Spare wheel versus repair kit: Which is best when you suffer a flat tyre

Spare wheel versus repair kit

Feeling a bit deflated? We’ve all had a flat tyre. But what’s the best way to fix it?

The spare wheel versus repair kit debate is one that gets many drivers revving like a racing engine, particularly if they’re buying a new car. The majority of new motors ‑ nine out of 10 according to website Honest John ‑ are sold without a full-size spare wheel. In most cases the spare is replaced with a repair kit that is designed to get you back on the road and to somewhere where you can buy a replacement tyre.

A flat tyre is likely to afflict every driver at some point in their motoring life. Changing wheels is the second most popular reason that customers call Green Flag out. And according to tyre maker Continental, drivers suffer a puncture on average every 44,000 miles or five years. So having something that can replace a flat tyre is clearly important. But in the spare wheel versus repair kit argument, which comes out on top? We investigate.

What’s wrong with the good old-fashioned spare wheel?

Car makers say they’re under increasing pressure to fit more equipment into cars. We take it for granted that they’ll have electric this and power-assisted that, in addition to air-conditioning and entertainment systems. All this kit takes up space. Throw in that petrol-electric hybrid cars frequently need the area under the boot to fit the petrol tank (the batteries now go where that usually lives) and in some cars there is simply no room for something that may never be used.

Why do drivers like them?

It’s undoubtedly reassuring to know that if you get a flat tyre, you can continue your journey with only the minor delay that a smooth wheel change can incur. But according to Continental, drivers who think that could be labouring under a misconception. The tyre maker claims that only 70 per cent of spare tyres are ever fitted when required. This is because many are underinflated, otherwise not fit to be used, or the driver can’t get the wheel off to change the tyre.

How do puncture repair kits work?

The kit includes a latex sealant that is forced into the tyre through the valve and a compressor. This runs off the car’s 12-volt power outlet and inflates the tyre. The theory is that the sealant will plug the hole when it’s put under pressure, enabling you to get home.

What are their benefits

Obviously weight and space weigh heavily on their side. These repair kits weigh a fraction of the 20kg a full-size spare wheel tips the scales at. And as they’re about half the size of a car battery, they take up a lot less space than a wheel. According to Continental, they will offer a temporary fix for four out of five punctures. And they will enable you to do 300-400 miles, thereby safely getting you off the roadside. Not having to mess about with a jack and wheel brace is a bonus too.

What are their disadvantages

For every one in five flat tyres they don’t work. For example, if you hit a kerb and cause significant damage to the sidewall of the tyre a repair kit won’t do the job. And if your tyre suffers a sudden structural failure – more commonly known as a blow out – they certainly won’t help. In addition, the inside of the tyre and wheel will be covered in a mousse like substance. Although they can be cleaned and repaired, contrary to what some say, many fitters will refuse because it’s such an unpleasant job.

What about space savers?

Around 25 per cent of new cars come with space savers. These are skinny wheels designed, as the name suggests, to cut down on the amount of room a spare takes up. Of course you still have to change the wheel. And once the space saver is on, your speed is limited to 50mph and range limited frequently to 50 miles, for safety reasons. On top of that, there’s every chance that the full-size wheel with the flat won’t fit in the spare wheel well.

And run flats?

These are also known as self-supporting tyres because they use the rigid sidewalls rather than air pressure to support the car if they’re punctured. Of course, you don’t have to change the wheel. And they’re so effective at disguising a puncture that some drivers have had to rely on their Tyre Pressure Monitoring System to discover their tyre had lost air pressure. However, the downside is that the ride can be on the firm side with these because of those rigid sidewalls.

Are self-sealing tyres the future?

This is a relatively new and increasingly popular innovation in the world of tyres. The tyres are fitted with an air-proof layer inside which seals punctures in the tread area. Richard Durance from Continental explained: “Our research shows 95 per cent of punctures are caused by objects up to 5mm in diameter. The self-sealing tyre will cope with that and you’ll be able to continue driving, probably without even knowing you’ve had a puncture.”

Verdict

Spare versus repair? Let’s be honest, every one of these solutions feels like a compromise. But probably the best answer is the self-sealing tyre. However, there are still downsides. In this case you’re likely to pay a bit more for tyres that mend themselves. Whether that’s a worthy price for the convenience of never having to change a tyre again is a personal choice.

