Auto Manifesto

January 27, 2008

Spare Tires No Longer Necessary

When was the last time you looked at the spare tire in the trunk of your car? My guess is it’s been a while because more and more, there’s no need for it. Over the life of a vehicle, say 150,000 miles, how many times does the spare tire actually see duty?

Yet its weight is hauled around the entire time. A spare wheel and tire for a small car weighs in the neighborhood of 25 pounds. With ongoing and ever increasing need to lighten vehicles, that’s a big chunk of weight that can easily be lost. Plus the space that’s freed up would be useful – especially if we’re moving to lower density energy sources that take up more space than gasoline tanks, such as bulky batteries.

Of course people will still have flat tires but a number of factors will mitigate the need to carry a spare. With tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) now standard on new cars the risk of under inflation (a common cause of blowouts) is reduced – we’re less likely to experience a flat.

In the event that a tire goes flat, run flat technology enables vehicles to be driven to the nearest service center instead of being stranded roadside. There are downsides such as replacement cost and added weight which may not offset the weight of a spare, but it’s also an issue of security/peace of mind for some.

Further, being stranded roadside is better now than before with the widespread use and availability of cell phones, as well as growing use of in-vehicle communication systems such as GM’s On-Star. Motorists can have roadside assistance come their way much sooner.

Finally of course, tire technology continues to improve providing tougher, more durable tires. Overall the need for carrying a spare tire and wheel for the life of the vehicle has diminished, and it will likely eventually be phased out of most vehicles.

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