/ 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.


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.

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?

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

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.

paddi b says:
24 February 2016

What make and model of car was that Rob ?

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.

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.


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.

Nails are not a problem but some screws cause more than a slow puncture. I’m not keen to drive around on a punctured tyre. Many years ago I was in a friend’s car where the tread broke away in chunks and the steel cords started to break up because a nearly-new tyre was run under inflated. Another few seconds on the motorway and we could have had a serious accident.

I’ve never had a car with large, heavy wheels to manhandle, so I’ve managed to stay clean when changing wheels. Greasing the threads of the wheel bolts (but not the contact faces) helps make them easy to remove.

I did report the problem of contractors screws, etc. and provided evidence, but nothing was done.

A set of decent jump leads is a useful accessory in the winter, even if it’s only to help others. That is lighter and safer than carrying around a spare battery and requires no maintenance.

In a recent Conversation, we learned that the most common reason for MOT failure is faulty lights and no doubt faulty bulbs will be one of the reasons. It seems daft that anyone should present a car for an MOT with a faulty bulb.

I suspect that running out of fuel is another common reason for calling the AA. That is certainly avoidable.

Many motoring problems can be avoided with care but apart from inspecting the tread of tyres regularly, there is not much that a driver can do to avoid them.

terry says:
29 March 2013

What utter nonsense! If you ever get a puncture on a dark night in the pouring rain you need a spare even if you call one of the motoring rescue services. They cant fix a no spare wheel.


I think you’ll find they can!

And battery problems can be predicted by testing. Punctures can not. How battery problems can be related to punctures baffles me.


Ah yes, battery testing. And when did you last have your battery tested? When does anyone have their battery tested? Unless it’s already giving problems?

Clearly not many people do, because flat batteries have been the number 1 callout reason for the breakdown services for many years.

BJ 9:38 pm


Well look at it this way, Bert, and think.

The breakdown services get called out for all sorts of reasons – punctures, flat batteries, ignition problems, broken fan/drive belts, etc. Many of these problems require replacement parts. The range of parts needed is huge – far more than could ever be carried on a patrol van.

So what do the breakdown services do when faced with the need for a part they don’t have on board? Well, they could relay you home, but this is expensive for them and unpopular with the customer. But it would get you home, which they are contractually obliged to do

Do you think the answer might be that they have access to some sort of depot where parts (and tyres) are stored? I’ll give you a hint – the answer is yes.

I have had 3 batteries tested in the last 6 months. It takes less than 5 minutes/battery, including driving into the garage, and opening and closing the bonnet.

There is no answer for individuals who don’t look after their cars.
And as for the so called “professionals” who do the servicing, they are generally anything but. They rely on the uninitiated to not know the difference between a job done properly and one that is not.
I made the mistake of taking my Toyota to a main dealer for an MOT. They condemned all 4 tyres, and said that all 4 shock absorbers need changing. I contested their estimate of the tyre wear, and, for the first time, they produced a gauge to check that the wear was within the 75%(?) or so of the width, which it was on only one tyre. So “we” agreed to change 1 tyre only, at the ridiculous price they charged.
I asked how they judged that the shock absorbers needed changing. They replied that they were covered in oil, to which I replied that it was not surprising, as I routinely sprayed them with oil for preservation purposes. In any event, shock absorbers are checked by bouncing the car up and down, not be looking at them on the ramp.
On another recent occasion, during an MOT, the main dealer rang up to say that the discs were worn below the lower limit, and had to be changed along with the pads before they would issue the certificate. At a distance, it seemed reasonable, but I asked them to keep and return to me the discs and pads.
I have now checked the thickness of the discs to find that they are still above the lower limit , and have around 15,000 miles of useful life left. The pads were changed also as it is the usual silly practice, even though they were still around 4 mm thick.
I am now taking these matters up with the dealer.
Dealers are responsible for the advice that they give, as well as the quality of the actual work that they do.

We seem to getting off the subject of spare wheels….

I support your efforts Bert, but it’s not a good idea to use oil to protect shock absorbers or anything from rust. It washes off onto the road and in combination with rubber from tyres can be lethal for motorcyclists and cyclists when it rains after a long dry period. There are products made for the job, and these are safe to use.

I may be out of date but I believe that the MOT tests brake performance and that worn pads or discs would only qualify for an advisory notification.

