Reader help: Do you need a full-sized spare for country travelling?
Has modern tyre technology made spare tyres redundant, or is it still important to carry a full-sized spare for country driving?
QUESTION: My wife and I live in country New South Wales and cover a lot of distance in our vehicles as a result. Because of our relative remoteness we have always had vehicles with full sized spare tyres. To replace our current SUV with another is proving to be something of a problem.
Our Hyundai Santa Fe needs updating, but apart from buying another, it seems that most SUVs don’t have full-sized spares. Most have ‘run flat’ or similar technology which might be okay for city driving but perhaps not in rural areas where repair/replacement is not easy.
Am I being overcautious and should I accept what appears to be the inevitable or is there a practical alternative. What do you think?
ANSWER: When you’re comfortably sat behind your computer in a warm house with a glass of red in hand, and there’s nothing urgent to do then it’s very easy to economise and compromise.
Now let me transport you to an evening about six months from now, when you’re driving in country NSW. The wipers are working hard against the horizontal rain. The headlights are just about adequate given the lack of moonlight, and of course there are no streetlights out there. Then, you feel the steering get a bit heavier. Was it just a small pothole? You want to reassure yourself it was, but there’s doubt. You feel it again, and then there’s a flap-flap-flap noise erasing the last of your hopes. You know what it is.
At this point, you will want a time machine, or failing that, a full-sized spare tyre.
If you use a space saver then you stand a good chance of another puncture as these tyres are designed only for 80km/h and 80km of distance, and are much smaller and weaker than normal tyres. If you use runflats they’re good for maybe 100-200km, and again at lower speeds. And they typically cannot be repaired. Oh, and good luck trying to source a replacement tyre, especially if there’s a weekend in the way.
In my view, the single thing most likely to fail on a modern car is the tyres through a puncture. The safest option for remote travellers, by far, is a full-sized spare wheel and you should only consider vehicles that have one, or can take one. Runflats and space-savers are fine for city folk who can get to their home within 80km, and then summon Ubers, rent other cars or otherwise make do while they wait for their replacement tyre. But that’s not you, and come that lonely night out in the country then you’ll be glad you packed a full-size spare.