Would you buy a car without a spare tire? Someday, you may have no choice.
Gene Peterson of Consumer Reports has an interesting item this week on the gradual disappearance of the spare tire:
But now we're seeing the days of the temporary tire dwindling, with more cars eliminating the spare altogether (along with the tools to change a spare).
So what's a motorist to do? To deal with the "spareless" car, manufacturers are equipping some models with run-flat tires, which when deflated offer limited mobility -- typically 50 miles at speeds less than 55 mph. BMW, for example, has been a big proponent of run-flat tires. We also see these types on sporty cars with limited space. We've written extensively about Toyota Sienna AWD models using run-flats as well. Early generations of run-flat tires rode stiffly and wore-out quickly. They've gotten better, but if your car has run-flats, your replacement tire choice might be limited. Plus, run-flats often cost more than conventional tires.
The other approach manufacturers have taken is to equip cars with a tire repair kit consisting of an air compressor and a canister of sealant.
So why the shift away from spare tires? Eric Peters blogging at the National Motorists Association has an explanation: Bigger wheels and shrinking trunks. Peters points out that a few decades ago when full-size spares reigned supreme, a trunk big enough to smuggle a baby grand piano used to be the industry norm. But now, smaller cars with designs created to maximize interior space are the norm, as are SUVs with smaller "cargo areas" rather than trunks.
For a while, car designers dealt with this trend by shrinking spare tires into "space-saver" spares, those little doughnuts concealed under a cover in car trunks that can get you to the next service station, and that's about it.
But even space-saver spares may not have a place in the autos of the future. That's because car wheels have grown due to consumer preference for eye-catching alloy wheels, meaning the size of spare that will work safely with the three intact tires has also increased.
This is a tough problem and I feel for the auto engineers out there, but I'm just not willing to go without some kind of a spare tire. Sure, tires are more reliable than they were when full-size spares were the norm. And some may point to the canister of sealant and say, that's good enough. But that's not going to help you if you suffer a severe blowout.
I once tried to use a sealant canister to temporarily repair a tire with a one-inch rip in the sidewall. The rip made a mockery of the sealant canister, and I ended up having to break out my space-saver spare. Bottom line: I think if I did buy a car with a sealant canister instead of a spare, I'd make sure to pick up an AAA membership, too, since a tow would likely be in my future.
What do you think?