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BBC Watchdog despairs at lack of spare tyre in new cars

The long-running BBC series Watchdog last night (17 October) turned its attention to the motoring world and more precisely, to new cars which no longer seem to provide a spare tyre.

As usual there were a series of stories from put-out customers, regaling tales of punctured tyres in the dead of night, with thunder and lightning by busy roadsides. If things weren’t bad enough, imagine their horror when they lifted the hatch in the boot, only to discover there was no spare tyre…

It’s true, spare tyres are being phased out to the point that out of Britain’s top ten-selling models last year, only Volkswagen provided one. But drivers aren’t being completely short changed, they are provided with do-it-yourself repair kits complete with sealant. So is this really a case for Watchdog?

Well, apparently these kits just aren’t very good. They can only repair tyres with small punctures, so any deep cuts or side wall damage and your left without a paddle. Or a tyre.

Another gripe is the cost even if you do manage to seal the puncture. Take the tyre to a dealer and they should be able to wash the sealant out and carry out a proper repair. The problem is some dealers are simply refusing because it’s too time consuming. This leaves drivers stood holding a useless tyre and a bill for a brand new one.

So why are manufacturers getting rid of the much revered spare tyre? Those all important MPG figures! A spare tyre weighs around 20 kilos and this does nothing for fuel efficiency.

However, let’s step away from Watchdog’s position for a moment and hear the other side. The truth is, puncture kits do offer a viable alternative. Maybe they don’t always work, but could every driver change a spare tyre? Plus, most cars are available with a spare tyre as standard or an option in the range. It’s just most customers forget this detail. And, it’s customers’ demands that have created the situation – demands of more fuel efficiency, more boot space, lower vehicle cost.

As for the Watchdog stories about dangerous conditions, frankly how does this differ from jacking up a car and changing the tyre by a busy roadside? And as for complaining about having to buy a brand new tyre because dealers wouldn’t clean out the sealant – most spare tyres aren’t meant as long term replacements and you’ll have to buy a brand new one then as well.

According to Green Flag, the number of call outs for flat tyres has jumped by 20 percent so there’s clearly an issue. We’re old fashioned, we prefer spare tyres too. But our problem is it’s up to the drivers, not the manufacturers, to know what safety systems they have in place, whether it’s a spare tyre or a repair kit.

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