Dear au­tomak­ers: Why did you take our spare tires?

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY STEPHANIE FIN­U­CANE

Does your car have a spare tire?

Well, duh, of course it does ... right?

Not nec­es­sar­ily — turns out, nearly one-third of cars on the mar­ket to­day do not come with spares.

I’ve been driv­ing one of those spare-less cars around for five years ... obliv­i­ous. So when I wound up stranded in Grover Beach with a blown out front tire, I as­sumed I had a spare. Then the nice AAA guy ar­rived and gave me the bru­tal truth.

I was in­cred­u­lous . “Just look over there,” I said, di­rect­ing AAA guy’s flash­light into the nooks and cran­nies of my Ford C-Max.

Nope. No spare — not even one of those dough­nutty things.

I apol­o­gized pro­fusely when I hopped in the tow truck for a ride to the tire shop.

Turns out, I’m not the only id­iot be­hind the wheel.

Ac­cord­ing to the nice AAA guy, lots of peo­ple don’t re­al­ize their cars aren’t equipped with spares. (Un­less he was just try­ing to make me feel bet­ter.)

In this case, there was a happy end­ing. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, I had a new tire — and a les­son in hu­mil­ity.

But what if I (or you) were out in the desert .... at night .... 100 miles from the near­est ser­vice sta­tion, with a blown tire? Yikes, right? Which raises a ques­tion: Why are car makers de­priv­ing us of some­thing that used to come stan­dard in ev­ery sin­gle ve­hi­cle? Some­thing we de­pended on to help keep us safe?

Here are the most fre­quent re­sponses:

Re­duc­ing the weight helps with fuel econ­omy — though ac­cord­ing to Consumer Re­ports, the fuel sav­ings is “slight.” Lack of space, es­pe­cially in hy­brid ve­hi­cles like mine.


Add com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy to that list. With­out the ubiq­uity of cell phones, car man­u­fac­tur­ers would never have got­ten away with ditch­ing spare tires.

Now, though, we can sit in the safety of our cars and call for ser­vice. Ex­cept in­stead of chang­ing our flat and send­ing us on our way, road­side re­spon­ders are now tow­ing many more stranded mo­torists to ser­vice sta­tions or tire shops.

As an al­ter­na­tive to a spare, there are “run flat” tires that can go for a lim­ited dis­tance af­ter get­ting a typ­i­cal punc­ture ... which makes it sound like they would be pretty use­less in the event of an atyp­i­cal punc­ture.

So are those tire in­fla­tion kits. They’re in­tended to tem­po­rar­ily re­pair punc­tures — but do ab­so­lutely noth­ing for a torn-up tire.

CBS News even quoted a AAA spokesman as say­ing it’s “pretty rare that an in­fla­tor kit can get a car back on the road.”

Yet a man­u­fac­turer who shall re­main name­less gives us this en­cour­ag­ing sales pitch: A tire in­fla­tor with a sealant “pro­vides you with a sense of comfort in know­ing that you are pre­pared in case of a tire emer­gency.”

You know what would be even more com­fort­ing? A big, old-fash­ioned, heavy-but-ser­vice­able spare tire in the trunk.

So, please, au­tomak­ers, at the very least, let us know if our cars don’t come equipped with any type of spare. Put a big sticker on the cover of the own­ers manual, and maybe an­other one in­side the trunk. Too many of use who grew up with spares take it for granted that one will be there when we need it.

Even bet­ter, don’t sac­ri­fice our peace of mind for a “slight” in­crease in fuel econ­omy. Give us back our spares.

Stephanie Fin­u­cane is The Tri­bune opin­ion edi­tor .

Public­do­main­pic­ / Creative Com­mons

Does your car have a spare tire? If it’s a new model, it may not.

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