Spareless Cars Are On The Rise

October 19, 2010

Nobody but a fool would leave home without a spare tire stowed safely in the trunk – right?

Don’t be so quick to judge the sanity of the driver of a spareless car. We have talked about the pros and cons of the run flat tire, but now there is another system that may soon make the spare tire as endangered as the giant kangaroo rat.

Let’s think this over. The prevalence of Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) will eventually cut down on the need for a spare tire. Every car produced after September 2007 must have a low tire light. These systems work well. Drivers respond to the light with the exclamation point and generally seek help or inflate the tire themselves.

So only in the event of a catastrophic tire failure--or the unlikely and unfortunate occasion when a tire picks up a nail or screw prior to retiring and goes flat overnight--is there a need for a spare tire. Dropping the spare is becoming more common, though it ignores the driver who is alerted miles from the nearest tire service or roadside assistance provider and is forced to handle the emergency himself, but there is an answer to that dilemma as well.

The 2011 Volvo S60 offers a solution to the driver who is miles away from the nearest air standard and is warned that one of his tires is losing pressure. It comes in the form of a bottle of sealant and a plug-in pump. Information is sparse about how well this system works in real life, but I noted that earlier versions of this arrangement offered as a no-cost option the availability of a compact spare.

Chrysler has flirted with no-spare-tire cars for the past few years, but all Ford and General Motors cars are equipped with spares. However, the Chevy Volt will be a spareless vehicle.

There are a number of trends driving the shift to dumping the spare tire. Weight reduction is a primary concern as the car manufacturers attempt to maximize fuel efficiency. According to a Cron Business article, the spare is an easy target as it is 30 pounds (with the jack) that is just along for the ride for an overwhelmingly large part of the time.

Cost is another consideration. A senior editor estimated that in production the spare could add more than $1000 to the cost of a vehicle.

Finally, safety is a big concern. The whole process of removing the spare and the jack from their moorings and then setting up the jack safely while you are on the side of the road, present major opportunities for the uninitiated to get in trouble.

The sealant and pump routine will not be met with open arms by tire repair technicians who have long complained about the mess fix-a-flat causes inside punctured tires. In the future, however, they may have to get over it as the spareless car becomes more commonplace.

[Cron Business] 

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