Spare wheels, or rather the lack of them, is one of the things that really makes some drivers mad. A recent survey showed the lack of a full-size spare was the biggest wind-up for two thirds of drivers (65%).
Should you carry a spare really depends on your attitude to being stranded with a puncture. Here we look at the reasons for and against the spacesaver spare wheel.
How often do we have punctures?
Statistically speaking, we each have a puncture about every five years. Rainy days make punctures more likely because the wet acts as a lubricant so it’s easier for sharp objects to slip into the tyre. But obviously, the more miles you cover, the more likely you are to pick one up. And the worse the roads are around you, the greater the chance of a pothole-induced puncture.
Why no spare?
Car makers spend millions shaving grams off the weight of their cars. One of the sacrifices they’ve made along the way is to the spare wheel. It’s big, heavy and takes up a lot of room. The average 17” wheel and tyre weigh around 15kg. Carting that around wherever you go takes fuel and causes extra exhaust emissions. Doing away with it makes cars more fuel efficient and planet friendly.
The alternative to a spare
We’ve already looked at inflation kits which the car makers are increasingly using to replace spare wheels. Although these aren’t perfect, in a way we’ve only got ourselves to blame. When they conducted research into spare wheels, tyre companies found that around a third (30%) were no use. That’s because tucked away under the boot or beneath the car, we tend to forget to look after them.
What is a spacesaver spare wheel?
A space saver looks like a regular steel wheel that’s been on a severe diet. Change onto one of these and your top speed is limited to 50mph. In addition, you’re not supposed to cover large distances on them. They really are just a get-you-home option.
Can you buy space savers?
If you’re picking the optional extras for a new car, many manufacturers give you the chance to choose a spacesaver spare wheel. They usually cost around £120. If you really want one, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to buy one retrospectively, as long as your car isn’t too old.
Does your car have room for one?
Some car makers use the room created by losing the spare wheel to incorporate batteries, speakers, maybe even parts of the fuel tank or perhaps just extra storage. Before you think about buying a space saver, make sure your car has room for one.
Do you want to change wheels?
Whether to buy a spare wheel or not depends on your attitude to changing wheels. Some people don’t mind doing it. Others can’t be bothered. Yet more simply don’t have the physical strength to pull a heavy wheel off and heave it into the boot. If you ring your breakdown service as soon as you get a puncture, why bother with a spare wheel? Just outsource the problem to them.
And if this is for a second car that rarely ventures out of town or hardly ever does long journeys, even more reason to rely on the puncture repair kit/breakdown operator.
But if you want to have your destiny in your own hands, that is a very good reason to buy a spacesaver.