/ Motoring

Will the universal spare wheel save you when you break down?

Car wheel with a puncture

If you get a puncture that’s beyond repair in a car that lacks a spare wheel, there’s a good chance you’ll have to be towed to a garage by a breakdown provider. Not anymore.

If you bought a new car in 2013, there’s a one in two chance you’ll have a puncture repair kit in the boot of your car instead of a spare wheel, according to our research. But what happens if the tyre is damaged beyond repair?

You’ll have to call a breakdown service provider for assistance. However, it’s unlikely that they’ll have the correct tyre size aboard their patrol vehicle, so there’s a very good chance you’ll be towed to a local garage to have a new tyre fitted so you can continue your journey. Not the most time efficient remedy for something as small as a puncture.

However, a new product is now being used by some breakdown patrols which could be the answer to the problem.

AA and RAC carry a universal spare wheel

The AA and RAC, who collectively attend almost five million breakdowns on UK roads a year, now carry a new universal spare wheel.

This 17 inch wheel fits the majority of cars that have a five-stud wheel fitting. It cleverly allows the technician to change the positioning and diameter of where the wheel nuts and bolts attach to match the fitment on the wheel hub.

Once the universal spare wheel is fitted, you can continue on your journey. Then when you reach a garage to have a new tyre fitted to the wheel with the puncture, you leave the universal spare wheel at the garage and notify the breakdown provider so they can pick it back up.

Should your car have a spare wheel?

The universal spare wheel seems to offer the best of both worlds – you can benefit from the fuel-cost-saving effect of carrying a lightweight repair kit, but also have a spare wheel fitted by a breakdown service technician to all you to continue your journey.

However, is this a problem you should have to experience in the first place? I mean, you could be waiting around for quite some time before your breakdown provider arrives. Our latest survey of car breakdown services found that 55% of people had to wait between 31 minutes and an hour for assistance to arrive. A further 18% of stricken motorists had to wait for over an hour.

If your car just came with a spare wheel in the first place, you wouldn’t have to phone for breakdown assistance at all. While there are some running cost implications of carrying a spare or space-saver wheel, or extra charges from some manufacturers to include them, are you willing to live with the impracticalities of not having one? If not, then it’s worth paying a little extra for a spare wheel when buying a new car.

For those with a puncture repair kit, I think the universal spare wheel is a welcome addition to breakdown patrol vans across the country that will get many motorists out of a tight spot.


Very ingenious, but I hope the universal spare wheel will not be used by manufacturers as a further excuse to get rid of spare wheels from new models.

I would be interested to know if there is a speed or distance restriction on use of universal spare wheels.

The top priority when I replaced my car a couple of years ago was to get one with a spare wheel.


“Punctures and other tyre-related issues are the AA’s second-most common call-out – after batteries – averaging 35,000 a month or more than one in ten breakdowns.
When the wheel is fitted, the car is subject to a 50 mph maximum speed restriction. It is for temporary use only.”


Thanks dieseltaylor. That means that only a full-size spare wheel is the only option if you want to be able to drive normally after a puncture.

Brian says:
24 October 2014

Puncture.proof tyres work! They are not cheap! The cheapest I could find of the same make as specified by the car manufacturer(VW, Contiseals) was £175 per tyre. I have had the car for 3 years, during that period I have had no flat tyres. Have had one warning from the car saying I had one tyre a different shape to the other three(my interpretation of what the car manual told me, and may well be wrong), I stopped the car got out, kicked the tyres and couldn’t tell which tyre was in trouble, got back in the car, took the wife shopping, took the wife home again, still couldn’t tell which tyre was wrong. Got out the tyre pressure gauge and found tyre pressures of 41,41,41,36. Tyre pressures are supposed to be 41 PSI all round. I then wrang up my favourite tyre firm, he told me to pump up that one tyre back up to 41 psi and he would bring a tyre which he wouldto fit on my drive, he drive where liked, he doubted I would hear the warning siren( I had previously reset it). When my tyre an turned up he had a quick look round the tyres, showed be the stub of a size 10 wood screw sticking out of an outer rear tyre and said ‘totally legal to plug that’ which he did and charged me £30 . He said ‘there’s at least another 15,000 miles in that’. I and my wife are 79 years of age and do not fancy hanging around in cold car or changing a wheel in bad weather, so this was ideal. A prearranged 30minute job on my front drive was by far the least hassle I’ve had with flat tyres. Should say I could never have afforded any of this in my younger days, but over the last few years proved itself to be a Godsend. I should say the car tyre warning siren went off on two other occasions, once for 41,41,41,51 – entirely my fault. And once for a missing valve cap and slow leak, once again entirely my fault.
My tyreman said that after I had blown up the tyre the warning would not have gone off again for another three months, with the screw still in it.
Hope this helps, you can see that that there is a lot for and against all the different ways of dealing with a flat, I would just like to say this latest car manufacturer’s gimmick suits what a couple of old dodderers want, that is – minimum mental and physical stress.f


Good that they have worked for you Brian. And that there was need to pay for a new tyre.

The early generations of run-flats gave a very harsh ride and of course availability if they had to be replaced was also a consideration. The AA article said 17% of their members had run-flats.

I had a look at the availability of winter/ run-flats as both can be rare beasts and it is quite good provided you do not need them on the day. One major on-line chain has become notorious for promising them, then asking for payment to their bank account before the tyres are despatched from Germany.

Incidentally this quote from mytyres ” The fuel consumption is reduced as a run-flat tyre does not weigh as much as a normal tyre.” is totally untrue as they are significantly heavier

smike says:
24 October 2014

If the Universal Spare is five stud as reported, it will only fit a small minority of – mainly upmarket – cars. The majority of cars are fitted with 4 stud wheels.

However, this initiative, though a commendable ,attempt to deal with a problem unnecessarily foisted on us by manufacturers looking to reduce their costs.

The problem need not exist. Manufacturers should be pressed to reinstate the spare wheel.

24 October 2014

40 years in car trade .retired.ge-tting worse all the time.spare wheel is a must..space saver 2nd. got new volvo v60 no space saver jack or spanner (i’ve got plenty) waiting 3 weeks + for space saver from main agents who sent to sweden for it.. i got a space saver from scrape yard (volvo one) painted it along with jack & wheel spanner £25 most important it’s the correct size outside of tyre top to bottom as one on car not like most space savers which are smaller good luck to get all new cars to have a least a space saver.safty ..and…money wise.(if you carnt change wheel do drive) good luck.colin..

Rockturtle15 says:
24 October 2014

3 punctures in three years. Tyre repair kit not able to repair any of them. Will not buy another Skoda unless it has spare tyre.
Come on WHICH lets get the manufacturers to put in spare tyres. They are not listening to their customers.
Last puncture at 5.00pm instead of being on my way in 30 minutes it took 6 hours.