If you’ve looked inside the trunk of any car built since the early 2000s the first thing you’ll notice is there’s not much in the trunk.
Where’s the spare?
You might find a “space-saver” tire under the trunk floor but this isn’t a real spare because a spare is by definition another item exactly like the one it replaces. Space-saver tires do not replace flat tires. They temporarily (it’s right there on the warning label) enable you to get back on the road – but just barely, no more than about 50 miles – in order to gimp the car – at no more than about 50 MPH – to the closest-available tire store in order to get the damned thing off the car and get a real tire put back on.
So you can resume driving normally – and safely.
The reason you can’t drive normally or safely on the temporary-use-only space-saver tire is chiefly because of mismatch.
In order to “save space,” the temporary-use-only spare is very skinny relative to the tire it temporarily replaces. The same diameter as the others but often less than half the width. This means the car is a three-legged dog, with one contact patch that’s barely contacting anything. It makes for weird handling and braking – which is why the many yellow warning stickers on the space-saver tire about it being for temporary-use-only and admonishing you to not drive faster than 50 MPH and not much farther than 50 miles.
The reason why most cars built since the early 2000s do not have full-size spares that match the other tires on the car and which when mounted permit you to drive as far as you need to go and without weird/dangerous handling/braking issues has to do with the government’s mania about making (by mandate) cars more “efficient.”
Whether decreeing the gas mileage the cars we buy deliver is any of the government’s legitimate business – in a supposedly free society – is a whole ‘nother question but the fact remains the government does decree it. And that means the car companies must comply with it. If they don’t, fines descend – and these are then passed on to us, to punish us for buying cars that the government thinks use “too much” gas.
In order to avoid this, the car companies resort to weight-shaving as the heavier a car is, the more fuel it uses. And one easy way to drop about 50 pounds – a significant weight savings – is to get rid of the full-size spare and replace it with . . . a barely usable and objectively dangerous “space saver” tire.
Which gives you some idea about the government’s priorities – as well as its intelligence.
Most people would probably agree that the extra 50 pounds of real spare tire is worth avoiding the prospect of having to drive an unsafe car – and being unable to drive that car very far.
But tell it to Uncle.
And even the space-saver is going away – for the same reason. It’s not 50 pounds but it is something and if you replace that with nothing . . .
Instead of a space-saver tire (and the necessary but increasingly flimsy – also to save weight – jacking apparatus, which is another safety issue but never mind) a can of aerosol sealant and a very lightweight air pump you plug into the car’s cigarette lighter. You screw the sealant can onto the valve stem of the damaged tire; goop goes in, plugging the leak. The mini air compressor re-inflates the tire and off you go.
This does eliminate the three-legged-dog problem (though the “fixed” tire is still damaged and care should be exercised driving on it) and it’s less messy and a lot less work, since you don’t need to jack up anything or remove/replace the damaged tire with a spare, space-saver or real.
The problem of immobility. Of not being able to drive even temporarily – to anywhere, at any speed.
Because inflator kits can’t fix damaged sidewalls, tears and such. They are only good for the minor puncture wound as by a nail in the tread. If you have sidewall damage or a major tear, you aren’t going anywhere. You will have to be towed. Or wait until a roadside assistance truck shows up with a real spare tire. Which might be hours or even not until tomorrow. Which might not be convenient, assuming you haven’t got hours to wait or a day to kill.
So it might be a good idea to get a real spare tire and put it in the trunk for just-in-case. Some specific details – and cautions are here. If you get a flat, you won’t be stuck – and you won’t be gimped. Even more important, it will be safe to drive the car.
You’d think the government would be more interested in that – given all the prattling (and mandating) about saaaaaaaaaaaafety – as opposed to the half-an-MPG that’s “saved” by replacing a real spare with a space-saver.
Or by nothing at all.
. . .
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