Absent spare tyres leave motorists stranded

September 19, 2014 | By | In Buying Guides
Absent spare tyres leave motorists stranded

When was the last time you checked the condition of your spare tyre? Chances are, it wasn’t recently.

Should you get a puncture you could be in for a nasty shock if you drive a car built in the last decade, as an increasing number of new cars are ditching spare wheels completely.

This means that should you get a flat tyre and flip up the boot floor, there could be nothing more than a can of tyre sealant in your car – suitable only for repairing very minor punctures.

The reasons for this according to the RAC are that: “spare wheels are heavy and the motoring industry is under increasing pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Leaving the spare wheel out can save up to 25kg in extra weight and help improve fuel efficiency.

“Secondly, from a practical perspective, there is increasing demand from motorists for larger boot space. Families in particular, are looking for the maximum number of seats with enough space for pushchairs and luggage. Removing the spare wheel gives manufacturers the opportunity to provide additional seating which can be folded away when not in use.”

As a result of the disappearance of standard-fit spares (many companies will sell you an optional spare tyre – for a cost), recovery services, the AA and RAC, have seen a dramatic increase in the number of callouts purely because a car has had a puncture and doesn’t have a spare.

Wind back to 2010 and the RAC attended 29,063 callouts for those without a spare tyre. The figure for 2013 however stands at 93,896 – a vast 223 per cent increase – resulting from the fact that fewer new cars include standard spares than in 2010.

Spare wheels are heavy and the motoring industry is under increasing pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Leaving the spare wheel out can save up to 25kg in extra weight and help improve fuel efficiency.

The picture is similarly dramatic with the AA, with an absent spare tyre accounting for 0.4 per cent of callouts in 2010 but 1.2 per cent in 2014 so far. AA figures date back to 2005 when 0.0 per cent of callouts were attributed to not having a spare. Even in 2008 the figure stood at just 0.2 per cent, showing that the proportion of drivers afflicted by missing spares is rising quickly as owners replace their cars with newer models.

This is supported by callout statistics from the RAC. The organisation attended 33 per cent more incidents where drivers didn’t have a spare in 2013 than in 2012, accounting for a substantial four per cent of all callouts. Breakdowns jumped 68 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011 and 45 per cent more in 2011 over 2010 for the same reason.

The RAC predicts that the total number of avoidable callouts for people with flat tyres could rise to 250,000, with 2014 figures on track to hit the predicted 120,000 callouts by the end of the year.

With significant pressure on car companies from government to reduce emissions and improve economy, it is unlikely that heavy spare tyres will become mainstream again anytime soon.

Consequently, the RAC has developed its own “universal spare” which should fit to most cars, in the event of them not having their own to use. Introduced in January this year “the universal spare wheel has been used in excess of 30,000 times so far this year”, says an RAC spokesperson.

While this is an answer for motorists not confident enough to change a tyre themselves, many drivers may want to invest in their own spare if they’re not happy chancing it, or attempting to use a puncture repair kit. While some cars, in particular many BMWs, include run-flat tyres, which can be driven on at up to 50mph temporarily to get you home, other drivers may want to have a look under their boot floor just so they know whether or not they’ve got a spare, should they need it.

Picture: flairimages

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