/ 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
Brenda's Lad says:
31 December 2012

I have a new Skoda Superb on order. It has no spare wheel, but does have space for a full-size spare. My supplying-dealer has confirmed that the spare in my current Octavia will fit the studs on the Superb and that I can keep it for that purpose – so problem solved !

Lawrence A. says:
2 January 2013

Brenda’s Lad…
Don’t forget – If the dealer is not supplying the spare wheel, then he has no obligation to supply the jack or wheel brace.
If you are trading the Octavia in, you need to keep the wheel-changing tools as well, else you will be up a well known creek without a paddle. Or a jack. Or a spanner. Check that the jack is rated for the bigger car.

Sneaky, ain’t they?

In addition to the need to check that the jack will bear the weight of the new car it is important to check that the design is suitable for the jacking points.

DavidD says:
2 January 2013

BMW – silly talk! Who really wants to run on a “run-flat” tyre until it is convenient to repair it?
SKODA – plain silly talk. How many mpg will the absence of a spare wheel add, and at the cost of the reassurance of a PROPER spare wheel. We have had a Skoda Fabia for six years and a great little car it is, but good bye Skoda if you want to save a few bucks by not providing what the vast majority of us think is a NECESSITY. Come on you dealers you are in a good position to put pressure on all these manufacturers!

I also haf a fabia monty and no spare wheel if I don’t get a skoda with a spare next edition time I will not by one put a spare in the boot

Just taken delivery of a new Skoda CitiGo (adding to our Skoda family – we already have a Yeti). Paid £50 for spare wheel which sits neatly inside the boot below the boot floor so takes up no extra room at all. No such luck with our Yeti though – £250 for a spare and new floor, taking about eight inches of the base of the boot, but having had two punctures (only one repairable) we did not have much of a choice. Am hoping that Skoda redesign the boot to take (and to provide) a full sized spare in the Yeti for when we replace in a couple of years time.

I assume that the width of modern tyres is the main reason why manufacturers provide space-saver wheels or no spare at all. I cannot see this changing unless fuel economy becomes more important in marketing cars.

johannes says:
9 January 2013

Far be it for me to defend the car industry BUt I drive a merc -i think it has a get u home tyre like my old calibra and saab sport BUT we all want a good deal on a car when we buy and good tyres as recommended by the manufacturers cost a lot – c. £150 plus the petrol/diesel cost of lugging them around. I assume these blow up kits are idiot proof so what’s the problem? – wouldn’t worry me if i drive a car that needs one. seems silly for 5 billion vehicles to be driving around the planet with tyres that usually get pulped when the car dies.

Lawrence A. says:
9 January 2013

Hi Johannes. Mind if I address your comments?
1. You THINK your Merc has a get-u-home tyre? Might be a good idea to check what’s in the boot before you need to use it!
2. Good tyres as recommended cost a lot. True. They cost a lot more if you have to buy them as an optional extra. Dealers make big bucks on optional extras.
3. It really doesn’t cost that much more in fuel to carry a wheel and tyre around. Consider: How heavy is the spare wheel? How heavy is a Mercedes? How heavy are you? Your luggage? Your shopping? Your golf clubs? Your wife/partner/boyfriend/mistress? 50 litres of fuel? Everything is relative. The additional weight of an extra wheel is negligible compared to the car and its contents.
4. You assume that a puncture kit is foolproof? Wrong. They don’t fix big punctures, blow-outs or sidewall damage. Sometimes they fail to discharge their payload at all.
5. 5 billion vehicles with tyres that get pulped when the vehicle dies. In fact far more tyres will be shredded after being injected with gunge because the repairers and fitters refuse to repair a gunged tyre. A clean tyre with a puncture can often be repaired, and also a reputable breaker’s yard will recover and resell any spare wheels they find in a decent condition.
Sorry, but I believe that the car industry’s defence on the spare wheel topic is riddled with great big holes.

graham says:
10 January 2013

lawrence
i couldnt have put it better myself. well done!

Brenda's Lad says:
10 January 2013

My new Skoda Superb was delivered with both a gunge/compressor kit AND a steel spare wheel exactly the same size and weight as the alloy spare I had kept back from the traded-in Octavia. Although the rolling diameters of both spares are the same as the main wheels on the Superb, and the tyres equally wide, I am aware that they will have different dynamic properties so will have to be treated to a 50 mph max speed. But a 5th wheel+tyre identical to the other 4 would have fitted in the spare-wheel well so WHY can’t they supply the real thing?

Michael Perry says:
17 January 2013

My wife and I have had 4 tyre problems in the last few years.

The first was a front wheel blow out on a hire car close to the middle span on the southern Severn Bridge – very scary in heavy traffic. Fortunately, this Corsa had a full spare wheel and the AA had me up and running within 90 minutes. If there had been only a repair kit I would probably still be there!

