Spare Wheels – Using, Buying and Maintaining A Spare Wheel

Get the most out of your spare wheel with our guide to the tools you need, where to buy a replacement and the alternatives to having a full-size spare

Just because there’s a full-size spare wheel in your boot right now, don’t assume the next car you buy will have one too. When purchasing any new vehicle, you should always take a look at what’s in the boot. Car makers are under no legal obligation to provide you with a full-size spare or, in fact, anything to deal with a puncture. So, don’t let yourself get caught out.

Like the other points on our used car checklist, this is something you can’t afford to ignore.

A full-size tyre on a standard alloy wheel can be an expensive investment, depending on what car you’re buying. It’ll also add weight to the vehicle and affect your fuel consumption, while the room it requires means less boot space. These weight, space and price implications go a long way to explain why car makers are rarely supplying a full-size spare wheel these days


Spare Wheel Alternatives

  • Temporary Use ‘Skinny’ Spare: An option for shorter journeys close to home. Not ideal for long journeys due to speed restrictions, however, so you’ll want to break your journey and get the damaged tyre replaced as soon as possible. You will also have to find somewhere to carry the damaged wheel and tyre.
  • Tyre Sealant and Compressor Kit: Can be quick and effective on simple punctures, but not if running the tyre flat has damaged or overheated it. Once used, sealant must be renewed.
  • Run-Flat Tyres: Limited range and speed once punctured. Can also be more difficult to replace when worn. Many repairers are reluctant to repair a punctured run-flat tyre, so this can prove an expensive option too.
  • Full-Size Spare: A like-for-like swap. In theory, you can ‘fit and forget’ – but you’ll still need to repair/replace the damaged tyre as soon as possible.

In May 2016, we asked the AA-Populus motoring panel if they could tell us what was in their boot. Three-quarters (75%) of the 21,741 respondents said they had a working spare wheel in the boot of their main car, with 45% saying it was a full-size spare wheel. Meanwhile, 11% of people aged between 18-24 who took part said they didn’t know what was in their boot.



When you check your spare tyre, make sure the jack and wheel removal tools are present. You’ll need an adaptor if you have locking wheel nuts fitted  to protect you from the theft of your alloy wheels too. These nuts are bespoke to each vehicle, so make sure these are still present – and that you have the necessary tools for them, otherwise changing a wheel on your car will be almost impossible. This is especially important in the event of an emergency on your own.



If your car comes with a spare wheel of any kind, don’t forget to check the pressure in it from time to time. Getting a flat tyre is frustrating enough, without then discovering your spare is in the same condition.

The condition of you spare tyre won’t affect your MOT, however. The MOT manual states: “You only need to inspect the road wheels fitted to the vehicle at the time of the inspection. If you notice a defect on a spare wheel, you should tell the vehicle presenter about it.” 

You cannot legally use a spare wheel in place of a road wheel unless it is in good condition and meets the minimum tread requirements. So, if you do get a puncture and need to use your spare, it’s important to:

  • Get the damaged tyre replaced as soon as possible, and
  • Check the condition of the spare carefully before putting it back in the boot

Where to Buy A Spare Wheel?

Not sure where to buy a spare wheel? If you’re buying a brand-new car, some manufacturers will offer a full-size spare at an additional cost. For used cars, you might be able to buy a second-hand wheel and fit a new tyre to carry as a spare – but bear in mind that you might have to buy a jack and wheel removal tools too if the spare is for a car that didn’t have one when it was new. You can also purchase a spare wheel over the parts counter to ensure you have a backup in the case of a wheel emergency.

Images courtesy of iStock.


About Author