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I would REALLY like to get rid of my spare wheel. The wheel is heavy and I need the spare wheel well for... other purposes. In my history of driving I never had to use the spare wheel, so it cost me a lot over time driving it around as that heavy bugger never gives me any gas money. I would still take it to longer trips, and ones that require a bit of offroading to be safe.

I noticed some people leave their spare wheel at home and only hold a tyre repair kit in case of an emergency. And some new cars don't have a spare wheel at all (though I believe that would be for reducing costs rather than convenience).

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Are the repair kits a viable alternative for spare wheels on regular every day driven passenger vehicles? I understand the kits won't help against heavy tyre or any rim damage, but how often does that occur compared to ordinary punctures?

All thoughts and experiences are welcome.

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Do you want to get rid of it enough to put run-flats on your car? There are several new cars that have only a repair kit and also come standard with run-flats. – JPhi1618 Feb 18 at 16:16
    
Would a mini spare be an option? They are lighter than a full size tire. I don't think the weight savings will have a significant impact on the performance of your vehicle. – rpmerf Feb 18 at 16:21
    
@JPhi1618 definitely not, no run-flats for me. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 19 at 7:22
    
@rpmerf Actually I thought about that, how do you choose one, though? Bore hole, PCD should match, what about radius? Many tyre sizes can be chosen for a single wheel size, should I try to match the spare size as closely as possible to the regular tyre size? – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 19 at 7:36
    
I love the picture on your kit. Looks like the girl in white trousers is about to find out she'll have to clean the dirt off to find the puncture. – Dmitry Grigoryev Feb 19 at 8:54
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Do you carry a toolset, lights, spare belts and hoses, and OBD-II decoder and electrical patch cables? If not, then you're not taking on much more risk by leaving the spare at home, provided

  • you keep an eye on tire pressure,
  • you drive on ordinary roads, and
  • your tires are nowhere near their end of life.

Spare tires are common because, for most of the 20th century, a flat tire was one of the most likely maintenance issues to arise while on a trip. Tire technology improved considerably in the 1980s and 1990s, and flat tires became much rarer.

Auto manufacturers realize this. Customers raised in the 20th century would howl in protest if automakers eliminated spare tires completely, but they have saved weight and space by switching to "limited use" spares.

These days, tire problems account for only about 10% of breakdowns. Of those, about 3/4 are punctures, many of which a tire repair kit could handle.

In the modern era, especially with the advent of cell phones, neither the absolute nor the relative probability of getting a flat tire warrants devoting all that space and fuel to lugging around a spare.

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Just as I suspected, top quality answer. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 19 at 7:51
    
"Do you carry a toolset, lights, spare belts and hoses, and OBD-II decoder and electrical patch cables?" -- Uh... Yes actually... The tools and spares have saved me long waits for towtrucks, and the spare bulbs have saved me tickets on a few occasions even. Of course, you have to actually know how to use such things, which lots of people don't. – Perkins Feb 19 at 22:22

Yes, but personally, I wouldn't risk it.

The only time I've ever needed my spare was [cue spooky music] on a dark, stormy night, on a two lane highway through a dense forest. I was doing ~50 mph when I hit a pothole with front passenger tire. The tire didn't go flat immediately, but I could tell something was wrong, and was able to limp another 1/4ish mile to a turnout and swap in my spare. It was miserable, I was soaked to the bone, but I got the tire changed and made it to my destination without significant delay.

The next day, I inspected the tire and was unable to find the puncture. Hoping I had just blown out the bead, I began to re-inflate the tire, and got it to ~20 psi when a seam in the sidewall opened up and blew the air back down to ~5 psi.

Had I not had been equipped with a spare, I would have been on the side of the highway in a sloped gravel lot, in the freezing rain with my car on scissor jack trying to find that %$&#@#$@ puncture, patch it, only to find that a 3" gash in the sidewall is beyond repair. If it did happen to hold, I'd still be limping down a 50 mph highway with white knuckles waiting for my tire to blow out again.

