Dear Driving for Dollars,
I bought a new car a few months ago, and I just noticed that it doesn't have a spare tire. Instead, there is a unit labeled "tire-repair kit" that looks like it just inflates the flat tire, but I thought that only worked in some situations. Should I be worried?
These days, automakers are working hard to reduce the weight in the cars they build as a way to meet the new and more stringent fuel economy requirements set by the government. As a result, most new cars no longer have a spare tire. In fact, about 36% of 2015 model-year cars came equipped only with tire-inflation kits, according to AAA.
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The big disadvantage is that these kits don't work if there is damage to the sidewall or a full blowout. In those instances, you'll have to wait for a tow truck if you don't have a spare.
Mix of opinion on tire-repair kits
There are mixed opinions about how well the tire-repair kits work on flat tires as a result of tread damage. A recent study by AAA where numerous kits were tested found that they worked only if the damage to the tire was in the tread area and the object causing the flat remained in the tire. ITW Global Tire Repair, the parent company of Fix-A-Flat, says it has conducted thousands of tests and found that its kits consistently seal punctures in the tread, with or without the object in the tire.
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However, according to tire retailer Bridgestone, tire-repair kits are useful in repairing 85% of flat tires "in most scenarios."
For more details, read one-third of cars missing spare tires.