DETROIT - About 28 percent of all new 2017 model year vehicles are sold without a spare tire included.
That's according to a study from AAA Michigan, which claims automakers are working to eliminate spare tires entirely as part of an effort to reduce weight and improve fuel economy. This is nothing new to those of us who have been paying attention to the growing trend, but AAA said this is causing more drivers to be stranded on the side of the road and in need of an expensive tow.
"This is a major issue for Michigan motorists who find themselves stranded on the roadside. They can no longer rely on their tire inflator kit and require vehicle towing,” said Susan Hiltz, spokeswoman for AAA Michigan. "AAA urges drivers to make it a priority to check their vehicle’s equipment and know what to do if faced with a flat tire."
AAA said in 2016 alone they serviced more than 450,000 members who had a flat tire on their vehicle but did not have a spare tire. While AAA notes new vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers to low tire pressure, the insurance company said roadside assistance data shows tire-related problems continue to be one of the top reasons why members call them for assistance.
20 percent of drivers don't know how to change a tire
However, even if a driver has a spare tire equipped with their vehicle, AAA says a previous survey revealed about 20 percent of U.S. drivers don't even know how to change a flat tire -- that's about 39 million drivers in America who wouldn't know how to put a spare tire on their car even if they had one.
As a replacement for a spare tire, some automakers are including tire-inflator kits that can temporarily repair small punctures in flat tires. But AAA said a 2015 study found that tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage or blowouts. These tire-inflator kits can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years, according to AAA.
What to do if you get a flat
To prevent drivers from being stranded in the event of a flat tire, AAA offers these precautionary tips:
- Check for a spare. When purchasing a new vehicle, always ask for a detailed list of equipment and whether a spare tire can be purchased.
- Inspect all five tires. Check tire pressures monthly and have all tires inspected as part of routine maintenance. If your vehicle has a spare tire, be sure that it’s properly inflated.
- Read ahead. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, read the owner’s manual and understand how it works and its limitations.
- Check expiration dates. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, check its expiration date. Most need to be replaced every four to eight years.
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