The spare tire has long been a fixture in the car trunk. Should you have a flat on the side of the road, you go to the trunk and pull out your spare and jack. They were in every car -- until recently. According to Consumer Reports, some new cars no long come standard with a spare tire. For drivers in major cities, who have easy access to emergency roadside assistance, this may not be a major issue. In rural areas, where roadside assistance may not be as readily available, spare tires are important though.
Reasons To Ditch Spares
Recent advances in automotive technology have reduced how often drivers get flats. Both the materials used in tires and the methods for tire construction are better than decades ago, so flats are less common. In its article, Consumer Reports notes that drivers average seven years between flat tires. Because flat tires are uncommon, both drivers and auto manufacturers have focused their attention on other issues: cost and fuel mileage. Removing spare tires from cars helps with both of these.
The exact amount an automaker saves by eliminating spare tires from their vehicles depends on the quality of the spare. One manufacturer reportedly saves $22 per vehicle by replacing tires with repair kits, which include a small pump and some sealant. Over the course of one year, that small per-car reduction added up to a savings of $4.4 million for the company.
As far as weight is concerned, the weight of a spare tire might seem insignificant when compare to the total weight of a car. The EPA places the average weight of a passenger tire at 20 pounds. Although small, eliminating these 20 pounds will provide a small boost in fuel economy, since the car's engine has that much less weight to move.
In some cases, this difference could actually increase a car's marketed fuel economy by a one full mile per gallon, because the EPA rounds its calculations to the nearest whole number. For example, if a car's fuel economy was 29.499 mpg, removing the spare tire might boost the fuel economy to 29.5001 mpg. The fuel rating people would see when they are looking at this car would increase from 29 (29.4999 rounded down) to 30 (29.5001 rounded up).
Alternatives to Spare Tires
Auto manufacturers that are doing away with spare tires in their vehicles offer drivers three main alternatives for when they get a flat:
All of these alternatives have drawbacks. Roadside assistance is only helpful if you break down in an area with cell phone coverage, which is a concern for rural drivers more than city drivers. Run-flat tires are designed to operate with little air pressure, but only for a short distance. Tire repair kits can fix small punctures, but they are of no use if a tire's sidewall is torn up.
Ultimately, none of these alternatives are as capable as a full-size spare tire. Even a space-saver spare is more versatile than these solutions.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Many automakers have already removed spare tires from some of their vehicles, in order to reduce their costs and boost their car's fuel economy. Many drivers in cities are willing to give up the spare for these advantages, realizing that they have easy access to roadside assistance and tire repair shops should they get a flat.
Drivers in rural areas, however, must decide whether a slight savings and small increase in fuel economy are worth the risk of being stranded in the country. If you drive in areas where cell phone coverage is spotty and the next tire repair shop might be more than 50 miles away, think carefully before buying a car without a spare tire. Should you get a flat on a remote back road, a full-sized spare might be your only hope. The next time you're buying a new car, make sure it has a spare tire for peace of mind.Share
4 March 2015
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