Buyers Beware Spare Tires Are On Endangered List
|   Tuesday, August 19, 2014
If you are in the market for a new car and worry if all the pieces you normally expect in your new car will be there when you need them take a quick look in the trunk for a spare tire.

According to "Consumer Reports," more and more automakers are dumping even the high-pressure doughnut spare tire that replaced the full-sized spare more than 30 years ago in favor of no-spare-at-all. Or to put it another way, when you try to pick up the floorboard under which you would normally find a spare tire in the trunk of a sedan, you will likely find either a floor or the cutout for the spare, but the spare will be gone.


The reason the Consumer magazine believes is that the auto industry is trying to shed what it considers to be every extra ounce of unneeded weight in the car and they apparently believe the spare is one of the tickets to easily losing nearly 50 pounds or more of weight. That puts the spare on the endangered list.

Oh, the consumer magazine's Jim Travers writes, the industry won't leave you high and dry at the side of the road with a flat when the inevitable flat does occur, however, when you pop the trunk lid and search around like a manic mechanic for the spare that isn't there, you will find, instead:

A can of high-pressure tire sealant
A small compressor that may take an hour or so to fill the "repaired" tire, if the compressor lasts that long without burning out from overwork.

Travers notes in the current Consumer Reports that the existence of run-flat tires in some upscale specialty models has given the industry the impetus to put the spare tire on the automotive endangered species list. The run-flat tire is a specially designed tire that either contains a gel-like substance that will slow air leaking out after a puncture occurs on the tread. Or, the other variant is a special bladder, not unlike the old-fashioned tire inner tube, but nowhere near as rugged, that gives you a few miles of extra wheel time before you hear the telltale "flap-flap-flap" and feel the vehicle fighting you as the air finishes leaking out of the tire.

Neither run-flat system is meant to keep your car running for the rest of the year or until you get around the buying a new tire for the wheel. Instead, you may get anywhere from 10 to 100 miles of extra wheel time before your tire becomes a pancake. And, that's when the puncture is on the tread.

What happens, Travers asks, when the tire is ripped along the bead edge or sidewall. Neither system can handle that situation very well. And, the compressor/tire sealant is much more suspect in respect to tread and sidewall or bead rips or tears.

Consumer Reports notes that the industry, as a whole, won't leave you high and dry, with only the run-flat or compressor/sealant kit. Instead, you will have to go to the aftermarket – Pep Boys, AutoZone, Western Auto – where you will be able to buy whatever style spare you want to buy.

If you need a new run-flat spare, the people at the aftermarket store will look up the wheel replacement part number and you can then order the replacement run-flat, although you may find the cost daunting. Recent conversations with tire specialists show that many expensive tires can cost you up to $500 for the privilege of purchasing one.

If you are just looking for a high-pressure doughnut spare, the cost will still be anywhere from $100 to $300 because once the automaker has dumped the spare, the next inevitable piece out the window, so to speak, is the jack and wrench that weight about 10 pounds and the hold-downs, too.

Why is this happening? Consumer Reports, as noted, says that the industry, as a whole is under huge pressure to increase mileage as the newer CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards push the auto industry to get the most an automaker can get from a gallon of fuel.

The industry, Consumer Reports, has latched onto this government shield to hide behind, of course, however, they also have two other retorts when questioned about the whereabouts of the missing spare.

The first retort from the industry is that the public just doesn't know how to use the jack to change tires anymore and they don't know what to do with the spare they find there. Instead, the industry believes that most drivers will just call roadside service and wait for the ramp truck to appear and haul their car into a car tire store. The industry, obviously believes this is true, when it also notes that since today's tires are so reliable there's a fair chance the spare may never see the light of day.

The industry points to the fact that fewer and fewer people know how to use a standard and it is likely that the standard transmission may go the way of the dodo bird, as well.
PHOTO GALLERY
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