Tyre trouble: Motorists left stranded as spares are scrapped
Motorists are being caught out when they suffer a blow-out – because they're unaware that many mainstream manufacturers supply new vehicles WITHOUT a spare tyre.
In its place is often a tyre repair kit, which uses sealant to repair a puncture, but the BBC has highlighted this system is not only alien and complicated for the average road user, but it can also be ineffective, leaving people stranded on the roadside.
Motoring breakdown service Green Flag has reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of stranded motorists it deals with and the RAC receives more than 80,000 calls a year from motorists with no spare tyre.
RAC patrolman Crackers Patel said on Wednesday night's Watchdog programme: "We have limited success with the sealant kits and, in some circumstances, we can't use the kits at all."
This was the case for one motorist featured on the programme as a case study, Robert Griffiths, who experienced a puncture on New Year's Day. One of his tyres on his 2010 Vauxhall Zafira was left completely shredded after a blow-out, rendering the standard sealant kit ineffective.
Claiming he could have changed the tyre, if there had been a spare, in 'just 15 minutes'. Griffiths was forced to call recovery services and his breakdown took a total of two-and-a-half hours to deal with.
But even those who manage to effectively use the sealant kits could still be in for a surprise. A number of mainstream tyre fitters are refusing to repair tyres that have been sealed with the kits, saying it's expensive and time-consuming to remove.
Motorists are then faced with big bills when a complete new tyre is required whereas if a spare had been used, simple and cheap repair would have been sufficient.
Tim Shallcross of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said manufacturers weren't really hoping to save money by abandoning the traditional spare tyre.
He told Autoblog: "Manufacturers try to make cars as light as possible because heavy cars use more fuel and emit more CO2.
"Safety equipment such as airbags and anti-lock brakes, along with our demand for extras such as air conditioning, have actually increased vehicle weights over the past few decades, so among other weight saving measures, most manufacturers have tried to reduce the weight of the spare wheel or eliminate it altogether.
"The sealant kit can be a useful emergency measure, but only if a puncture is in the main tread area. Sealants cannot repair a cut in the sidewall or a complete blow out, both of which are common types of puncture, so drivers may be left stranded."
Asking whether the car comes with a spare wheel is not a high priority among car buyers, although as more and more experience the inconvenience it may become more of an issue.
Peter Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, has responded to these accusations in the video below, but all motorists and consumers are being urged to check their vehicles and the specifications of any car they are looking to purchase.