When you buy a car, it comes with four wheels and a spare - well, not always.
Space saver wheels and tyres have been with us for many years now. In an attempt to cut weight to increase fuel efficiency, the spare wheel was an easy target. With a certain amount of grumbling, we accepted it as a compromise as fuel costs rose. After all, it still works as a spare wheel, even if it is only a 'get you home’ solution. Of course, there will always be those who drive around at normal road speeds and above, for weeks on end; taking little or no notice of the limitations of the space saver.
From the manufacturer's point of view, the space saver is also a money saver. A car equipped with a set of decent alloy wheels with high rated road tyres is then supplied with a narrow steel rim and a deep section general purpose tyre. The rim will invariably be smaller than the main wheels on the car and the tyre will be of a depth to make the rolling diameter the same as the original wheels. This enables further cost savings as one size fits many vehicles.
More recently, in further efforts to meet even stricter fuel efficiency targets, manufacturers are opting for the no spare wheel option. This solution varies across the industry, but generally comprises some sort of repair kit, intended to get you home. The kit provides a method of injecting a sealant into the damaged tyre, hopefully to seal the damage and allow you to re-inflate the tyre. Of course the scenarios under which this will work, are limited. It may be okay if you have a straight forward puncture, but it certainly won't work on cut tyre damage or damaged rims. Even with minor tyre damage, the repair techniques are often beyond the comprehension of the majority of motorists. No doubt this will be the first time many of them look into the car boot and think "where the hell is my spare wheel?".
Motor rescue services like The AA and RAC have reported huge increases in call outs for people with tyre and wheel damage. Frequently the only course of action is to return the car to home, on a trailer.
I started to write this post around the time my wife bought a new Honda. Unhappy with the goo injection kit supplied, she contacted the Honda dealer to order a spare wheel. “£285”, they said. Our response was one of disbelief. I know main dealers rely heavily on up-sell of accessories and extras, but really… £285 for a steel rim and a utility tyre?
Reluctantly, my wife agreed and placed her order. We did look at third party suppliers on sites like ebay, for compatible wheels, but felt, as it was a new car, we should have the correct wheel and tyre for the vehicle.
When the wheel arrived, we were surprised to be presented with a huge box, containing not just the wheel, but also a large high density polystyrene boot sub-floor insert, a fixing bolt and washer and a completely new carpeted boot floor. Everything, except for the fixing bolt and washer is totally unnecessary, and now sits in our loft, waiting to be passed on to future owner of the car, when we eventually sell it.
If we had known that we were going to be paying for all this stuff, we would probably have chanced a third party wheel from ebay after all.