On the only occasion that I have had a car fail an MOT, I was told that two of my tyres were illegal. That was certainly not the case, but I was too busy to argue at the time.

It was not oil that I actually used. I used the term rather generically. It is actually a thicker spray that I use for general under-body protective purposes. It does not wash off as it hardens to leave a protective coat that looks like oil, obviously to mechanics. It is designed for this purpose. But the main point is that one can not judge the state/condition of shock absorbers by looking, and competent garages should know this. And to put it in writing only confirms their ignorance. Quite shocking, really. I will never take a car to them again for an MOT.
Toyota dealers charge around £50 as a minimum, no matter what the job. I recently took a Yaris to the main dealer for a diagnosis for a strange noise coming from the headlight unit, obviously caused by the beam adjustment motor. What I wanted was an estimate to correct the fault. It took about 2 minutes to show the mechanic. I was told it would cost around £400 to change the whole headlight unit, and could not be done simply by taking the unit out and putting a new one in.
These lights are heat sealed in place. I “cured” the noise by moving the beam adjuster switch off the “high” position (just). Of course the fault is not cured, but it is as cured as it ever will be.

I hoped you would say that you were using this sort of product, Bert. At least we have moved on from the 60s, when it was common for people to spray the undersides of their cars with old engine oil. I have had my rant about Toyota headlights on another Conversation.

I think we had better get back to spare wheels or Claire might want to steer us back on course.

It would be good to have thoughts from other drivers to test Gradivus’s hypothesis that there is little actual demand for spare wheels these days.

Bert Jones (9:58 am, 10:19 am)

“I have had 3 batteries tested in the last 6 months” WHAT?! I hadn’t realised alien life was allowed to join this discussion!

battery problems have been the number 1 reason for AA callouts for a number of years. You can check your three batteries every day if you wish; but the facts suggest that 99.99% of the UK population don’t.

I largely agree with what you say about the professional standards in garages. I always replace my tyres somewhat before they get too close to the legal limit. I do this for safety reasons but…

It might well explain why I get so few punctures and don’t need a spare wheel.

You are very kind to those who don’t agree with you, Gradivus.

I expect that older tyres are more at risk from punctures but I had to replace one tyre that had been punctured within 1000 miles and another one that had done little more. It was those screws I told you about.

Excuse me. I must go and check my tyre pressures, etc.

Dave says:
30 March 2013

I had two punctures in the first 6weeks of owning a brand new BMW X3 on Pirelli tyres. Nothing old about this rubber. Both incidents were sudden & nail/screw-related. I knew the car had no spare wheel and have bought a space-saver for such problems BUT there is no under-floor storage space and the wretched thing takes up far too much boot space. Serious flint-damage to tyres cannot possibly be repaired using the tyre-gloop supplied. This appears to be a case where BMW-Know-Best (or think they do) – they advise that weight savings improve fuel efficiency and are helpful. Great – stop selling the cars to fat blighters like me then !! I would at least like a sensible choice option to be available and not to be dictated to by BMW. What should have been a nice buying experience has been ruined by poor design and thoughtlessness by BMW designers and that isn’t going to happen to me ever again.

I stopped taking my car to Nationwide when they became halfords autocentres.

They failed my car on MOT because the light bulbs where not bright enough and replaced them at a small charge. I was annoyed because I still had the boxes in the car from the 3 month old new bulbs I had just fitted. The bulbs where from Super brilliance bulbs from Halfords. I bought those because I thought ultra brilliance options may dazzle other drivers.

The lesson is halfords sell bulbs which fail their own MOT standards and be very careful of all marketing jargon. 78% more “Brilliance” is a meaningless word with no ability to add any scientific rigor. Whereas advertising standards would be involved if the had used the word “brightness”

John Veitch says:
15 October 2014

I do not agree. I drive 25000 miles a year and have had 3 punctures in 3 years. All took 2 days to get repaired because of no spare tyre.

“So why are more and more car manufacturers selling us cars with tyre inflation kits instead of spare wheels?”

Err … because Which? Deputy Motoring Editors are prepared to drive them?

Vote with your wallet and we can move on.

Maneg says:
28 March 2013

Give me a full-size spare wheel anytime. I’ll put up with the weight, the slightly smaller boot space and the increased fuel consumption in favour of a quick change and on my way without restrictions.

If you have ever had to complete a long journey at a restricted speed because of a spacesaver spare you make sure that you don’t get stuck with one again. I just wish I had gradivus’ luck when it came to punctures!

I believe that manufacturers resort to these “alternatives” to reduce prices and make their mileage figures look better. They are certainly not doing it for our benefit.

Don’t forget that if the spare is stored outer face down you can fill the wheel to get back some space.

I know what you mean. Indeed whilst I wouldn’t have thought twice about changing a wheel 30 years ago, But I’m too old now.

I’m not saying the alternatoives are perfect. My run flats are limited to 50 – 100 miles which could be a big problem on a long, night journey. And my son (thanks to inexperience) hit some debris in the road while learning to drive; a repair kit would have been pathetically incapable.

But to me the answer is so blindingly obvious – make spare wheels an optional extra.That way we’re both happy.

Incidentally, if you store your spare face down, the space ‘gained’ is filled with the jack (more weight and cost!). Plus you cannot check the pressure easily.

I’m perfectly happy to have either the spare wheel or the puncture repair kit as options.

I appreciate that the extra weight of a wheel will add a small amount to the running cost, but since most people drive cars that don’t even achieve 50 mpg, I wonder if fuel consumption is really a major factor here.

You miss the point, wavechange.

The real saving is in the cost of providing wheel, tyre and jack; the fuel saving is barely measurable.

I don’t know how old you are, but if you think back to the 1960s you’ll realise what a huge improvement modern cars are. Modern cars are bigger, faster, more economical, go round corners better, more comfortable, more reliable, safer. There isn’t a single aspect of modern cars that isn’t light years ahead of a 1960s car.

But this didn’t happen overnight. Over those years there will have been many tens of thousands of tiny improvements. Each improvement so tiny as to be insignificant and for people to say “Is it really worth it?”

And so it is with spare wheels. Even if the fuel savings are minuscule, if the car manufacturer finds a dozen such savings this year, and next, and next…. Well, the car you buy in 2023 will be noticeably more economical than the car you have now.

Gradivus – I started driving on public roads on the day I turned 17, in my father’s Austin A40. I helped my father with maintenance, including repairing punctures with a Dunlop Reddiplug Repair Kit. I agree about the vast improvements in cars, though I am not impressed by stupid changes that often make it unnecessarily difficult to change bulbs or to carry out some maintenance tasks on certain models.

I am not the only one who wants to retain the spare wheel.

You can have your tyre repair kit but not all of us believe what the motor industry offers us is progress.

Wow, that’s a bit of a spooky coincidence, wavechange. I too started driving on my 17th birthday in my dad’s car, but his A40 had been written off in an accident the previous year.

Both he and I did our own maintenance. ALL my friends were the same, I cannot remember a single person who did not carry out most of their car’s maintenance. It’s just how things were in those days. One friend changed his car’s body shell – I kid you not!

But things change. I’ve tried hard but I cannot think of anyone I know who does any maintenance whatsoever. My daughter even regards refuelling as a complex maintenance task, and relies on her husband to do it for her.

Even I do nothing these days. I haven’t checked my oil or tyre pressures since the car was serviced six months ago – there are sensors and warning lights and such-like built into the car that do that for me. I don’t even wash my car anymore, the carwash does that.

The spare wheel lovers might be vociferous, but I’ll wager 10p they’re living in the past and represent a tiny, tiny minority of modern day car users.

How can you make such outrageous statements?
I had a 1934 car with a push-button starter on the dash board, (now considered to be the latest gimmick). It also had a “pop-up” tell-tale indicator for the oil level. What car has this today. There are many other features but I won’t waste my time trying to convince individuals who don’t want to listen.


I remember ancient cars with push button starters. But are you seriously suggesting that that is, in anyway whatsoever, a measure of progress in cars? Are you suggesting that push button starters are in the same league as ABS, stability controls, electronic ignition, fuel injection, variable valve timing, dual clutch auto gearboxes, etc? Are you, seriously, suggesting push button starters as evidence of progress, or lack of progress, in modern cars? Really?

I was responding to your rather specific statement;

“There isn’t a single aspect of modern cars that isn’t light years ahead of a 1960s car.”

I mentioned only two, but there are others. I am not aware that I was saying that modern cars do not have improvements over the pre-60′ ones.

I traded in my last car when it was ten years old. Apart from changing the timing belt, which the garage found a horrendous job, I did all my own servicing and most of my repairs. It never let me down and it always passed its MOT. There are still people in this country who retain skills and are prepared to learn new ones.