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Ouch, does make me think again. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 18 at 15:34
    
I've had a similar experience. I had both a kit and a spare, and I tried the kit first, only to find out the gash was too big for the kit to handle. – Dmitry Grigoryev Feb 19 at 8:56
    
I've also had situations where a kit literally could not fix a problem-- I hit a pot hole with enough force to dent the rim. No kit in the world is going to fix that problem, so unless you're insured with road-side assistance (and you're not in the middle of nowhere), a limited spare is the only option. Or the time where my tire deflated and melted by the time I had a chance to pull over. – phyrfox Feb 20 at 19:57
    
I should mention the tires had less than 5000 miles. It was also my birthday. – MooseLucifer Feb 22 at 15:28

No, they're not. My first flat ever shredded the tire before I could bring the vehicle to a stop. Those things could save you hundreds of dollars but leave you stranded where there is no help when you need it most.

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You are right, the little kit would not replace a spare! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 18 at 18:30
    
I had a stud in my tyre, I tried the kit and it was useless. Luckily I was close to home when it occurred; had to wait 24 hours to order a new tyre and get a mobile fitter come and sort me out. Now I have a spare. – nmtoken Feb 19 at 10:55

A lot of this really depends on your driving habits, location, coverage, and how much you care about being inconvenienced.

In your particular circumstances, as I'm (perhaps incorrectly) understanding them, you'll probably be fine. Leave the spare at home 99% of the time, but remember to bring it with you if you're going somewhere you might be out of cell range, or the wrecker/cab might not come pick you up.

As other answers have pointed out, it's really a bad idea to be stuck 200 miles from anything at 2 AM on the side of a frigid mountain pass with no way to get home.

On the other hand, if you live in a large-ish city, you can call a wrecker and cab at pretty much any time of day, then just deal with the new tire the next day as a worst-case scenario. Depending on the location, you can leave the car where it's at overnight and take the flat tire (still on the wheel) with you. The next morning, take a cab to the shop to replace the tire, then take a cab back to your car where you replace it and move on.

Many insurance plans will pay your towing and at least one of the cab fees for a small monthly premium in just this scenario. Because flats are so rare, especially if you regularly replace tires that are getting worn, you're unlikely to be inconvenienced very often, and you're always going to be in range of a cell tower.

The cheaper way is if you just have friends who are willing to come pick you up at 2 AM when this happens from time to time, but you still need a cell tower so you can call them. Although really, you can just walk a few miles to the nearest fuel station and use the landline so cell towers aren't even needed.

Of course, it's still faster to just change the flat where you're at and drive to the shop tomorrow, than do all of the above and still have to deal with the flat tomorrow.

An alternate option would be a folding bike instead of a spare. I don't think you'll save any space or weight, but it has the advantage that you can use it to get help in any kind of breakdown situation, not just a blown tire, and it can be useful to get to and around crowded parts of town without paying parking tolls if there's free parking not too far away. Just put airless tubes in it and do regular bike maintenance from time to time so you know it works when you need it.

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The folding bike idea is kind of cool, actually. Not just for emergency situations, just for getting around. Thanks for the tips!. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 19 at 7:48
    
I actually kept a folding bike in my trunk for a while because the walk from parking at university was about a mile from my first class. I wish I would have thought to replace my spare with it. – Sidney Feb 19 at 15:33

Having recently had the pleasure of the company of an AA Rescue Patrolman for a couple of hours. This is after picking up a hole in the sidewall that the can of gloop couldn't seal. I was on the hard shoulder of the M1 Motorway with 44-tonners hurtling past at 60mph. I would say keep the spare wheel.

The patrolman said that he has to rescue two or three people per day from the motorway who have only the emergency kit and a puncture too severe for it to handle.

Admittedly, that is a very busy stretch of road, but if that is even close to the frequency of rescues, then the risk of being stranded is quite high.

