Spare wheel (C) Newspress

Spare wheels: safety vs efficiency

If you haven’t had a puncture before, you’re lucky. If you have, you’ll know the importance of having a spare wheel or a method of repairing the problem to keep you safe.

Increasingly that method is becoming an option on today’s cars – and even then, safety can still be suspect in providing decent protection for your onward journey.

Manufacturers want more fuel economy and more boot space. Put this together with customers wanting bigger wheels on their vehicles and it’s all contributed towards the lack of full size spare wheels fitted as standard. Now the space saver is even coming under increasing pressure.

Many carmakers offer a compressor powered by the car’s 12-volt output used to re-inflate the punctured tyre or a can of expanding foam that seals the hole and hardens to give temporary speed-capped capability.

It’ll get you home or to a garage, but while it might be dangerous to change a wheel in the hard shoulder of the motorway, once swapped, your spare wheel should give you similar performance to a regular tyre – or if it’s a space saver, usually a reduced maximum speed of 50mph.

There’s one main rule to follow when you change a tyre though: stay safe. If you stick to the guidelines and ensure you jack the car in the right place and with the right equipment – as well as being vigilant when it comes to traffic – you’ll stay out of harm’s way and be back on the road soon enough.

Compressor (C) Newspress

And when you do, you’ll be safer, too. With a compressor or hardening tyre foam, your tyre still technically has a puncture. You’re still exposed to the same risk as changing a tyre when repairing it as well – working at the side of the road until the job is complete.

Add to that it’s only a temporary solution and the industry-wide move towards this sort of fix seems crazy.

At least a full-size spare – or even a space saver – puts the lid on events. Driving on a puncture isn’t advisable and doing so could cause your car to exhibit some odd handling traits. At very worst, it could cause you to crash.

It’s important to consider the safety implications of what sort of spare wheel or puncture remedying device you have when choosing a new car as well as the all important efficiency gains a trade-off might bring.

If you do opt for a compressor type system, make sure you know how to use it too. It’ll minimise your exposure to danger by minimising the time you spend stood on the side of the road – but only if you can use the kit effectively.

If you go for a spare though – and if your current car has one – make sure it’s fit for purpose. While it’s in the boot it doesn’t matter if it’s bald, but when it goes on the car it needs to be in legal roadworthy condition.