The Amazing Disappearing Spare Tire

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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Getting a flat tire is always an unexpected challenge, but if a current trend continues you may face another surprise the next time a flat tire strands you at the roadside. AAA research found that over the last dozen years automakers have been eliminating spare tires from their vehicles. Today, approximately 30 percent of new cars come without a spare (up from just 5 percent in 2006) and it is estimated there are more than 30 million cars on the road that lack a spare tire.
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The main reason manufacturers are removing spare tires is tough new government fuel economy standards. A spare tire, vehicle jack and related tools can weigh 30 pounds or more. While this might not seem like much, getting rid of the weight provides a small but measurable increase in fuel economy … an increase automakers like because it saves them money in the process. Removing the spare can also free up space for cargo and passengers. Additionally, automakers say the tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) on newer cars reduce the likelihood of being stranded by the roadside with a flat tire – although AAA road service numbers do not bear this out.


What Should You Do?

First, determine whether your car has a spare tire. Most cars without them are equipped with either run-flat tires or a tire sealant/inflator kit. See your owner’s manual for more information. Run-flat tires can be driven at reduced speeds for limited distances without air pressure. Tire sealant/inflator kits can temporarily repair small punctures, but are ineffective for larger leaks or tire sidewall damage.

If a run-flat tire loses air pressure, or a conventional flat tire is fixed with sealant/inflator kit, immediately take the car to a quality tire repair facility, such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop, as soon as possible for a permanent tire repair. If you used a sealant/inflator kit, you should also replace that, which can cost up to $300 for certain vehicles. Some sealants have expiration dates and require replacement every four to eight years whether they are used or not.

Spare tires are optional on many cars, and AAA recommends the additional investment when buying a new vehicle. The cost of a spare tire may be less than that of replacing a sealant/inflator kit, and it will help ensure your mobility regardless of the reason for a flat. If your current car lacks a spare, auto dealers and aftermarket tire retailers sell spare tires and the related tools for vehicles that originally came with a sealant/inflator kit. The cost typically ranges from $300 to $600 depending on the vehicle.

Whatever you do, do not get caught with a flat tire, no spare, no run-flat tires, no sealant/inflator kit and no plan for what to do next. To minimize roadside frustration and delays, review the flat tire procedures for your car today. If you are among those drivers who would rather let someone else deal with a flat, make sure you have your AAA membership card with you at all times.

Good car maintenance can help reduce the likelihood of getting a flat. Keep your tires properly inflated and have them periodically rotated by an auto repair shop to equalize wear and extend tire life. Replace your tires promptly when they become worn; the less tread a tire has the more vulnerable it is to suffering a puncture.


Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/AutoRepair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.
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