Spare Wheels

motoring_feature_wheelMake sure you know what’s in the boot.

Just because there’s a full-size spare in the boot of your current car, don’t assume there’ll be one in the new car – always check the boot yourself.

Car manufacturers are under no legal obligation to provide a full-size spare, or, for that matter, any means of dealing with a puncture at the roadside.

Depending on the car, a full-size tyre on a standard alloy wheel can represent quite an expensive investment, not to mention the weight it adds to the car and space it occupies, that might otherwise be useful boot space.

Whether the justification is cost, space or weight (fuel consumption), there has been something of a trend away from providing a standard, full size spare wheel over the past decade. Since 2004, AA car reviews have reported on the type of ‘spare’ provided.

The alternatives

  • Temporary use ‘skinny’ spare: okay if you do mainly short journeys close to home but not ideal on a long journey due to speed restriction. You’ve got to find somewhere to carry the damaged wheel and tyre too.
  • Tyre sealant and compressor kit: can be quick and effective on a simple puncture but not if you’ve damaged/over heated the tyre by running it flat. Once used the sealant has to be renewed.
  • Run-flat tyres: limited range and speed once punctured and can be more difficult to replace when worn. Many repairers will be reluctant to repair a punctured run-flat tyre, so it can prove an expensive option.
  • Full-size spare: fit and forget, but get the damaged tyre repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Not much use though in the, relatively unlikely, event of a double puncture, or if the car has different sized front and back wheels/tyres.

In January 2013 we asked the AA-Populus motoring panel what they had in the boot. Just over half (54%) of the 22,827 respondents said that they had a full-size spare wheel in the boot of their car and 29% said that they had a skinny or temporary use spare wheel. One-in-ten (9%) were carrying a tyre sealant/inflation kit and 3% said they had run-flat tyres.

Spare Wheels


While you’re checking the spare you’ll want to make sure that the jack and wheel removal tools are present, together with the adaptor for locking wheel nuts if these are fitted to protect against theft of alloy wheels.


If you’re buying a brand new car some manufacturers will offer a full-size spare as a cost option.

If you’re buying a used car and value the peace of mind you can get from carrying a full-size spare, you might be able to buy a second hand wheel and get a new tyre fitted to carry as a spare, or buy one over the parts counter at a dealer.


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