Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Michelle asks: Our Mini doesn’t have a spare tire. Instead, it comes with an inflator/repair kit. I am not happy about this because I know these kits are only useful if you have a small puncture in the tread. If the tire’s sidewall is damaged, you’re stuck! Do you think it would be a good idea to get a real spare tire for just in case?
My reply: We’ve been gypped – again – by the government/corporate nexus.
The reason many new cars no longer come even with space-saver “temporary use” tires is because of the now-frantic need to shave weight wherever feasible and no matter how little – for the sake of achieving even a fractional increase in gas mileage, in order to “comply” with federal mandatory minimum MPG fatwas.
So, spare tires got chucked in favor of these repair kits, which weigh almost nothing. And cost almost nothing. Well, they cost the car companies almost nothing – like the self-checkout kiosks taking the place of cashiers and baggers – which cost the stores nothing but cost us a lot.
What you get is a small bottle of goo – to repair the puncture – and either a small C02 canister to fill the fixed tire or a small air pump to do the same.
The upside is it’s easy – and isn’t dirty. Jacking up a car and pulling a flat tire in street clothes usually ruins the street clothes.
But, you’re not stuck.
Which you will be, if the flat tire isn’t fixable. That happens probably a third to half the time, and more so today because of today’s short-sidewall tires, which are more prone to sidewall damage because they flex less. One good pothole or curb strike and that’s enough, often enough.
Sure, you can call roadside assistance – but that can take hours. And if you’re in a not-safe place, that can be dangerous.
So, yes, I think getting a real spare is smart. Even if it’s only a mini-spare (one of those “temporary use only” spares). Much better than nothing.
Just make sure you get one designed to fit your vehicle and that you also get a small jack and lug wrench, without which you won’t be able to change the tire! I also advise stowing some old clothes – and a pair of gloves – you can slip on to perform the change without ruining the street clothes you were wearing when the tire went kaput!
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