What if I don’t have a spare tire?

February 23, 2017

Many cars don’t come equipped with a spare tire. I didn’t realize this until a few days ago when a friend and I were talking about flat tire incident I dealt with a few months ago. She mentioned to me that there wasn’t a spare in her car. I chuckled at her, and asked her if I could check for her. In the end, she was entirely right. She didn’t have a spare tire. In its place, there was a repair kit that consisted of some tire sealant and an inflation kit.

A bit of online research on the topic proved to me that many cars nowadays don’t even come with spare tires. Some are equipped with a tire sealant kit, while others come with run-flat tires. So, what can you do if your car doesn’t have a spare tire?

If your car came with a tire sealant kit, that kit can be used to repair a small hole in the tread. (If the hole is in the sidewall of the tire, the sealant won’t reliably repair it.) If you have a flat tire, and you have the misfortune of having to figure out how the contraption works, read the directions before attempting the repair, because the directions will vary from model to model.  When you’ve stopped the car, taken the safety precautions to make sure your car is easily visible, get the repair kit out. Unscrew the valve stem cap from the tire, and attach the hose of the sealant kit to the valve. Plug the machine into an accessory power outlet or cigarette lighter in the car. After starting the car, turn the switch to the “Sealant and Air” position. When you press the “ON” button, the machine will put sealant into your tire. The air entered at the same time will help with two things. It will push the sealant towards the tire’s exit point, and thus towards the hole in your tire. It will also serve the obvious purpose of re-inflating your tire. Check the inflation specifications required for your vehicle. (There’s a placard on the inside of the door that tells the inflation levels required for your car.) After filling your tires to this level, and double checking that the sealant worked properly, drive your car to a gas station or safe parking lot to check on the tire. Since it’s not very safe to drive on a resealed tire, take your car into the shop as soon as possible, and get the flat tire repaired or replaced. (The tire sealant can also damage your tire pressure monitoring system sensor, requiring you to replace it when you get your flat fixed. It will also coat the inside of your rim with the sealant, making the repair cost a little more than you take it into the shop to be fixed.)

If you’re stuck on the side of the road, and there doesn’t seem to be a spare tire or sealant kit in your car, your car is probably equipped with run flat tires. Run flat tires are tires specifically engineered to keep you car going, even when your tire loses pressure. These tires, while safe for about fifty miles, can’t be repaired. In the long run, they save the time you’d be spending on the side of the road. While they are a little more expensive, they can save you a lot of time in the long run.

While most cars come with a spare tire, the cars that aren’t equipped with one will usually come with an alternate method of repair, allowing you to get your car back on the road as quickly as possible. So- why do manufacturers provide these other flat tire repair methods? There are many reasons manufacturers make this choice. First of all, since spare tires are pretty heavy, the addition of a spare tire to your car can decrease your miles per gallon significantly. Next, most car owners prefer their trunk space and passenger space to the addition of a jack and spare tire. Also, until the moment you actually get a flat tire, the spare is the least of your concerns. Lastly, most car owners are uncomfortable putting on a spare tire, and would much prefer to either re-inflate the tire with a sealant kit, or spend a little more money for a run flat tire. For these reasons, manufactures have started building cars that carry a sealant kit, or installing run flat tires as the OE tire of their vehicles. (Nationwide had a post explaining in detail why many car companies have stopped building cars that carry spares, and why it’s important to learn how to work with the changing market.)

If your car doesn’t have a spare tire, make sure you know what to do when you get a flat. Locate the sealant kit in your car, or double check that you have run flat tires. This way, you’ll be prepared for any problems that might arise from a stray nail on the road.

There are many towing companies that would be more than willing to take care of you if you do find yourself confused on the side of the road. They can pack up your car for you and bring you to your nearest repair shop to get your car checked out.

In any case, keeping your tires properly inflated can prevent your flat tire from turning into a dangerous blowout. Also, remember, it’s dangerous to drive on a resealed tire, and even on a run flat. Try to take your tire in to a mechanic or repair shop as soon as you can, so they can help get you back on the road!