/ Motoring

Car spare wheels: why they’re a dying breed

Almost 23,500 of AA’s callouts each year relate to its members using tyre repair kits, with most phoning because they’re not confident using them. That’s why we want spare wheels to at least be a no-cost option on cars.

My last Conversation about spare wheels resonated with many of you. More than 400 comments were made, and the vast majority were fighting the corner of the spare wheel. So I think now is a good time for an update.

We’ve now launched a Spare wheels survey so you can let us know about your experiences and opinions on the matter.

And since the previous Convo was published in April, we’ve been in talks with the AA and carmakers about puncture repair kits and (the lack of) spare wheels.

What the AA says

When we approached the AA to talk about how their members deal with tyre repair kits and spare wheels, it told us:

‘In most cases, the member is not happy about using the sealant and would rather ask a patrol for help. When the patrol arrives, the driver has not even attempted to use it, as most expect there to be a spare in the boot.

‘We understand why some manufacturers don’t supply spare wheels as standard, but it can make things quite difficult for drivers and our patrols. We can get members back on the road much faster if the car has a suitable spare.’

What car manufacturers say

Of the mainstream car brands available in the UK, just Hyundai, Mercedes, Ssangyong, Toyota and VW offer spare wheels in 90% or more of their entire current model range. At the opposite end of the spectrum, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mini, Skoda and Subaru all don’t offer a spare at all, instead opting for a puncture repair kit.

Here are just a few responses we got from manufacturers when we questioned them about these numbers:

BMW: ‘Most BMWs now come with run-flat tyres as standard. This, in theory, makes the spare wheel redundant as the ‘flat’ tyre can be driven on safely until it can be changed.’

Skoda: ‘We use this puncture repair kit in our overall strive for environmentally friendly car operation to decrease weight and improve efficiency.’

VW: ‘Our customers expect a Volkswagen to have a spare wheel, not a repair kit. It also helps to keep consumers happier in the event of a puncture if they have a spare wheel.’

Check for a spare wheel before you buy

Many of you asked if we could give information about whether a model is available with a spare wheel in our reviews. Well, we already do.

If you’re a Which? member, once you’re in a car review, click on the ‘Model finder’ tab, select the spec you’re looking for and scroll down to the section on ‘Standard equipment’. When you select ‘Wheels’ this will tell you if the car comes with a spare wheel as standard or not.

And if you’re buying used, make sure you check under the boot floor or the underside of the car for a spare wheel. If there is one, make sure there’s plenty of tread on the tyre and all the equipment to change the wheel over – including the jack – is present.

We think spare wheels should come as standard (and for free), or at least as a no-cost option. What do you expect carmakers to offer when it comes to a remedy for a punctured tyre?

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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Comments
Paul A says:
5 June 2015

I’m voting with my feet and vowing not to buy any new car that doesn’t come with a full size spare wheel. The more potential buyers that refuse to buy a partially complete car (ie one with no essential spare), the sooner manufacturers will realise the folly of their ways. It won’t do any harm to petition MPs for a change in the law in this matter too.

Gary says:
31 August 2015

I was thinking of buying a Skoda Yeti 4×4 diesel but if it doesn’t have a spare wheel,then I won’t. It’s that important to me.

BTW, VW own Skoda,don’t they? They supply a spare wheel for their VW cars but have a completely different policy for Skoda cars? Why don’t their reasons match?

Pat Miles says:
12 July 2016

Today I had a puncture and the AA repairman refused to put on the spare wheel of my Mercedes which is perfectly good and instead did a temporary repair using sealant and advised me to go for a new type asap. I am appalled that he would not put on my spare. Is this right or is he in the wrong? What should I do?

I suggest that you make a complaint to the AA, providing that your spare was legal and in serviceable condition, Pat. I assume that you have paid for a spare wheel or it is an older car because Mercedes have stopped supplying even temporary spares, or so I have read.

dieseltaylor says:
13 July 2016

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2837237/The-REAL-reason-car-firms-won-t-spare-tyre-Manufacturers-scrimp-installing-extra-wheels-cut-costs.html

Interesting to see how many people affected last year where sealant could not sort out the damage.

yes – it is an older car with a brand new tyre on the spare. He never even looked!!

Once sealant has been used, I doubt that you will find anyone who will repair it. 🙁

I notice on the Peugeot Cactus that comes with a reduced size spare

“16” Square alloy Wheels”

Tyres must be a problem!

I remember we had a Convo about cars running away when parked on hills. Perhaps Peugeot has found a solution. 🙂

It is a pity that the manufacturers have not paid much attention to all the complaints here and elsewhere about phasing out proper spare wheels and even the space-saver versions that would fail an MOT if on a car when it was tested.

BEUC could collate the complaints Europe wide and perhaps with a survey make a case to the EU to legislate for full size spare wheels. Car manufacturers are unlikely to change their position by looking at one consumer group’s Convo.

I have asked the AA about their policy on dealing with punctures. They have replied that they will change a punctured wheel for a serviceable spare even if a sealant repair would work.

If Pat Miles punctured tyre was subsequently not repairable because of the use of sealant she might find it worthwhile speaking to the AA.

As I said earlier, this deserves a complaint if a serviceable spare was available. It’s clearly indicated as one of the features of the AA policy (and others) that they will swap wheels if possible.

Andrew W says:
31 December 2016

The debate about spare tyres is like the rest of eco-green debate – well meaning but virtually always inceases CO2 output. I am all for saving the planet. I was reusing and recycling in the 60s long before most green warriors were even thought about. I still also cycle whenever it is the best choice even though I have a car. I have always done so.

I deliberately purchased a new alloy spare with my last new car. I had to modify the car to make the spare fit into the stowage – after a fashion. My original car was supplied with glue. (A space saver would have cost £225 OEM). The alloy hub cost me £240 as full price OEM. A new full size tyre cost £175. I gave away my glue to a friend for £10. (Also note that glue has a “boot life” – it has to be replaced every 3 years at a cost of about £50 – not particularly green!!!)

I have now replaced two of my tyres after normal wear. One new tyre and one exchanged with my full size spare wheel. The cost of my full size, fully rated alloy tyre and spare has NOW cost me £240 (hub) + £175 (tyre) MINUS £10 (sale of glue) MINUS £175 (not having to buy two new tyres MINUS the £225 I would have paid for a space saver kit.

Net cost for not being stranded or having to drive for no more than 50 miles and 50 mph = £5 !!!!

Did I use any more fuel and create any more CO2? I did not need to call out the AA to change the wheel – What is the average fuel used by the AA for each call-out had I not had a spare? It is a safe bet that the average cost I my fuel use would have been offset by the AA fuel use. If I had used a space saver, the weight and hence fuel cost to carry my full size spare would have been equal.
Do not fall into the eco-illiterate trap – do not count the cost of a full size spare tyre on a full size hub as a fixed cost – it is not – it is a consumable!!! In contrast, a full size steel spare wheel or a space saver are fixed cost – both in money and energy.

Ronald Hyde says:
13 August 2018

I will never buy a car that does not have a spare wheel.- there is NO saving in suppling the useless sealant kit – most do not work. there is, no doubt, a
saving for the manufacture though –