The second a slow puncture which showed up at home. I managed to restore the pressure with a foot pump and drive it 6 miles for repair. This car has a temporary spare but fortunately was not needed. I would have been happier with a full spare wheel.

The third my wife went down a large pot hole which she had not seen (full of rain water). Later the tyre went completely flat because the rim had been damaged. Again this older model Fiesta had a full spare which took 10 minutes to change. Again an inflation kit would have been useless and a temporary spare a nuisance.

The last a hire car, in Florida admittedly. This had a slow front wheel puncture which went half flat on New Years day outside our accomodation. This car had a temporary spare. I was told to change it myself and then drive it to the airport 15 miles away where they would swop the car. This not only resulted in the drive from hell along a 6 lane interstate (people thought I was a complete idiot driving at 50 mph) but also caused me to effectively loose half a day of my holiday.

I can see little justification in providing a temporary spare and absolutely none in providing a repair kit. What are these manufactures thinking of? Oh I know themselves and their profits. I will not buy another car that won’t take a full spare. Perhaps we should all voice this opinion!

Michael Perry

dennis knight says:
22 May 2013

At one time the AA stated they would deal with a puncture as long as the car had a serviceable spare wheel – is this stll the case. If I drive a car with a non standard wheel – my spare is smaller- am I breaking the law. I started driving about 50 years ago and we all carried a bootfull of tools and spares. Just can’t get out of the habit.Can’t believe anyone would drive a car and not know if they had a spare.jack and wheel brace.

My new Subaru Forester (11/2012) came with not only a full size spare but an alloy rim which matches the others. And I’ve used it.

franky says:
3 August 2014

Always had a spare and the neccesary until today in a thunderstorm .i jacked it up on the roadside cursing the weather ,off with the tyre which was wrecked as i had driven off the motorway with it flat. undid the spare from under ,(Berlingo van)to find it was off a renault and nothing like a citroen wheel . back on with said flat and drove to kwik fit 4 miles away where they fitted a new tyre at an over inflated price. the original cause was a large gash which no sealant would have repaired so also having a fabia with no spare i shall be at the scrapyard tomorrow for a spare for both vehicles……..only way a can of foam would have fixed todays gash would have been to shove the can in the hole..they arent my idea of a fix…..

Dennis is not breaking the law by using a space saver wheel as a temporary measure, even though his car would fail the MOT with it fitted. On the other hand, I expect that Franky was breaking the law driving four miles with a flat tyre.

For everyone’s safety and convenience we need to go back to full size spare wheels.

Grend3l says:
23 June 2013

I’ve just bought a Subaru Forester (used – 2011) and it comes with a full sized spare wheel. Your article says Subaru don’t provide spare wheels. I’m puzzled? Anyway, one of the reasons for selecting this car is that it has a full size spare. I’ve been with a friend when trying to mend a puncture with a ‘tyre filler’ kit. Utter failure. It might work on a pin-hole – but not on a tyre that has had some damage. Given that road repair budgets are being reduced even further and potholes seem to be getting bigger then I’d have thought it essential for every car to have a full sized spare tyre.

Perhaps the previous owner had the sense to buy a proper spare wheel.

The owner may have bought the Forester as a tow car (post does not say). If you use the vehicle to tow (and using a 4WD is a very good idea if you are) then you must have a full spare, or you will be going nowhere.
I only discovered that my Renault Kadjar 4WD could not have a spare after I bought it. Now I am reliant on the AA (plus a specialist breakdown service if towing our horse trailer).

Grend31 writes that “road repair budgets are being reduced even further”. That is not actually true and additional funds have been provided by the government to enable highway authorities to fix the pothole problem. The 2020 Budget included £2.5 billion for this purpose. It is possibly a case of some local authorities using the extra pothole money for other purposes [which could indeed be higher priorities], but in my part of the country there seem to very few potholes now, and the general surface conditions of the roads is at a high standard on all trunks roads [Highways England], class A and B roads and on most C roads. Many sections of major roads have been resurfaced not just to eliminate potholes but to provide a better profile and alignment and safer junctions.

Some unclassified roads [usually lanes and byways] are in a poor state but they are lightly trafficked and not engineered for speed, but they are more likely to give rise to a puncture so drivers needing to use such roads should have a suitable vehicle with a full-sized spare wheel; the chances of the roadside assistance people finding it are also reduced!

Taff87 says:
23 July 2013

Be aware and check Volvo cars.
They will sell you a space saver and tools for £350 but try and store it in the “well” and you will find that 50% of the space is taken up with part of the fuel tank. Thus leaving no room for the spare.These cars must have been designed after a heavy liquid lunch.

