Automakers’ decision to eliminate the spare tire may leave more than 30 million drivers vulnerable at the roadside, according to new research from AAA.
Tire inflator kits, a high-cost alternative for consumers, have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for many common tire-related problems. AAA calls on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of the spare tire.
List Of Vehicles Sold Without a Spare
“Flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, we have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.”
Along with run-flat tires, tire inflator kits have replaced spare tires on 29 million vehicles in the last 10 model years, steadily increasing from five percent of 2006 model year vehicles to more than one-in-three 2015 model year vehicles (36 percent) sold. While each four-pound kit eliminates approximately 30 pounds of weight, resulting in minimal savings in fuel consumption, the replacement cost is high. 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.
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.
And of interest to car owners in northern states, freezing temperatures may further leave motorists in the cold, according to Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group. As the sealant is a liquid, an inflation kit can be rendered unusable at low temperatures. Only after the kit is warmed to thaw the sealant can the kit be used, he said.
“The spare tire has become a casualty in an effort to reduce weight and boost fuel mileage to meet stringent fuel economy standards,” continued LaDoucer. “AAA calls on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of the spare tire.”
AAA offers the following tips for owners of vehicles with tire inflator kits or those shopping for a new vehicle: