Why so many automakers are ditching spare tires

Frank Witsil
Full size spare tire stowed in trunk of car.
Arterra | UIG | Getty Image

Nearly a third of new vehicles no longer come with a spare tire as standard equipment, a percentage likely to increase as automakers seek to reduce weight in cars to improve fuel economy.

"This is a major issue for ... motorists who find themselves stranded on the roadside," Susan Hiltz, public affairs director for AAA in Michigan, said this week. "They can no longer rely on their tire inflator kit and require vehicle towing."

AAA found that 28% of the 2017 model year vehicles sold don't have spares, down from 36% from the 2015 model year vehicles sold.

More from USA Today:
John Kelly: 'Stunned and broken-hearted' Trump criticized for trying to console military widow
Trump's handling of cases involving troops killed in action part of growing controversy
George W. Bush delivers clear rebuke, without mentioning Trump by name

But it was up significantly from just 5% of 2006 model year vehicles.

Will spare tires eventually disappear altogether, in a similar way features such as cassette tape decks have gone away? Maybe. Automakers not only don't like the weight, but they don't like the added cost when they feel like there are alternatives to either full-size or "doughnut" spares.

To be prepared, AAA recommends car owners know whether they have a spare before they need it and regularly check their tire pressure. Many new vehicles, the auto club said, also are equipped with tire-pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers to low pressure.

Some vehicles also now come with standard run-flat tires, which offer 100 miles of range to find a repair shop. These tires cost more and are reinforced so when they lose pressure they can still support the car's weight.

When there is a problem, many customers call for roadside assistance rather than change a tire. An increasing number of younger drivers — about 20% — don't know how to change a flat tire, according to an earlier AAA study.

The drivers who do know how to change a tire tend to be men — about 97% — in contrast to 68% of women.

Now, instead of spare tires, some automakers are now including tire-inflator kits that can plug small leaks. But the kits do not work as a temporary fix if the tire blows out or the damage is to the sidewall. They expire after four to eight years.

Registration reaps rewards.Get exclusive access to our Behind the Story newsletter, new and beta features, the latest in tech, VR and podcasts, and invitations to USA TODAY NETWORK events and sweepstakes.

This piece originally appeared at the Detroit Free Press, a local affiliate of USA Today.