– In an effort to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, automakers continue to eliminate spare tires from new vehicles. According to new research from AAA, nearly one‐third (28 percent) of 2017 model year vehicles do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment, creating an unnecessary hassle and expense for drivers. Last year alone, AAA came to the rescue to more than 450,000 members faced with a flat tire whose cars did not have a spare tire. The Automobile Club of Southern California in 2016 responded to 82,118 tire calls. To avoid a roadside surprise, the Auto Club urges drivers to check their trunk for a spare tire before trouble strikes.
“Having a flat tire can be a nuisance for drivers, but not having a spare could put them in an even more aggravating situation,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “This can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility.”
While new vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers to low tire pressure, AAA’s roadside assistance data shows that tire-related problems continue to be one of the top reasons why members call for assistance. Even if drivers do have a spare tire, they are often reaching for their cell phones to call for roadside assistance rather than changing the tire themselves. According to a previous AAA survey, nearly 20 percent (39 million) of U.S. drivers do not know how to change a flat tire.
As a replacement for a spare tire, some automakers are including tire-inflator kits that can temporarily repair small punctures in flat tires. However, a 2015 AAA study found that tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage or blowouts. Not only are tire-inflator kits not a good substitute for a spare tire, they can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years.
“To reduce chances of a flat tire, the Auto Club urges drivers to check their vehicle’s tire pressure frequently,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center. “They should inspect all the tires as part of the routine maintenance of their car.”
AAA offers these additional precautionary tips:
• Do not assume there’s a spare. When purchasing a new vehicle, always ask for a detailed list of equipment and whether a spare tire can be purchased.
• Inspect all five tires. If your vehicle has a spare tire, be sure that it’s properly inflated.
• Read ahead. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, read the owner’s manual and understand how it works and its limitations.
• Check expiration dates. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, check its expiration date. Most need to be replaced every four to eight years.
• Consider roadside assistance coverage. Roadside assistance coverage can offer peace of mind when faced with roadside trouble, including a flat tire. To become a AAA member, visit AAA.com/join.
In addition, drivers should identify a repair shop they trust to help keep their vehicle tires in good shape. AAA Approved Auto Repair network consists of nearly 7,000 facilities that have met AAA’s high standards, including, technician certifications, ongoing training, financial stability, facility cleanliness, insurance requirements, rigorous inspections and customer satisfaction. AAA members have saved a total of more than $3 million dollars by visiting AAR facilities in the last year. Visit AAA.com/AutoRepair to find a nearby facility.
Before hitting the road, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Apple Watch. Travelers can use the app to request AAA roadside assistance, route a trip, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, book a hotel and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.