SRM says:
30 July 2013

Trying to find a list online for all the actual models of car with standard full sized spares as not all makes have this. Does anyone have an up to date site or is the industry making it difficult for people to research this and affect sales and design policy ?

I agree, but try finding the full tech spec for almost any make of vehicle nowadays. I tow, so I too need to know if a full spare is available. I also want towing weights, max hitch load, tare weight, max gross weight and gross train weight. Also max roof load for bikes/top box.
These seem to becoming state secrets!
Even the manufacturer’s websites often fail to give those and if they do, only for their current models. Dealers websites and Used car sellers may give the car’s gross weight at best.

Your report states that Subaru do not offer a spare tyre at all. This is not correct. Our new Subaru Forester (September 2013) came with a space saver tyre as standard. Older Foresters have a full size spare.

Vicky says:
7 November 2013

Have just had a nightmare time with my Rav 4 and the repair system! We were at an event on Saturday night which involved parking in a field. Unfortunately some fencing had been left lying around and in the dark, six cars got flat tyres. Four had spare tyres, and with the help of the marshals changed their wheels and were on their way fairly quickly. Two of us had repair kits, and with shredded tyres that couldn’t hold the glue, had to wait for a rescue service to come along and take us home on a flat bed lorry. Didn’t get back till 1 a.m., and furious with the infefficiency and waste of the repair system. One bottle of glue costs £50, plus the tyre of course. The mechanic told me that he had only come upon one case where the glue had worked efficiently. Even then, a new tyre is needed, however small the hole might be. What a rip off! As for fuel efficiency gained by the lack of tyre – what about the sheer waste of replacing tyres all the time even in the case of a small puncture?

Firstly, I agree that the puncture kits are an abomination but have to disagree that puncture tyres always have to be written off. You just need to choose your tyre fitter. When we first sustained a puncture in a nearly new tyre on our Skoda Yeti our local independent was happy to wash out the gunge and do a repair which is still holding two years later, although I’m told that the major chains will not carry out this simple procedure. Our second puncture was too close to the sidewall to fix unfortunately, but at least the screw we picked up held the air in for the two miles to the dealer.

Interestingly, we were able to purchase a spare wheel/tyre for our Skoda CityGo, a much smaller car, for just £50 which sits neatly out of the way beneath the boot floor. For the Yeti it is a £250 option requiring a replacement boot floor and a loss of considerable boot space.

henry says:
23 February 2014

today I hit a pothole in the road and it made a large hole in the side of my F’ Tyre on my yeti.
I was not able to use the goo and inf later ( no spare wheel) because of the hole in the wall of the Tyre .Now I am very able to take a wheel off. give a friend a shout on the telephone to collect me’ take the wheel and get a new tyre fitted. Job Done. But No way, no jack or wheel brace supplied.
So It’s a call out job. ( i am not in any AA or RAC etc. I know my way around cars having been in the trade for some 45 years. I could not move my car, it will have to be towed to a tyre fitters, , I live in Cornwall and was way out in the country on a Sunday not a sole in sight.I have had to leave the car there I could not get anyone to come out on a Sunday.so hope all is well. So I am expecting a heavy bill. All i wanted was a jack and wheel brace . job done.

Now I do not have a car it’s on the road at the moment tucked away and safe I hope.
I will sort it out tomorrow ,Monday I will go and buy a scissor jack and wheel brace.
I am lucky I am able to do this. Hope all will be ok. I’ve only had the car 4 weeks.

Any one buying a skoda yeti be aware that it is noy always as straight forward as it says in there manual. it’s a nightmare

Chris says:
7 July 2014

I have just purchased a new Astra hatchback. with only a repair kit. So I then purchased a space saver wheel kit, at a cost of £227. Sadly for me the wheel does not fit in the well and consequently the boot mat will not sit flat. I have been told I have to buy a boot liner to accommodate the spare.
How foolish and expensive. I urge all new car buyers to ask the question of spare wheel facility, before making a purchase. For me the purchase of a space saver spare wheel has proved not fit for purpose. Our car manufacturers have got it wrong!!!! Bring back the spare wheel and stop this exploitation of customers.

Mike Aberdeenshire says:
7 July 2014

I have had several tyre problems with our two family cars, and hire cars, one in particular on New Years Day in USA. It is extremely clear to me that you are always better off with a full spare wheel which will cover you for all tyre and wheel damage.

My two previous cars have been Ford Focus estates, which I was reasonably happy with. The last one came with a space saver but I bought a full spare which fitted into the spare wheel well. I did not want to get stuck with the 50 miles at 50 mph routine again.

I had resolved not to buy another car which did not have a full sized spare. My Ford dealer was aware of this and checked the new model which had a space saver. On my request he checked to see if the space would take a full spare, eventually he found out it would not. Some design halfwit had reduced the size of the space ignoring the 78% of us that want a full spare.

