RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Drivers are demanding ever more fuel efficiency from new cars, and automakers are responding.
But at least one of the ways automakers are boosting efficiency has the potential to leave motorists stranded — they’re removing the spare tire.
Changing a flat tire is one of the easiest do-it-yourself vehicle repairs, but only if you actually have a spare tire.
Dropping the spare makes your vehicle lighter, in turn boosting gas mileage.
Some drivers don’t even know if they have a spare.
“I’m pretty sure it does,” said driver Michael Palko when CBS North Carolina consumer reporter Steve Sbraccia asked whether his car had a spare.
He said he’s never looked for one.
AAA says 28 percent of vehicles sold in 2017 had no spare tire, and and an increasing number of its roadside assistance calls involve missing spares.
Between January and Sept of 2016, AAA of the Carolinas says, the group responded to almost 2,500 flat tire calls where there was no spare. Nationally, the agency says, the numbers of ‘no spare’ calls was over 450,000 last year.
In place of spare tires,some auto makers are offering an inflator and a tire patch kit, but those items are no use if a tire suffers sidewall damage, AAA road service technician Jerome Bowman said.
“The kit will not work, mainly because the puncture is too wide and the sealant will come right out,” he said.
A study AAA conducted in 2015 found that tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage and blowouts.
“Tire-inflator kits and other temporary fixes may bring a false sense of comfort to drivers,” says Tiffany Wright, who is the president of AAA Carolinas’ Foundation for Traffic Safety.
If you are buying a new car, don’t assume it has a spare. Ask the dealer. If doesn’t, you might consider buying one. It’s expensive—but it’ll give you peace of mind.