I’m not going to change my opinion because you want me to. 🙂

BJ 8:55 pm

You have provided two examples – push button starters and “a “pop-up” tell-tale indicator for the oil level”.

If you are going to disagree with my post, have a few other examples. I’ll gladly retract my statement if you can.

Wavechange 9:33 pm

“I did all my own servicing and most of my repairs.”

I’ve no doubt about that. I did so too.

But hardly anyone does so these days. The overwhelming majority of people rely exclusively on professional mechanics to do ALL the work on their cars. Why should these people be forced into paying out for a spare wheel, when there are other, cheaper, solutions that suit them better?

And be honest, wavechange. If you’re capable of doing your own car maintenance, you’re perfectly capable of buying a wheel and tyre and putting it in your boot. Don’t force your 1970s view of motoring onto others.

I am not trying to force my views on others. I just want to be able to specify a full-size spare wheel when I buy any car.

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Cynic says:
28 March 2013

Just add the the lack of a spare wheel to all of the other manufacturers improvements:bulb replacement that needs a garage visit,low profile tyres which give low mileages and lots of other problems,key opening bonnets that frequently fail to open, etc. etc Oh, and of course we no longer have a starting handle

Ian says:
28 March 2013

I read the comment that spare wheels cost money by adding weight and using more fuel. How about the cost of a new tyre which nowadays on larger and higher performance vehicles cost well over £100. I can’t think of a better way to waste money than having to buy a new tyre just because you’ve had a puncture and the tyre company won’t clean out the gunk that’s been used too get you out of trouble especially if the tyre is fairly new anyway. Modern day get you home spare wheels and tyres are very small and light anyway,so extra fuel cost is negligible. It’s a fact that there are plenty of unnecessary items being carried around in most cars, so remove some of those to reduce weight and keep the spare. I think the only winner in this is to force the tyre company’s into cleaning and repairing the contaminated tyre, but then again it will still probably cost small fortune.

holedriller says:
28 March 2013

I would NEVER buy a car without a spare wheel of some sort. And for all those who feel unable to fit one themselves, see what the reaction of the call out service is when you offer them an aerosol can to fix a shredded tyre.

Dave Johnson says:
28 March 2013

Your survey has missed the fact that runflat tyres are fitted to many cars now days, these get you out of trouble but cost me around £250 to replace as I am told they are damaged beyond repair once used with low air pressure. So to save a few pounds on fuel I spend a fortune on tyre replacements.

Run-flats for my BMW cost just short of £130 each. The corresponding standard tyres are about £95. And you’re right, the tyre fitting companies adamantly refuse to repair them (on safety grounds). This is by far and away the biggest drawback to run-flats.

But this has happened to me only once in nearly ten years of using run-flats. And the tyre was well worn and didn’t have much life left in it – I believe worn tyres are much more prone to punctures than new ones – so it wasn’t too painful.

The other significant problem is when you get a complete puncture at 11pm on a Sunday night and your’e 200 miles from home. Run-flats don’t look such a good idea then!

But for all that, I would much, much rather have run-flats than mess about with spare wheels. To me the benefits massively outweigh the disadvantages.

Ah – you have a BMW. Now I understand why your wheels are too heavy to change easily if you get a puncture.

This explains a lot.

Reading some of these postings makes me feel like not carrying my wife, or anyone else, as a passenger, as she weighs more than a spare wheel. The idea that the addition of a space saver spare wheel improves fuel consumption noticably is ludicruos. The exclusion of a spafre of any sort is to lower the cost of the vehicle, and nothing else. That is why the starting handle was omitted long ago in the 1950’s. At that time, the saving was estimated by Ford to be of the order of less than £1.

Bob James says:
29 March 2013

You are correct, a lot of misunderstanding as to why “space savers” are fitted.
Fuel economy is a complete red herring, were you to fit narrower wheels and tyres to many vehicles such as a base model might have fitted, fuel economy changes might be detectable due to the weight reduction times 4.
A major point missed in this discussion is tyres and wheels being damaged as a result of hitting potholes, now the main cause of tyre and wheel problems, these are not overcome by an inflator kit or by not carrying a replacement.
We have just had a Fiesta through the workshop with one dangerous wheel, (MOT failure) and two others wheels with lesser damage as a result of hitting potholes, this car is on ridiculously wide alloy 195 rims and tyres and cost a fortune relative to car value to replace, the car has a “space saver” wheel in the boot but which was of course no use for the MOT, this scenario is not uncommon.
Steel rims and high profile tyres are fitted to our vehicles, we do not stand at look at the wheels, if they are slightly less elegant so what, they deal with potholes a sight better.

