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Old 12-06-2012, 08:16 AM   #1
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Default Spare tires disappearing

We have been seeing several vehicles without any spare tires (even a temp type) in our business. I read the following article from Tire Business this morning. I thought it would be informative for our members, who may be purchasing a new vehicle and not realize they may be missing a spare tire until they are broke down on the side of the road. This is something you will need to check for at the time of purchase.

For many drivers, the spare tire in the trunk is going the way of carburetors and VHS tapes. Automakers are selling more cars with four wheels and tires instead of five to trim weight, boost gas mileage and save money.
Since getting rid of the spare tire is a way to shed up to 50 pounds, it's an easy target as auto engineers struggle to reduce a car's weight ounce-by-ounce.

Demands for higher fuel economy by drivers and the government led to the creation of the temporary spare tire in the 1980s. Since spare tires are not required by federal safety regulations, the same pressures now may eliminate the spare tire entirely.

The benefits of eliminating the spare are too big for most automakers to ignore. Engineers struggle to reduce a car’s weight by ounces, and getting rid of the spare tire is a way to shed up to 50 pounds. Generally, a 10% reduction in vehicle weight yields a 6% improvement in fuel economy – and spare tires and jacks are easy targets.

Gaining a 10th of a mile per gallon in federal fuel economy tests is important in meeting ever-expanding CAFE standards. Those pounds and ounces may allow an automaker to reach 29.5 mpg on a vehicle – which can be rounded up to 30 mpg on the window sticker.

The consumer benefits too; a 1 mpg difference in fuel efficiency may save more than $100 per year, according to the Department of Energy. If an owner drives 100,000 miles carrying around a spare tire they never use, it burns a lot of extra gasoline. Also, deleting the spare often provides more trunk space.

The cost savings to auto manufacturers are substantial: eliminating the spare saves at least $20 per car. In the 2012 model year, approximately 15% of new cars came without spare tires. With the exception of pickups and SUVs likely to be driven off-road, the trend for most vehicles is to eliminate the spare. In most cases, a spare won’t even be offered as optional equipment – and there may not even be a place to put a spare.

Fortunately, fewer motorists need to change tires anymore. In addition to technical improvements that have made flats less likely, TPMS provides drivers with warnings of low air pressure, leaks and punctures. Often that means the tire gets properly inflated or fixed before it goes flat or before damage occurs, resulting in a blowout.

When tire failures do occur, drivers increasingly rely on roadside assistance services to take care of the problem. With help easily available through cell phones, many people simply choose not (or don’t know how) to deal with flat tires – even if they have a spare. Drivers may still fear being stranded, but the almost universal use of cell phones has made that much less likely – whether or not they have a spare.

Run-Flat Solution
So how is the owner of a no spare car supposed to deal with a flat?

Many expensive cars are opting for run-flat tires, which can be driven at moderate speeds for 50 miles or so with a puncture. The reinforcement built into run-flats supports the weight of the car and is designed to allow a driver to find a safe spot to stop, rather than being stranded in an unsafe place or on the side of a highway. But, since run-flats are limited to 50 miles after they lose air pressure, if a motorist is too far from civilization, they may not help much.

Run-flats also are much more expensive and have a shorter tread life than a comparable conventional tire. Frequently, run-flats are not widely stocked and many consumers complain about ride quality and noise. The fuel savings from eliminating the weight of a spare tire may be erased by the more frequent replacement of the more expensive run-flats.

Flat-Fixing Kits
As an alternative, many OEMs are replacing spare tires with “mobility kits” designed to fix most flats. These consist of a can of sealant that is injected through the valve stem to plug the puncture, and a small electric compressor to reinflate the tire.

Tire mobility kits typically weigh less than six pounds, compared to 30 for a temporary spare and 50 or more pounds for a full-size spare. Unfortunately, they, too, have drawbacks. The kits generally only work on punctures of 1/4-inch or less in the tread or shoulder areas of the tire. Blowouts, cuts, cracks and sidewall damage that potholes frequently inflict on low-profile tires cannot be repaired by the kits.

Using these kits is pretty simple: plug the unit into a 12-volt power outlet (cigarette lighter), and connect the air hose from the compressor to the tire valve. Once the sealant tank is flipped up, the compressor re-inflates the tire and fills the tire with a latex-based liquid sealant, which seals the puncture. This usually takes five to seven minutes. Then, the tire can be used at a maximum speed of 50 mph for up to 125 miles.

The instructions on most kits suggest driving four or five miles and then rechecking the inflation pressure with the built-in pressure gauge. Standard pencil, dial or digital tire pressure gauges should not be used because they can be ruined by the sealant. After using the mobility kit, the sealed tire should be driven to the nearest tire shop and inspected to determine whether it can be permanently repaired or must be replaced.

