DEARBORN, Mich. — For years, auto manufacturers have been leaving out something a lot of drivers may assume is still included in their bright, shiny new wheels: the fifth wheel, commonly called the spare tire. Now AAA of Michigan is weighing in and urging manufacturers to spare the spare tire.
AAA of Michigan, in a release on Tuesday, noted that tire inflation kits are replacing more and more spare tires in new vehicles in their efforts to get better gas mileage, but they are “not a substitute for a spare tire.”
In the last 10 model years, some 29 million vehicles have been shipped with tire inflation kits instead of spare tires, saving about 30 pounds per vehicle, not enough to make a difference in mileage, says the release. Further, “with some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair, not to mention they only have a shelf life of four to eight years.”
Back in 2012, Consumer Reports noted that “automakers are eliminating spare tires to save space, weight, and cost.” And the product rating group didn’t like the replacement: “Inflation kits are only good for small punctures in a tire’s tread and users should be very cautious of driving on a sealant-repaired tire.”
If your vehicle has a tire inflation kit, AAA of Michigan recommends you become familiar on how to use it and know that it only works if the puncture occurs in the tread and the piercing object is still in the puncture. The kit won’t work with other causes of flats, such as a blowout or deflation from hitting a pothole or curb.