Spare tires: a thing of the past?

Could Be a Thing of the Past

Larry Jewett - August 12, 2011 09:00 AM



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When you buy a car these days, you’d better look in the trunk. The idea of a spare tire, even a compact spare tire (aka “donut”), may become a thing of the past.

It seems more and more, auto manufacturers are trying to reduce curb weight in an attempt to chase down high miles-per-gallon gas standards and environmental controls set upon them by the government. Fewer GM models will have spares in 2012. This company, though not alone, has been leaving them out of some cars for years. They did it 10 years ago with the Corvette Z06, so you can see this is not a new idea.

Not all of us were buying Corvette Z06s in 2001 and may have missed the memo about the lack of a spare tire. At first, it seemed to be only the performance cars that got the weight break, but it is creeping into the sedate sedan line.

It was bad enough when you went to the temporary spare. It wasn’t a full-sized wheel and tire, but it would get the job done in a pinch. Now, the answer seems to be a “road repair kit,” essentially a product used to fill small punctures. What happens when it’s not a small puncture?

Roadside assistance will become a popular checked box on new car purchases, but the busy, on-the-go professional doesn’t have time to sit and wait for a service truck. There are circumstances when you just need to change the tire and go.

It happened to me in February. The left rear tire blew out, and I do mean really blew out. No chemical product was going to get me on my way (For the record, the chemical product does have a purpose and a good one, but not in this case). I happened to be on the interstate on my way to the airport. Since I am old school in a few ways, I was fortunate. One of those ways that I refuse to change is the presence of a full-sized spare in my trunk. I was able to pull over, change the tire, and continue on, making the flight. I didn’t have to worry about the limited life span of a temporary tire or the reduced speed requirements. I could motor on without worry. When I returned, it was a simple case of putting the temporary tire in the trunk until I could get a new full-sized tire in a couple of days. The temporary has since been retired to the garage again.

Maybe we were spoiled by the manufacturers providing a little extra in case of an unfortunate situation. Perhaps it was never their responsibility after all, and we’re simply seeing the situation balanced back to the way it should have been. It really looks like we’re having something taken from us, but think about it. If it is going to pick up a mile or two per gallon, it will add up, especially with the price of gas. It’s a trade-off – a little inconvenience versus savings in the long run. For now, I’ll keep the spare, even if I have to get it myself. Could be the first mod.