was there no spare and no skinny rib wheel, If you hadn’t replaced your can of spray at the interval suggested there is no guarantee that it would even spray!! Thereby still leaving you stranded at the roadside!

Alan Burden says:
6 May 2014

I have just bought a vauxhall corsa with 195/55/16inch wheels. I intend getting a spare wheel from a scrapyard but have been told that it will not fit into the boot well. Is this true.

Depending on age of Corsa. Probably True. Still, Should fit in the boot tho. 195/55-16 on a Corsa!
I’ve only got 185/65 -14 And that’s on a rear wheel drive Sierra!

Martin says:
6 May 2014

Found a guy outside my house with a flat on his Ford Galaxy. He had no spare wheel in it. (And no wheel well to add one).

He’d used the spray can to re-inflate the flat, but it streamed out round the nail in his tyre and didn’t work. (There’s now a patch of white stuff over the road).

He had to call and have the Galaxy taken away on a low loader to a tyre replacement shop.

He had a 2 hour wait, and his family had to make their own way home by public transport.

Moral of the story is to never buy a car without a spare of some sort, even if it’s only a space saver, at least with that you can drive yourself somewhere to get the tyre fixed.

I wouldn’t feel happy driving my family to the airport to catch a flight, and risk missing it, without some sort of spare.

I have a Kia Cee’d which has a space saver, AND a 7 year warrantee, and am happy with that.

Mr. R.C.Hicks says:
25 August 2014

I asked Skoda uk why they no longer supplied a full size spare wheel with ant of their cars?Their reply was that it reduced the carbon foot print( nothing to do with cost saving?).My reply to that was that nonsence was that I can further reduce it by retaining my present car.