After some research I found out that the VW Passat estate comes with a full spare, an alloy no less, and I am now the proud owner of a lovely Passat estate. Now I am safe in the knowledge that I can complete any journey without the worry described above.

Ford you have lost yourself a loyal customer. People can always VOTE WITH THEIR FEET.

Mark Thorpe says:
21 July 2014

Sat night had a puncture the glue would not cure. 6 hours later AA arrive to tow me home Sunday they could not arrange a tyre to fit. So Monday today they are due back to fit a tyre they are looking for.
I think I am and always have been in favour of a proper spare tyre as the space savers are only for one journey either home or a garage and you are liable to 3 points if you use them as I was pulled over using one and the motorbike police man was going to award me the points but had a call so gave a warning

martin says:
21 July 2014

Hi you don’t say which car you own.
Poor you…marvellous isn’t it all the hassle, cost and messing about has now been dumped onto you and the car makers save money and claim an extra 1mpg.
come on which lets get campaigning on this one.!

Mark Thorpe says:
21 July 2014

Skoda fabia. 6 months old so really shouldn’t be a problem not as if were a classic
I would like to let the car makers know but don’t think they’ll listen much as there all doing it .
The scam side is they will SELL kits from £200+ depends what you buy

H. Anderson says:
29 May 2015

My spare wheel for vauxhall mokka is a size 16 tyre compared with the 18 that are on .had a puncture and had to use spare so car sloped to one side is this legal

It is not a legal requirement to sell a car with a spare wheel of a different size, as the car company may have been unaware of this. It’s a bit silly of them, though!

You could challenge this, but it’d be difficult to do so. In addition, to drive cars with tyres of different sizes, treads or makes, this will certainly unbalance the car and they will wear unevenly.

You would also fail the MOT with a space-saver wheel fitted, but the excuse is that they are temporary measures.

What a crazy world we live in. 🙁

Thanks for adding about MOT failures, wavechange. How could I forgot about that…my car only passed its MOT last week. 😮

I hope you have a spare wheel, Andrew, even if its not full-size. Many people have come unstuck with only a tube of glue. 🙁

It certainly did wavechange (recently replaced) because I have this reputation with RAC for breaking down on the A11 on my travels from Hertford to Norwich 🙁 *sigh*. However, the car was sold last Saturday with 5 new tyres *phew*.

In addition, I’ve just bought a newer, sparkly VW Golf which I’ve been whizzing around the Hertfordshire area since. 😀

Fingers crossed that your luck changes, Andrew.

I used to get frequent punctures thanks to contractors dropping screws – sometimes whole boxes of them – where I worked. I’ve not had a puncture since I retired in 2011 because I hate driving with a space-saver wheel on the car.

I am confused by this post. The 18″ and 16″ are the measurements for the rim to rim metal part of the wheel and provided the 16″ tyre has a larger sidewall then there should be little difference in circumference. However that is to ignore the handling characteristics would be compromised,

I wonder if the 16″ is a limited use spare. Overall though the diameter of the spare tyre should be the same as the fitted tyres and of the same construction. It certainly seems odd and requiring some investigation.

It might be a simple mistake at production, it may be a limited use spare, somebody swapping out 18″ spares and replacing them with 16″ OE , or Vauxhall have a policy …………. the web is a wonderful thing:

mokkaownersclub.co.uk/forum/spare-wheel_topic61.html

If you have a full size spare, you would get value out of it by making regular use of it, if you could be bothered. If the space it took up was a real problem when you wanted to load the boot up, well you could always take the risk, leave it at home and carry a can of sealant just in case (and belong to a motoring organisation!). However, that doesn’t work well with tyre pressure sensors does it? Your computer would not recognise it and it may well be an MoT failure if a warning does not operate correctly? Or could you set it to suit the wheel it replaces? So I’m still in favour of a full-size spare.

TPS can be troublesome and a friend had no end of hassle with a Renault Laguna, so they are something I have avoided so far. I believe that there are ones that don’t use batteries, which might be more reliable.

Full-size spare wheels require manufacturers to be clever enough to provide storage for them in case we decide on that option. I think we are more likely to see puncture-proof tyres rather than a return to full-size spares.

Are 14″ 4 hole spare wheels bog standard across a range of vehicles. IMy wife runs a skoda citigo and is anxious to fit a run flat or full spare. The size is 165-70-14. Would appreciate any comments Thanks

The stupidity of manufacturers in getting rid of spare wheels has led to the development of ‘universal spare wheels’ that will act as temporary spare wheels for many cars: http://www.rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/how-universal-spare-wheels-fix-no-spare-breakdowns

It’s worth taking advice from a Skoda dealer even if you purchase a spare elsewhere.