Agree completely. In terrain that is largely flat, even weight is not important. It is only significant when going up hills or when accelerating.

@Bert – The starting handle was a frequent source of injury.

Firstly, the driver has to remember to put the car in neutral. Forget to do this and the car could lurch forwards/backwards when the engine fires. Conversely, by placing the car in neutral you are entirely reliant on the parking brake to stop the car rolling.

Then there are injuries from the starting handle itself, caused by the engine backfiring or the handle not disengaging correctly. See “Hutchinson fracture”.

Changing a spare tyre is also a potential source of self-injury – and best avoided on today’s busy roads.

I suggest that the injuries you refer to were not “frequent”. One had to know how to use it and hold it. I had this car for over 20 years without any injuries. Perhaps you think I was lucky? Even heavy huge engines on lorries had starting handles so large they were difficult even to pick up.
It could, and was, used to check/adjust the valve clearances; a job still needed on some modern cars. Of course it is not the same with transverse engine layouts, but the omission of starting handles occurred long before this feature became common. It’s removal was not done for safely reasons, as I have already indicated. (perhaps I am older than most, but I still carry out almost all the routine maintenance tasks myself.)
One of the problems encountered is that so few now want to learn how to do things safely, preferring to see dangers everywhere at all times. Part of the “dumbing down” process, encouraged by the HSE.

Lower the cost? Don’t you mean increase the profit!

I’ve been looking around at new cars recently and have noticed that not only do they come with no spare as standard but many don’t even have the option – there is nowhere to put them. Our current cars come with space-savers and whilst they are far from ideal they will get you to the nearest tyre centre. Incidentally, I saw this on the Honest John motoring site which I thought was a cracking idea:


I would agree with the comment about women changing tyres – my wife had a problem when she had to change a tyre on her own (actually a sheared bolt which was not her fault) and on the subject of poor design call-outs, I had to phone the RAC when I was stuck with a blown headlight bulb: I couldn’t fit my fingers behind the battery to change it.

What is the position of the breakdown firms regarding no spare tyre? I understood that their T&Cs said that a driver must have a serviceable spare but I assume that must have changed. If I phone up the RAC with a puncture and no spare, what will they actually do for me?

Rod – You don’t need a notice to let other drivers know you are driving with a space-saver wheel fitted. Not only are they thinner, but the diameter is smaller. Seeing a lopsided car either means a space-saver is in use or the suspension has collapsed – so keep well back.

I cannot see how anyone can be properly in control of a vehicle with a space-saver wheel fitted.

Rod Wyness says:
29 March 2013

Full size spare wheel is essential, not only for the obvious reaction to a puncture and to enable the journey to continue at normal speed but also to enable the sharing of tyre wear when the inevitable happens.

Neither I or my wife will buy a car without a proper spare wheel !!!

Ken H says:
29 March 2013

If car manufacturers insisit on not providing a spare wheel they should put ‘Ultra Seal’ into the tyres. This product is designed to keep the tyre fully inflatted when an object up to 6 mm dia penetrates the tyre. It has been used for many years on commercial and agricultral vehicles. I use it in the tyres on my car even though I do have a spare wheel to ovide the hassel of changing a wheel at the side of the road.

Jim Simpson says:
29 March 2013

Just bought a Prius vice a Lexus CT200h because the Prius had a space saver. Would have cost around £550 to have a space saver fitted in the Lexus (which isn’t as good a car). I won’t buy a car without a spare. I’d be able to change the wheel if necessary (or would ask for roadside assistance if I had a problem). On a late weekend evening 30 miles outside town good luck with your “repair kit”. Skoda is offering space saver or full-size spare on several models. I think that’s acceptable at about £75. If the Prius has no spare in a couple of years I’ll be buying elsewhere.

“On a late weekend evening 30 miles outside town good luck with your “repair kit”.”

On a late weekend evening 30 miles outside town good luck with your “Spare Wheel”. By the time you’re on the move I’ll be at home tucked up warm and cosy in bed with a cup of cocoa.

