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Sue Hayward

The death of the spare tyre

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With fewer cars having spare tyres as standard – and fewer people knowing how to change a tyre – what do you do if you get a puncture?

Mechanic changing tyre

Most new cars don’t come with a spare wheel, which means you could be stuck at the roadside if you get a flat  tyre.

The RAC breakdown service say nine out of 10 new cars are now sold without a spare wheel. As a result the number of puncture related call-outs nearly doubled from 65,000 in 2012 to120,000 in 2015.  

The lack of a spare tyre could cause a substantial delay to your journey, so what are your options if you get a puncture? 

Puncture repair kits

If they don’t supply a spare, most manufacturers will include a puncture repair kit in the boot.  If not, you can buy your own from around £10 in places like Halfords.

These kits contain a pump and sealant to fill the tyre and act as a quick fix to get you to a garage. However, they don’t work with every type of puncture and can be next to useless if you don’t use them properly.

“You can usually only use these if you haven’t driven on the tyre”, says Max Holdstock, AA Patrol of the year, “and not everyone realises instantly if they’ve got a flat”.

According to Holdstock, there are two types of tyre filler in these kits - the ‘slime’ version and a ‘washable’ one. 

It’s the ‘washable’ one Holdstock recommends if you want any chance of having your tyre repaired, “although some garages may add on a charge to flush it out of the tyre”.

Also read the instructions carefully. “This is for emergency temporary repairs, and may specify speed limits typically of around 40 mph”, warns an RAC spokesperson.

Call your breakdown company

Man inspecting burst tyre

If you’ve a spare, your breakdown service will come out and change your wheel. If not, they’ll try and fix the puncture at the roadside or get you to a garage for a new tyre.

They may try a puncture repair kit, but don’t expect them to use yours. “We don’t do this as we don’t know the product we’re putting in, so we always use our own”, says Holdstock.

Both the AA and RAC insert a ‘temporary plug’ into the puncture. The advantage is that the tyre could still be repaired as it’s simply a rubber plug inserted into the puncture to enable you to reach your destination safely.

Multi-fit wheels

Some breakdown providers – namely AA and RAC – have the option of fitting ‘multi-fit’ wheels.

Both say these can be used on around 80% of cars that don’t carry spares.

It can be quickly and easily fitted at the roadside and recovered from the garage you visit.  In the case of the AA, a patrol may follow you to your destination to recover it.

Run-flat tyres

Bridgestone DriveGuard tyre

Bridgestone DriveGuard run-flat tyres

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Driving on a flat may sound like dangerous stuff, but these reinforced tyres enable you to drive post-puncture for a limited distance. In the past they’ve been fitted by manufacturers and weren’t suitable for all cars. 

However, using the latest technology, ‘run-flat’ tyres have moved up a gear Bridgestone’s DriveGuard tyres can be used on almost all cars, providing they have a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). 

Since November 2014, all new cars must now have TPMS, which measures the tyres’ internal pressure and alerts drivers to any pressure loss via the dashboard display.

While these tyres can stop you being stranded at the roadside, the AA’s Max Holdstock suggests drivers tell their insurer if they have run-flats fitted, “as they could be classed as a modification”.


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