There’s nothing more stressful than a flat tire on a busy day. You finally managed to wake up early and hit the road with enough time to get to work, only to see your tire pressure light suddenly come on. It seems like a thing of movies, but it isn’t: you really got a flat tire in the least opportune moment.
Things only get worse when you open the trunk of your car and don’t see the spare tire you were expecting. Instead, there’s a thing called a tire repair kit, and you have no idea how to use it. Were you baited, or are you simply behind on one of the biggest changes automakers made when it comes to spare tires?
Many factors came into play in this decision, namely trunk space, fuel economy requirements, and the possible hazards of changing a tire on the side of the road. This forced them to create temporary and more compact alternatives, but ultimately more convenient for automakers and consumers.
Now that you know there wouldn’t be a spare tire (save for a few vehicle types), the next worse thing that can happen is for you not to know how to manage these alternatives. If you’re just about to buy a new car, learning about them should help you decide which type you can work with in an emergency.
Alternative 1— Run-Flat Tires
Cars with run-flat tires come with neither a repair kit nor a spare. Instead, it’s equipped with stronger sidewalls that enable it to run without tire pressure. The moment your tires are compromised, the tire-pressure monitoring system will notify you that you’ll be switching “run-flat mode.” It’ll tell you the current specs of your car and what speed you can drive in, usually below 50 mph. What this does is it gives you a 50-mile leeway to find the nearest auto repair shop.
The good thing about run-flat tires is that it reduces hazards that come with parking your car in an unfamiliar location and changing a tire. This is especially true if you’re new to a place and the incident happens at night. Run-flat tires, too, can be repaired in most cases. When it’s indicated otherwise, however, one downside is that replacements can be expensive. Its structure is so sturdy and heavy that you might also find yourself on the losing end of your fuel economy.
Alternative 2 — Temporary Spares
For those who aren’t sure about run-flat tires, you can opt for temporary spare tires. Automakers favor them also, which is why this is the alternative that most new cars nowadays have. The advantages? They’re smaller than the other tires in your car and occupy less space in your trunk. You’ll also be pleased with their lightness, making them easier to manage once you’ve rolled up your sleeve and taken out the jack. Bear in mind, however, that these same qualities make them incompatible for long-distance driving. Like in run-flat tires, your goal is to find the nearest repair shop while driving at a speed no faster than 55mph.
Alternative 3 — Take Out Your Phone
This alternative doesn’t come with your new car, but automakers surely haven’t missed the fact that you’re one phone call away from everything. Now that smartphones have dominated people’s lives not knowing how to change a spare tire is not as consequential as it used to be. Nobody even needs to market this idea anymore. It’s a fact that in any given emergency, the first thing people reach for is their phones. Getting a flat tire is no exception, regardless if you have a spare or you can run on a flat tire. Automakers know this and will continue to bear this consideration in mind in creating other alternatives for future cars.
Alternative 4 — Bring a Spare Tire Yourself
There are many reasons car owners will rather equip their car with a full-size spare tire themselves. They may be heavy, but they don’t put your car at risk of performance loss. You can get either a matching or non-matching tire, although the former will always be preferable. A matching spare is the same size, weight, and capacity as the other tires of your car. A non-matching spare is usually lighter and shallower but still a more permanent solution than the first two alternatives.
It All Depends on You
What kind of car and spare tire alternative you’ll go for depends entirely on you. Consider your location and the places you frequent. What are your capacities, and which alternative will be most advantageous to your lifestyle, budget, and car? Think about it well because whatever you go for, you’ll have to stick with it on the day you get a flat tire.