Meanwhile, you’ll be cold and wet from crouching at the roadside in this bitterly cold, snowy weather, your clothes will be filthy from all the slush, muck and brake dust on the wheel. Your fingers will be numb and it will certainly have put a bit of a dampener on your night out. If your boot is full you’ll also have a headache over what to do with this dirty, slushy wheel you’ve removed (‘cos it won’t fit in the small, space-saver well).

We’ll both drive to the tyre fitters the next day. I’ll have to buy a new tyre, you MIGHT get away with a repair. But if you can afford a Lexus CT, the cost of a new tyre is little more than pocket money.

Tough choice, isn’t it?

Jim Simpson says:
29 March 2013

Don’t worry, gradivus: I won’t try to convince you with facts.

I thought I was talking ‘facts’? Although I didn’t mention I use run-flats.

I wouldn’t for one minute pretend that there aren’t advantages and disadvantages to each solution – your argument would have been much more compelling had you said 130 miles instead of 30 miles (i.e. beyond the working distance of run flats).

But, given the choice of getting into your car and just driving home as normal, versus, changing a wheel at the side of a road in a sub-zero blizzard… Well, admit it, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for people, isn’t it?

Bob James says:
29 March 2013

“gradivus” “Well, admit it, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for people, isn’t it? ”

Not exactly, run flats are not without well known problems including reduced mpg, a higher cost versus shorter life, non repairable by most reputable companys, vehicles including BMW’s needing suspension and brake modification to deal with the harder side wall, (negates later fitting standard wheels and tyres).
50 miles at 50 mph is regarded as a sensible maximum use of deflated run flats, due to folk not paying attention I have known of them not lasting for 30 miles let alone BMW’s projected 90 miles.
Given we do not have as many punctures as we used to, probably due to regulations meaning many of us use less worn out tyres, the extra costs etc are hard to justify on many vehicles where a replacement set would be a significant charge against resale value.

I have changed many wheels and on much larger vehicles than a family car, if planned for it is not the hardship some pretend.

Bob James

“run-flats are not without problems” – so very, very true. I would not dispute this for a second. But in the specific example under discussion they are, to me, obviously the best choice.

Reduced mpg – do you have any evidence for this? I should have thought with their stiffer sidewalls run-flats would give better mpg.

Higher cost – indisputable. About £35 per tyre in my experience. I shouldn’t think the run-flat wheels would have a significantly higher cost in mass production

Shorter life – I can’t see why this should be so, again do you have any evidence? My own run-flats seem to have had a perfectly reasonable life, but I’m not in a position to compare like-for-like.

Suspension and brake modification – Not true. All cars have their suspension and brakes (and steering) set up to cope with the intended tyres. BMWs are designed for run-flats from scratch, there is no modification.

(Negates later fitting standard wheels and tyres). – Red herring. Don’t buy a used car if you’re unhappy with the spec, unless you’re prepared to pay out to change the spec, of course.

30 miles let alone BMW’s projected 90 miles – I didn’t check the mileage, but I got more than enough of flat running out of my one deflated run-flat.

A replacement set would be a significant charge against resale value. – sorry, don’t understand.

I have changed many wheels and on much larger vehicles than a family car. OK. But has your wife “changed many wheels”? Has your 17 year old daughter “changed many wheels”? Has your 67 year old father “changed many wheels” recently? Has your brother changed many wheels?

What World do you live in? I am considerably older than 67, (you can add around 15 years to that figure) and change about 16 wheels each year. And I do not work in a garage. Car maintenance is/was not my profession.

Bert Jones,

So, you’re 82 and change about 16 wheels each year?

I don’t gamble, Bert, never have, never will. But even I would be prepared to break my lifelong non-gambling attitude with a little wager that you are not really representative of the UK population at large. Are you? Truth be told, you’re a bit “unconventional”.

Do you really, really think that the average 17 year old girl, fresh from passing her driving test, has any experience of changing wheels? Or has the slightest interest in doing so?

Bob James says:
31 March 2013


“Reduced mpg – do you have any evidence for this? I should have thought with their stiffer sidewalls run-flats would give better mpg.”

Yes of course, little point in making incorrect statements, we read the trade press, we also speak to owners, we see the cars and from the wear point of view the tyres and recorded mileages.

“Higher cost – indisputable. About £35 per tyre in my experience. I shouldn’t think the run-flat wheels would have a significantly higher cost in mass production”

And that compares like with like from the same manufacturer not what else is available in the tyre market.

