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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.

Aside from the Santa Fe, most Subaru and Land Rover vehicles have full-sized spares, as does the Mitsubishi Outlander, and even the Jaguar F-PACE can fit one, so there are options out there.


7 Comments

  1. John Johny
    November 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm — Reply

    Although the current gen i30 is not the kind of car you’re looking for;
    I was genuinely surprised that it came with a full size spare when I bought one last year.
    Kudos to Hyundai

  2. DJR
    November 11, 2016 at 7:57 pm — Reply

    Haven’t purchased and won’t purchase any vehicle without a full size spare. Subaru Foresters XT have a raised floor so a full size wheel fits, as standard, my 1st choice. My wife’s Suzuki Swift, dealer changed the spare to full size and it fitted into the well.
    Space savers and repair kits are a complete joke in Oz, your on a Australian highway kms from the next stop, bingo a puncture how do you get on now with a space saver, or worst a repair kit, if the tyre is buggered.
    Manufacturers please get it correct.
    I didn’t purchase a BMW because of run flat tyres, Volvo because of a space saver. Has to have full size.

    • November 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm — Reply

      With you on this one, DJR. When we had the Vitara on long-term test I made a point of pulling a wheel off and fitting it into the bay. Fitted once the false floor was in place.

    • Ricardo
      November 11, 2016 at 10:19 pm — Reply

      Hi DJR, what model and year Swift? Thanks.

      • DJR
        November 13, 2016 at 10:07 am — Reply

        A 2014 model, full size spare fits into the wheel well as if it’s made for it, the line up of yellow space savers along the back wall at the dealership was very impressive, everyone must have the same thoughts.

  3. SgtCarlMc
    November 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm — Reply

    The Santa Fe and Tucson, Pajero Sport all have full spare wheels, no crap for this lot

  4. dancar
    November 25, 2016 at 5:58 pm — Reply

    The only thing wrong with my Lexus RX 450h is it has a temp spare so I had to buy a full size spare for safe travelling,as being 200k’s from each town a 80k temp distance was useless, plus doing 80kph with everyone else doing 110k’s I didn’t want to be a pain on the highway to other travellers. Lexus should make it a option, as nothing for, or about the Lexus car is cheap. They preach how important the customer is to them but are willing to risk our lives for a cost saving temporary spare to increase their profit margins. Boy it upsets me.*#*#

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper