Carmakers Dropping Spare Tires At Rapid Pace
The Savvy Consumer

By Teresa McUsic,

So whether you are heading out on vacation or buying a new car consider:

  • Good tires. Admittedly, we let the tires on our Kia get a little old, a particular problem when they blow and the repair and inflate system that comes with the car doesn’t work.

  • Read ahead. If your vehicle is equipped with atire inflator kit instead of a sparetie, read the owner’s manual and understand system limitations before roadside trouble strikes.

  • Don’t assume there is a spare. When purchasing a new vehicle, always ask sales stafffor a detailed list of equipment and if a sparetire can be purchased as an option.

  • Check expiration dates. If your vehicle is equipped with atire inflator kit, AAA recommends that you check its expiration date and replace the kit when necessary, typically between 4‐8 years.

  • Check air pressure. If your vehicle has a sparetire, be sure it is properly inflated and stowed. Checktire pressure monthly, as a flat sparetire is of no value in an emergency.

  • Consider a roadside service. Membership at AAA starts at $52 annually. AARP, Allstate Motor Club, Good Sam and others also offer the service with a paid membership.

  • Download free apps for tows. The Blink app worked to find us a tow truck while on the road. Other similar, no-cost apps include HonkForHelp and They will also help you find a tire repair or replacement location near you.
  • Next time you hit the road, be extra sure to check your tires.

    You may not have a spare.

    Approximately one‐third (36 percent) of 2015 model year vehicles sold do not have a spare tire, according to research from AAA.This compares to only five percent of 2006 model year vehicles sold that lacked a spare.

    All told, AAA says more than 29 million vehicles sold in the last 10 model years are missing a sparetire.

    “Automakers are facing increasingly-stringent fuel economy standards and the spare tire has become a casualty in an effort to reduce weight and boost miles-per-gallon,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair.

    In 2010, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency set new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards for vehicle model years 2012 to 2016. The CAFE standards are set at a combined 34.1 mpg by 2016.

    To comply with CAFE standards, automakers have worked to reduce excess vehicle weight, including replacing the sparetire, which with a jack weights between 40 and 50 pounds, with a much lighter tire inflator kit.

    This trend is not just for the cheaper car models. A seven-page list of car models compiled by AAA shows that while Kia was among the first to start the idea back in 2003 on its Rio, high-end luxury makers Lexus and Porsche also took out the spare that year on their SC and Cayenne models, respectively.

    The following year Cadillac, Mazda and Toyota released models without spares.

    Jump to 2015 and the list has mushroomed to includes 40 carmakers and around 165 different models with inflator/sealant kits, spare tires only as add-on options or a few with run-flat tires, which are designed to be driven with a puncture for a limited number of miles.

    Among the models now without a spare included in the base price are the popular Jeep Cherokee, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and the Volkswagen Beetle.

    Green cars are well represented on the list, too, including the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and Tesla Roadster. Even cars maker known for their safety like Volvo and Subaru now have models without spares.

    Other auto manufacturers not including spare tires include Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, GMA, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Lotus, Maserati, Mercedes, Mini, Nissan, Ram, Scion, Smart and Tesla.

    For a full list of cars without spares, go to

    “AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, we have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.” Nielsen said.

    While most cars now have tire pressure monitoring systems and some include run-flat tires, the second leading cause of AAA roadside assistance calls is flat tires, after battery failures.

    My husband and I experienced a blow-out in our Kia Soul leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma one recent Sunday afternoon. After attempting to use the inflator/sealant kit unsuccessfully, we had to get resourceful fast.

    While he searched for and then downloaded an app called Blink to find us a tow truck, I asked the GPS on my smart phone for our location, which turned out to be six miles south of a small town called Kiowa.

    Other than a minor hitch when the Blink operator demanded we name a cross street (which was nonexistent), she was able find and notify a tow truck, who called us for our exact location and was there within an hour. We also were able to call two Walmarts in the area, including one that sold tires and was open a few more hours.

    Problem solved, although our five hour trip was doubled in time and the tow was $169.

    Teresa McUsic’s column appears in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.