“Shorter life” – see above.

“Suspension and brake modification – Not true. All cars have their suspension and brakes (and steering) set up to cope with the intended tyres. BMWs are designed for run-flats from scratch, there is no modification.”

Do you really think BMW designed the complete range of Mini’s 1’s 3’s 5’s etc from scratch around these tyres, of course not, the car setups were modified during extensive testing in conjunction with tyre manufacturers. Base models of the same vehicles were supplied with standard setups and tyres.
Deliberately increasing the unsprung mass on a vehicle is an anthema to any suspension designer and ends up with a compromised setup, ie not as good as it could be. Run flats are around 15% heavier than standard tyres, the reinforced rims are heavier, the heavier tyres also increase gyroscopic action and increased steering system loads. With compromised vehicles leading to class actions it is no wonder Honda dropped the tyres a while back.

“(Negates later fitting standard wheels and tyres). – Red herring. Don’t buy a used car if you’re unhappy with the spec, unless you’re prepared to pay out to change the spec, of course.”

And as a number of owners of new cars were unhappy with the spec and have changed to standard tyres without the suspension mods etc it leaves vehicle resellers with a potential problem.

“A replacement set would be a significant charge against resale value. – sorry, don’t understand.”

We are increasingly seeing younger vehicles being scrapped as as result of repair costs v residual value, a set of new, more expensive tyres wouId have a similar impact, it does nothing for making best uses of the planets resources.

“I have changed many wheels and on much larger vehicles than a family car. OK. But has your wife “changed many wheels”? Has your 17 year old daughter “changed many wheels”? Has your 67 year old father “changed many wheels” recently? Has your brother, you know, the one with chronic back problems “changed many wheels”? ”

Vehicle repair is our living, my wife has changed wheels, my son at 15 years old no problem, he was extremely capable and now has his own repair business, my daughter changed the cylinder head gasket on her first car before she could use it, c’mon, not all of us are useless, some are independant and self reliant and as a result make a living servicing those who are not, or those who are wealthy enough to not bother.

In the end we all believe what we want from manufacturers regarding spare tyres and make our own minds up on what we see as the best way to spend the least on something that depreciates in value at a shocking rate, its a good thing the same does not happen to houses!

A good and informative posting. It’s nice to know I am not alone.


I’m withdrawing from this conversation because, as I say further down the page, I see the true answer in manufacturers making spare wheels, repair kits, etc optional extras.

However, a few specifics.

Reduced mpg/shorter life. – The examples you give, such as “talking to owners” is most certainly not objective evidence. The last tyres I bought were run-flats for my BMW 1 series. The original set had lasted 37,000 miles. Was 37,000 miles good? The only way to find out would be to fit standard tyres and run my car for another 37,000 miles to make a fair comparison. I could argue that, at 37,000 miles, run-flats have a fantastic life – the front tyres (standard tyres) on my previous car would only last 8-9,000 miles. So run-flats last FOUR times longer than standard tyres! Yes? Perhaps not, the fact that I was driving a Volvo T5’s might have been a factor.

As far as I know, every BMW 3 series (and 5, I believe) is supplied with run-flats. So all the extensive testing and modification you describe will be EXACTLY the same as, say, an Audi on standard tyres. But the point is totally irrelevant anyway. As long as BMW can sell me a car I like at a price I’m happy with (and Audi can sell you a car you like at a price you’re happy with) who gives a fig?

I too was changing wheels at 15. But not now – my age and poor health prevent it. Plus I’m now wealthy enough not to bother even if I could. If vehicle repair is your living it’s highly disingenuous of you to compare your (and your family’s) wheel changing abilities with the population at large. I don’t dictate to you what computer to buy because your IT knowledge is less than mine. Believe me, Bob, you could wave £10,000 under my daughter’s nose and she wouldn’t even attempt to change a wheel (and she’s stony broke). You could hold a gun to her head and she wouldn’t be capable of doing it.

And, absolutely everyone I know in 2013 is either unwilling or unable (or both) to change a wheel. Perhaps we should just agree they’re all useless and ban them from owning cars. Obviously, car ownership should be restricted only to strong, fit and healthy members of the motor trade.

The answer is for manufacturers to give us a choice through optional extras. Until then, simply buy what suits, and don’t whinge if you choose badly.