Demounting a tire after it’s been treated with sealant requires a little extra care. As an example, the Dunlop Tech Instant Mobility System (installed in more than 90 models) website offers the following instructions:

• Remove tire valve and deflate tire. Be sure to keep the valve in the upper area of the tire so that the residual fluid may gather in the lower area of the tire...

• Unseat tire from rim flange on both sides.

• Demount upper bead from the rim flange.

• Now...look into the inside of the tire. You can easily recognize the fluid tire sealant in the lower area of the tire. Absorb the residual fluid with a suitable device and collect it in an appropriate container.

• Once all liquid has been absorb*ed, the lower bead can be demounted from the wheel.

• Now clean any sealant residues from the inner wheel surfaces, by means of an absorbent cloth or paper ...rub dry the inside of the tire...

• For safety reasons, we recommend the replacement of the tire.

The instructions for Continental’s ContiComfortKit (OE for BMW, Ford, Volvo and others) offer similar guidance:

• “Removing the sealant: Scoop the sealant out of the tire with a suitable device (an industrial ladle is ideal for this). Use rags to soak up any remains of the sealant and dispose of the rags and sealant in accordance with local waste disposal regulations.”

The sealant used in most kits will interfere with TPMS sensors, possibly leading to error prompts and incorrect pressure readings. The documentation of some mobility kits notes that the sealant can be cleaned from the TPMS sensor and the sensor reused. Others disagree; the 2011 Ford Taurus owner’s manual states, “After sealant use, the TPMS sensor and valve stem on the wheel must be replaced by an authorized Ford dealer.”

At the same time, the driver now not only faces replacing a damaged tire, but replacing a damaged TPMS sensor, as well.

Another potential problem for consumers is the limited life span of the sealant. Sealant canisters all have “use by dates,” which owners are advised to check. Depending on the kit, the sealant canister typically should be replaced after four or five years. It’s not hard to imagine that sealant canister “use by dates” will probably be checked by most consumers about as often as they check spare tire inflation pressures.

In addition to their OE fitments, both the Continental and Dunlop kits are aimed at consumers who don’t have a spare, but don’t want to purchase replacement run-flat tires. They weigh a little more than five pounds each, can easily be stored in the trunk of a vehicle, and both also can be used to check and monitor tire pressure through a built-in compressor and tire gauge.

Stop & Go International offers an alternative tire mobility kit that combines a compressor with a Pocket Tire Plugger, necessary hand tools and mushroom-shaped rubber plugs to repair punctures. The mushroom head of the plug is designed to seal the puncture and allows for the resumption of normal highway speeds. By avoiding spray-in tire sealant, Stop & Go claims to avoid the potential for damage to TPMS sensors and the necessity for a tire dismount.

However, the advisability of using a plugged, rather than a properly repaired tire, is a real issue.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:23 PM   #2
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I noticed this trend a few years ago but I can say everything I have (Accept for our bigger 14k business trucks) with tires has a spare because you don't know the value of one until you need it. This is also about more than MPG & weight, because a spare & mounting hardware isn't free so the car manufactures are saving lots of $$$$s also.

I just purchased a new Tandem Utility trailer & paid extra for a mounted Spare.

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Old 12-06-2012, 02:03 PM   #3
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Having changed more than my fair share of tires in the past, I'm not sure I'd want a vehicle without a spare. I've slashed sidewalls at least 3 times, and if I had to wait each time for a tow truck, or whatever, I'd have been in real trouble. As it was, I popped on a spare, and was still able to get to where I needed to be.
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:53 PM   #4
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When we are driving from Gold Canyon, Az. to Show Low, Az. going thru the salt river canyon, when we leave Globe, Az. it is a straight shot and we have no phone service with the i-phone 4 and verizon service for 85 miles.

When we leave Globe we text a friend, then when we get to Show Low we will text our friend again when we made it. If they don’t hear from us in 2 hours they will call (911) and we do the same for them when they come up to the top of the mountain. It is best to have a spare in the vehicle and let people know what you are doing. We do this drive so many times in the summer to our favorite campground. You can’t put a price on a spare tire no matter how new your tires are.

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Old 12-06-2012, 04:06 PM   #5
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I feel the same as The Pair. I guess the question comes down to "Are you willing to change a tire yourself, and get grubby and sweaty and scrape your knuckles? Or would you rather call for someone else to handle it, and pay the price in wasted time?"

I have also changed my share of tires, twice on the Explorers, and several times on the TM. Each time, I have changed the tire, cleaned up, and been on my way in 30-60 minutes. I can live with that.

The alternative? Each time I have had a flat, I have also called an Emergency Road Service, just because I have usually subscribed to one. And each time I called the ERS, I was told "At least two hours." If I had waited for the truck to arrive, the driver could have put on my spare tire in half an hour or so - if I had a spare. But if I didn't have a spare, the only thing he could have done is tow me to his garage, where I would have done more waiting.

