/ Motoring

I want a spare wheel – not a puncture repair kit!

flat tyre

In the past, I’d have said that a tyre puncture would lead to half an hour of sweat and toil changing the wheel, followed by a trip to a tyre centre to have it repaired or replaced. On reflection, I think I was being hopeful…

As it turns out, this couldn’t have been further from the truth when I experienced a puncture in a new car recently.

The car had a puncture repair kit instead of a spare wheel, so I first spent a frustrating 40 minutes trying to decipher the poorly translated instructions and re-inflate my pancake tyre.

My puncture kit kerfuffle

To begin with, the sealant in the kit didn’t seal up the holes at all. So I then waited an hour for a breakdown truck to take the car to a local garage. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t have the correct replacement tyre in stock, so I had to walk home and do without the car until late the following day.

So in total, I had one-and-a-half day’s disruption and a bill of £108 for a wheel. Frustratingly, the recovery truck driver told me his garage probably could’ve fixed my tyre for £10 if I hadn’t filled it with gunk.

Around half of all new cars are now sold without a spare wheel. Buyers are given the option to pay extra for the luxury of a fifth wheel, or to stick with a tyre inflation kit. In a small number of cases, cars are sold with run-flat tyres.

Why take away spare wheels?

So why are more and more car manufacturers selling us cars with tyre inflation kits instead of spare wheels? They say the sealant and pump kits take up less space in the car and reduce the weight, therefore improving fuel efficiency. However, these kits don’t fix all types of punctures – they only work if it’s a small hole in the centre of the tyre tread.

I wonder if some car companies are trying to deter owners from doing work on their own cars. On some cars it’s impossible for anyone other than a trained mechanic to change a light bulb, and now they’ve stopped many owners from being able to change their own wheels.

Have you had any experience using puncture repair kits? Did you find they fixed the problem easily, or would you prefer an old-fashioned spare wheel? We’ve launched a quick survey on spare wheels, and would love to hear you thoughts and opinions.

Comments
Member

It is very depressing that nothing seems to have changed since we started the previous Conversation, a year ago. If only some manufacturers had moved to repair kits and space-saver wheels, it would be easy to avoid them when choosing a car, but it has become very difficult now. Like those who want to avoid mobile phone contract price rises, there is not really anywhere to go.

What concerns me is that many are happy with having a space-saver wheel. If you presented your car for an MOT with one of those fitted, your car would fail.

We need full-size spare wheels and no compromises.

Member
Bert Jones says:
29 March 2013

The point about failing the MOT if the space saver wheel is fitted is interesting. I assume the same point could be made with run-flat tyres if they are punctured. And would they pass if they were punctured but filled with goo?

Member
H Spenceley says:
28 March 2013

I was told at my last MOT that the tyre inflation kit was out of date
My car is only 4yrs old and I presumed it would last as long as a spare tyre.
I was told not to bother with it as it was as easy to call the breakdown company

Any comments

Member

That’s interesting Spenceley, what car do you have?

Member
Rob says:
28 March 2013

When I purchased a new car last year it only came with a tyre repair kit. I said I would not buy the car unless it came with a full size spare wheel so the salesman agreed to supply a full size tyre and steel hub together with the kit to mount it in and the new boot floor at no charge to me.

Member
paddi b says:
24 February 2016

What make and model of car was that Rob ?

Member

What complete nonsense.

Spare wheels cost money, add weight (i.e. slow the car and use fuel) and waste boot space.

They are difficult and heavy to fit, you might have to empty your boot to get at them, there might not be enough space to get your punctured tyre into the boot and it can be extremely messy and dirty.

In my experience, most punctures leak air slowly and you have plenty of time to get them fixed. I estimate I’ve driven well over half a million miles in my lifetime and have only changed a wheel at the roadside twice – and one of those was when driving someone else’s car that had ‘dodgy’ tyres.

Punctures are not even the most common cause of car failure. According to the AA and RAC flat batteries are the most common cause – and we all carry spare batteries to guard against that, don’t we?

Spare wheels are a relic of motoring in the 1920s. It’s time to move on. Repair kits, run flats or, dare I say it, nothing at all.

Member

You are well catered for by car manufacturers, Gradivus.

Spare a thought for those who have punctures more frequently. I had about two a year during the 30 years when I parked in a university where contractors would sometimes drop whole boxes of screws. No problems since I retired. A pair of disposable gloves will keep your hands clean when changing a wheel.

Battery problems can often be avoided by replacing them before they let you down. This works out cheaper because you can shop round for a quality battery at a decent price rather than make an emergency purchase. I have never had a flat battery in 45 years, other than a new one that was faulty.

Member

Wavechange,

But surely when a screw punctures your tyre it isn’t an instant ‘flat’? I’ve had lots of punctures over the years, but with the exceptions I’ve mentioned, it’s a case of “that tyre looks a bit soft”, blow it up, think two days later “that tyre looks a bit soft again”, and take it to be repaired. No need for a spare wheel at all.

Your university should also have had (contractual) words with the contractors if they were such a problem.

And I very much doubt that a pair of disposable gloves will keep my shirt sleeves clean if I ever need to change my big, heavy, awkward-to-lift, alloy wheels. Have you ever seen a clean tyre-fitter?

I’ve not had many battery problems, but for many years they’ve been no. 1 on the AA’s list of callouts. Sorry, hard fact of the real world. Punctures tend to be about third or fourth.

My point is that most people (witness this conversation) seem to be horrified at the thought of not having a spare wheel, but would no doubt scream with indignation at the prospect of car manufacturers wasting boot space with a spare battery – with a £100 increase in the car price to cover it. Yet a spare battery would be both cheaper and more useful than a spare wheel for MOST people.