People don’t usually think about spare tires until they need them – and if you have a flat tire, that’s a pretty bad time to learn that the spare tire you thought was in your trunk isn’t there. Drivers have been conditioned to think of spare tires as a standard feature with all new cars – but that is changing and consumers need to re-calibrate their expectations. According to AAA, more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire.
Part of the reason that auto makers give is saving weight to achieve fuel efficiency standards. It’s also space saving, particularly for hybrids and sports cars. More and more new cars are eliminating the spare tire and including inflator kits instead. Some cars are equipped with “run-flat” tires, but these tend to be available only in luxury models.
So how much can you rely on the inflator kits? According to AAA, they have limited use:
“AAA tested the most common tire inflator kits in today’s vehicles and found that the units worked well in some scenarios, but they are not a substitute for a spare tire. For an inflator kit to work effectively, a tire must be punctured in the tread surface and the object must remain in the tire. Used correctly, the kit then coats the inner wall of the tire with a sealant and a compressor re-inflates the tire. If the puncture-causing object is no longer in the tire, a sidewall is damaged or a blowout occurs, a tire inflator kit cannot remedy the situation and the vehicle will require a tow.”
Plus, AAA says that inflator kits can be a costly alternative: “With some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.”
Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.
This video demonstrates how to use a tire inflator kit on a Chevy Malibu.