Once at the garage, and once I've come to the head of the queue, they can repair and remount the tire in about an hour - assuming the tire is repairable. But at least half the time, in my experience, a damaged tire is not repairable. If I don't have a spare, and if the garage doesn't have a replacement tire on hand, I do more waiting, while they get it from a warehouse in the next town. So a blown tire would quickly get to be a half-day experience if I am lucky, and an overnight stay if it is late in the day, or Saturday afternoon, or Lord help me, Sunday. My Explorer has a weird size tire, which is seldom in stock at the local tire store. And in many places, it is even hard to get a TM tire, unless you are lucky enough to break down near a Goodyear store.

My wife and I generally travel at a fairly leisurely pace, so a wasted half day or full day or even overnight is not a critical problem. But we do hate wasting time sitting on a hard plastic chair in a garage for hours. Our dog (and until recently our cat) are not very enthusiastic, either, though they try to behave. So I take care of my tires, check the inflation each morning, check the sidewall temp each time we stop for gas or food or a pit stop. And I keep a fully inflated spare, and tire changing tools, close at hand. Changing a tire is not hard, though it is a good idea to practice once in the driveway, rather than learning how to do it in the breakdown lane.

I can't imagine not having a spare. But as PopBeavers has said so often - your choice may be different.

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Old 12-06-2012, 04:35 PM   #6
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While in Alaska two years ago one road we came across gave the warning to have extra tires. We've been to this rodeo before where the car makers tried to do away with spares. Wonder how long this evolution will last. Our Alaska trip the score was two truck tires and 6 camper tires. We lost one tire in NM on the truck...road hazard....and one coming back through Canada. The camper tires were most likely a defective trailer axle. This year we lost one tire on the TM, 4 years and 1 week old. Where we had the tire fail there was no cell service also no shoulder on the road either. Its a lot of weight to drag around but we will continue to carry spare tires and at least two bottle jacks, plus wood for leveling where there is no road shoulder.
And on a side note if the feds were real about fuel savings they would take ethanol out of gas. At up to 10% We drop about 3% in gas mileage. Put E85 in the truck, which it is rated for, and we drop from 14 mpg unloaded to 12 mpg.
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Old 12-06-2012, 07:05 PM   #7
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We won't travel without a spare. We've had 2 blowouts on the TM, and have immediately purchased another tire before going any further than the closest tire store or the closest campground to spend the night.

Do these new cars that come without a spare at least have a space in the trunk to store one, should you want to buy one? I wouldn't buy a car that didn't have at least that.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:40 PM   #8
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One thing to keep in mind in this discussion is that most, if not all, of the folks on this board are past 40. We grew up in an era when self-reliance was expected of people. This is especially true of those of us past 60. The prospect of a road trip meant planning to be prepared to deal with all the usual problems. How many of us have carried fan belts or radiator hoses in the trunk? Not to mention a can of gas, flares, some water, even food.

The Gen X folks and Millenials are accustomed to "connectedness". They are mostly urban folks who have almost always had emergency services available. They frequently do not have any concept of things we take for granted.

I suspect that most folks on this board will get hold of a spare tire even if their new vehicle does not offer one as standard equipment. I know that when I have bought a car with only a doughnut spare, I have replaced it quickly with a full sized one. Not so sure about those coming along behind us.

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Old 12-07-2012, 08:11 AM   #9
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Changing a tire is not hard, though it is a good idea to practice once in the driveway, rather than learning how to do it in the breakdown lane.
- Bill

Yep, and that's when it really sinks in that you need a different kind of screwdriver if you want to get to that flat tire.

Guess I'm in that "old enough to have fixed my own flat tire" age group. I'm even old enough to remember when they tried to sell customers their pick-up trucks without a tailgate - you could get it at extra cost, of course - didn't last long, thankfully.
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Old 12-07-2012, 08:55 AM   #10
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My daughter is 32, so is 29.

When I taught them to drive, after learning the basics with an automatic, I taught them to drive a stick as well.

Daughter was not happy. I told her that I required that she learn to drive a stick, She asks why. I explain that some day she might be on a date and the guy gets drunk and he has a stick. I want her to know how to drive a stick well enough to drive home safely.

Today she only owns sticks and enjoys driving them.

I also taught them how to stop if the hydraulic brake system fails, because I discovered that my brake pedal was on the floor at 65 mph once.

I taught them how to start the car in gear and then shift without using the clutch, just in case the clutch fails. Daughter lost the clutch southbound I5 approaching Grapevine at midnight once. She knew what to do. Do you?

We do not normally have food or blankets in the cars, but we do for ski trips, just in case they close the passes.

I have never carried a V belt or radiator hose. Just never expected that to fail.
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