Your Car Maker Stole Your Spare Tire, What’s The Plan When Things Go Wrong?

Posted by

We walked the auto show floor looking for spare tires.  What we found should worry you.

Automakers are doing everything in their power to ditch the spare tire.  On cars and crossovers, full-size spares are long gone, but the “donut” compact spare is also endangered. The excuse car makers are using is that spare tires add weight and thus, make cars less fuel efficient. We’d believe them except that in the spot where the spare is suppose to be they are putting in subwoofers and amplifiers. A walk through the Boston Auto Show revealed that spares have disappeared from popular cars in every category. Yes, run-flat tires have been expanding slowly, but many of the new 2016 models we spotted don’t use run-flat tires and don’t have a compact spare either. And bear in mind that run-flats mean a tow if the sidewall is damaged.  They only work with certain types of flats.

Many 2016 models have no spares and no run-flat tires. So many that AAA created this handy list that details what models have what type of flat-tire plan. We spoke to a manufacturer who told us the included roadside assistance is the flat-tire plan. That means if one of your tires goes flat, then you call a tow truck and they take your car away. Imagine being in that situation with a baby in a car seat. If it is nighttime, Sunday, or a holiday you are without a car. We saw compact crossovers, mid-size sedans, and popular hybrid hatchbacks with no spare. These are not Vipers and Corvettes, but family cars.

flat tire repair-mazda miata 16

Automakers that are stealing your spare are leaving behind a prank they call a repair kit. Here’s how these work. First you find a safe place to deal with the situation, just like if you were going to put a spare on (or have AAA do it for you). Next, you remove the kit and start with the valve core removal tool. You use the tweezer-like tool to remove the tiny insert inside the air valve stem. The instructions caution that it could fly out and that you need to put it someplace clean because if it gets dirty, it won’t work when it goes back in.

While the core is out, you squeeze some liquid gunk into the tire. This assumes it is not -20F and that the liquid hasn’t changed phase to a solid. Once the fluid is in, you replace the tiny valve core. One quick note if you find your throat constricting and you are itchy all over. The repair liquids can contain liquid latex. One kit has this warning: “In case of allergic reaction or rash, consult physician immediately.” Once you have that teeny valve stem-core-thing back in properly, use the inflator to inflate the tire. This will take awhile. The pump is a little fella. Then you drive off, but not far. You stop after a bit and you get out and re-check the pressure. If all that worked, you drive on, slowly, and get the tire fixed ASAP. If it did not work you yell “FU…DGE” like Ralphy in A Christmas Story, and call the tow truck.

The all-new Chrysler Pacifica does offer a spare tire. In this case, a compact, inflatable spare tucked neatly inside the rear fender. These spares are deflated tires awaiting pumping by you with the little pump provided. This seems like a much better alternative than the silly kit and will work in the event of a side-wall tear. We should mention, though that the Chrysler Pacifica Limited replaces the tire with a vacuum cleaner (the most powerful in-van vacuum in its class!). You can order a Pacifica Limited with the vacuum deleted, but then you’re the only parent at the PG without one.

pacifica spare tire

A 2016 Dodge Dart Limited can come with a compact spare tire, but you have to pay an additional $395.00. That seems reasonable.  Dodge and Chrysler give you the option for a spare.  Many Jeeps still have full size, matching spares.  Why don’t all brands make spares available on family cars?

While we were at the show, we checked out the 2016 Lincoln Continental to see if it was sporting a Continental Kit, the most awesome of all spare tire appendages. It was not, so if you want to add your own you will just have to do what the most practical Miata owner in America did.

Miata continental kit