Read how to look after your tyres

14 comments on “Spare wheel versus repair kit: Which is best when you suffer a flat tyre

  1. Zequek Estrada 06/10/2016 6:57 PM

    When it comes to deciding between a spare wheel, repair kit, or self-sealing tyre, I honestly think it comes down to personal preference. There will always be downsides to whatever method you choose. I’d assume that people would be aware of those shortcomings when they choose that method.

  2. Michael Smith 08/10/2016 6:34 AM

    Full size spare wheel for me. I purchase a spare will each time I change my vehicle if they don’t come with a spare wheel.

  3. James Edwards 09/10/2016 3:24 PM

    Doing away with a spare wheel is cost saving at it’s most dangerous,shame on car manufacturers.

  4. Dean 11/10/2016 5:43 PM

    I think it’s more to do with shape/style/fashion that they can’t fit a spare wheel. My spare wheel is on the outside of the vehicle, not ideal because it makes the back door quite heavy. But I’d rather that than “no” spare.

  5. Roy 13/10/2016 3:28 PM

    I have a v mokka with space saver wheel to get home if needed might save a lot of time

  6. Gordon Craig 13/10/2016 5:02 PM

    Have dealt with 2 punctures in the last 3 years (2 different vehicles) one on sidewall the other on corner of tread. Sealant was useless on both instances. I bought a spare for my Touran, which now remains in the bootspace. An inconvenience well worth it for peace of mind.

    • Vasi Lazar 22/06/2019 4:57 AM

      I might be very unlucky, but I had 3 punctures in the last 6 months. Every time a different tyre. I had to buy a new one, repair one and use the kit for another. 2 tyres+repair+repair kit, £230

  7. William Morris 24/09/2019 4:19 PM

    I understand the rationale for these repair kits, which includes maximising fuel economy figures. Over the years I have had cars with a full size spare and a space saver. Two months ago I got a car with a repair kit. I have had one or more punctures with every car I have ever owned, except the latest. A full size spare was the best of all the options (no change to max speed, to change to max load, place for the old wheel/tyre). Indeed the cars with space savers had such deep wells and a foam block, that I think they probably were designed for full size spares in countries where you don’t want to be stranded.

    When I had a blowout destroy my tyre, in Germany on the autobahn late on Saturday night, it was great to be able to replace the tyre with a real spare and carry on with the holiday until I could find a local tyre replacement, rather than struggle to with the

    I am of the opinion that central government austerity is causing local councils to cut down on street cleaning, which increases the amount of debris in the road, which increases the number of punctures. I am reassured that I have an 80% chance of fixing it, but less pleased that for the 20%, I may have to buy a tyre and a new wheel.

  8. Michael William Dennis 22/10/2019 7:30 PM

    I fill so strongly about not having a spare wheel/space saver that I have walked away from a dealership when I have found out that there cars don’t come with a spare.

  9. Alan Poyser 17/11/2019 6:18 PM

    Give me a full size spare wheel every time for the extra bit of fuel you might use. These kits are a waste of time.

  10. Dave Allen 20/11/2019 8:58 AM

    My experience is that driving at speeds of 50 mph or so out of town, is that in the time I have recognised the flat tyre and then stopped, the tyre is destroyed ( huge damage to tyre-wall through rolling ) and only a spare-wheel can help. This has been the case with my last three punctures over 15 years or so.

    I therefore always carry a spare of some type – full-size if I am going on holiday, mini-one for local.

  11. Ross 28/12/2019 8:35 AM

    “For every one in five flat tyres they don’t work.” – Rubbish mate. i’ve never had a situation where a puncture repair kit will do the job. they are as useful as a waterproof teabag.

  12. Linda 21/01/2020 4:42 PM

    I have a fiat 500 and have recently had a puncture as I have no spare wheel I used the puncture repair kit which worked thankfully, however I enquired about a replacement sealant at my main dealer and was told that they have to order this from italy at a cost of almost £40 and it will take a week to arrive. Let’s hope I don’t have another puncture in the meantime.

  13. K 04/02/2020 11:13 PM

    If you can do it keep a full size spare or space saver on board
    And for what it costs keep the repair kit with your spare
    That way you get a choice and when your on a busy road and a blast from a can will do it use it

Leave a Reply