Hi Bert Jones and gradivus – while we always encourage debate, please try not to make your comments personal, and be kind to other commenters.

In 1977 I applied for my provisional driving licence and before it came my dad showed me how to change a wheel in case of a puncture. He then had me practice until I could do it myself…….when I knew how to check and top up oil and water, jump start a battery and recharge it if necessary and fill the car with petrol then I was allowed to learn to drive.
I am now in my 50s and while I would prefer someone else to do all those things I am still actually capable of doing them myself.
My dad still considers it just basic car maintenance and safety.
Both my daughters and my son were also taught the same before learning to drive.
Yes it is messy, you may need to wear disposable gloves and you may get covered in gunk but so do brain surgeons and changing a wheel isn’t brain surgery.
As to carrying a spare wheel verses not, we have had cars with and without and if I has one and I’m in a rush I do it myself, if it doesn’t or I’m not in a rush I call out breakdown services.
It’s personal choice but please teach your children life skills

Steamdrivenandy says:
29 March 2013

Car manufactuers a running scared over the regulations that say they have to reduce the mpg of their range of vehicles by a certain by a certain date or face stiff fines from the EU. I don’t know the details but the Which? journo’s will.

So that’s why we’re getting all sorts of stuff happening to cars to make them lighter and more fuel efficient. Most of the things that are being done are not exactly on your average motorists ‘must-have’ list but we’re being lumbered with them anyway. Like DPFs on diesels, no spare wheel, stop/start/, heavily massaged mpg figures etc.

Some of the ideas being proposed to save weight could be accomplished by wearing a thinner pair of socks.


I broadly agree, though I thought DPFs were to help prevent children getting asthma and so on. If so, we should have them and to hell with anyone’s selfish views.

But the harsh reality is that supplies of fossil fuels are dwindling. Yes, there’ll be the occasional hiccough – new fields discovered, etc – but the long term picture is not at all good. We’ll look back on £1.45 per litre with sheer disbelief. Our grandchildren will be born into a very different motoring world from the one we’ve enjoyed over the last century.

We should at least accept a few minor inconveniences for their benefit.


Thanks for the useful contribution to the debate.

Gradivus – I have severe asthma and vehicle pollution has kept me away from large city centres for all my adult life. Low-sulphur fuel and diesel particulate filters have made a huge difference to me. Thank goodness there is something we can agree on. 🙂

No-one can disagree that we are exhausting our fossil fuels and that we can look forward to continuing price rises at the filling station. Should we not all be driving small economical cars and trying to cut down our annual mileage?

We could improve fuel economy by using narrower, lighter tyres. That would also save natural resource and benefit those who do want a spare wheel by making it easier to change.


I’m certain we’ve agreed on lots of things on past conversations.

If full sized spare wheels were made optional extras, I think we’d agree on this one too!

I would prefer the repair kit to be the optional extra. Can’t we just compromise and agree that both the spare wheel and the repair kit should be offered as options, at appropriate prices.


Excellent. I agree, but I would have run-flats in the options mix, too, where appropriate.

Everyone’s a winner!

Great. Now we just need to persuade the manufacturers. 🙁

Glad to see a little cordiality returning after all the acrimony above. Fifteen years, or so, ago this would not have been a topic. So things have changed. A few years earlier I lost my ammeter and oil gauge to warning lights and now am astounded to find they have even pinched the temperature gauge. Fortunately I was able to get a space saver with my latest car and I have used this, for a puncture repair, successfully. I can state that the car behaved perfectly on three and a half wheels at no more than 50 mph. Following traffic was not amused, even though I tried to be considerate, and I got the repair done swiftly.

I am told that run flat tyres give the vehicle a harsh ride. Maybe this has been addressed, but these and low profile ones are not on my shopping list, for that reason.

I suppose I could wait around for a breakdown van and look helpless, but I am prepared to put up with donning waterproofs and changing it myself, until age really does catch up. Sealant is not an option for me. A space saver is second best, but it will do.

My Ford Pop had a starting handle and, with the six volt battery, it earned its keep on more than one occasion. The other thing in the boot was a full size spare.

I hope we would all offer to help you change a wheel if we saw you struggling at the side of the road. Just make sure that you have the adapter for the security bolt on your alloy wheels.

Your ammeter and oil gauge have been replaced by iPhone connectivity and Blueteeth. As they say these days – it’s progress, get over it. 🙁