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Although it is not illegal to change a wheel on the motorway hard shoulder, the Highway Code advises against this and urges motorists to not attempt even simple repairs. Instead motorists are advised to leave the car and get onto the verge and telephone for assistance. – Tom.Bowen89 Feb 18 at 16:42
    
@Tom.Bowen89, The AA Rescue Patrolman could have safely changed the wheel if there was a spare wheel in 20 minutes. (I would not consider doing it myself, as I don't have a van with flushing lights etc.) – Ian Ringrose Feb 18 at 17:24
    
Don't AA people have a "one size fits all" spare wheel? I know the RAC van that came to us did, then I followed him to a garage and got a new tyre. Doesn't help at night, of course. – xorsyst Feb 19 at 15:42
    
@xorsyst: This one didn't. But that sounds like a good idea. – Chenmunka Feb 19 at 15:45
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@xorsyst one size fits all? Considering the differences in stud numbers, sizes, distance? – cde Feb 19 at 18:29

I have a 2003 Mini Cooper S that didn't come with a spare tire, the battery was relocated by the factory to the trunk to make room for the supercharger. It did originally came with run flat tires, but like many others I choose to run conventional tires. Hence I carry a homemade kit similar to this.

It's fine for small punctures from a nail, but wouldn't help with blowouts on the highway. I haven't had any with this car, but have with other cars. I'd prefer a spare wheel, but it's not really an option in my case. Based on 30+ years of driving, I'd guess that 75% of the time you'd be okay with the patch kit. It's sort of up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

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In the 45 years I've been driving, most of which were on the poorly maintained streets of Hawaii, I've had only one flat that could not have been fixed by a plug kit (and even that one was my fault). So no, I don't consider a spare an absolute necessity.

Even in cars that did have a spare, I felt it was easier to use a plug kit than to change a tire (US spelling), so my spares really never got used.

Those slime/goo sealant kits are even easier to use, but I prefer plugs because if a single plug can seal the leak, it's fixed (and you can use more than one, but it's not considered a permanent repair). With the tire sealant goo you still need to have the tire repaired, and that stuff is nasty so some shops will charge extra when fixing a tire sealed with goo.

Another advantage of plugs is that they won't damage TPMS sensors. Some goo kits claim to be safe for TPMS, but if a sensor does get damaged it will add a lot to the cost of repair. And finally, plugs can fix larger holes than goo.

That being said, if you have driven on the tire while significantly under inflated, it should ALWAYS be inspected by a professional, even if a plug can seal it. Driving on a tire with low pressure can damage it, and it needs to be removed from the wheel and inspected.

So what about that one time I did need a spare? It was also flat, of course. I'm an "out of sight, out of mind" kinda guy, so while I'm pretty diligent about monitoring the condition of the tires ON my car, I tend to forget about the tire IN my car. Fortunately, since I carry a plug kit, I also carry a compact compressor, which I used to re-inflate the spare.

My latest car is a 3rd generation Mazda MX-5, which does not come with a spare (or even have room for one). It comes with Mazda's "Instant Mobility System" (IMS). Basically a can of sealant goo and a compact compressor. Oh, and that reminds me of the other thing I don't like about goo, it has an expiration date. I don't know what Mazda put in their sealant, but they also say that once you've used it, the tire needs to be replaced! WTF?!

I bought a Dynaplug kit, tested the OEM compressor to make sure it worked, and never looked back. Just remember to also carry some pliers or a multi-tool so that you can remove the offending object before plugging the hole.

Sorry for rambling on. So yes, I do consider a tire/tyre repair kit a viable replacement for a spare. No, it will not cover 100% of all situations you may encounter, but it will cover you probably 99% of the time (IMO). And since you have a spare already, you could leave it at home and call a family member or friend to bring it to you if you do get stranded.

As for me, since I don't have a spare, I just added roadside assistance to my insurance. But with my plug kit (and a portable jump starter) I'm pretty confident I won't need it.

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Great stuff, thanks for sharing your experiences. "Instant Mobility System" sure is a fancy name for a can of goo and a compressor. Nice car, by the way. – I have no idea what I'm doing Feb 22 at 10:02

My car has no spare wheel, but has comes with a repair kit and built-in inflation kit. I've decided it's not worth the cost of acquiring a spare wheel, based on:

  1. Likelihood of a puncture (at all) is low on decent tyres
  2. I have roadside assistance if needed
  3. Chances are quite high that an unfixable puncture would occur when changing a wheel couldn't happen anyway (motorway hard shoulder)
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