A spare tire use to be standard equipment in a new car, an extra layer of safety distressed drivers could count on to get them out of a jam, but those days are over. Joan Freeman of Waltham, Mass., learned that the hard way after a blowout. She called AAA to have her flat fixed, only for the technician to find not a doughnut, but a repair kit for small leaks; totally useless with the damage to her tire.
“I never, ever would have bought that car without a donut,” Freeman told CBS Boston. “What if this happens when I was alone, or it was at night, or my granddaughter was with me?”
I told readers and listeners about this trend a few years ago, when automakers started ditching the donut to score better fuel economy. They’re also abandoning spare tires for a number of reasons, including safety.
Changing a flat on the side of the road can be dangerous. Although no one keeps track of how many people die each year changing tires, about 4,000 pedestrians are struck and killed each year, according to the government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database. About 700 of those pedestrians are people working in the roadway.
Blowouts are becoming rarer with advanced technology and safety measures. Since 2006 cars have carried mandatory tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers when tires are dangerously low. Keeping tires properly inflated goes a long way to preventing blowouts. Tires are also built in such a way that even when punctured, a tire can remain safe to drive on for a number of miles, at least long enough to get the driver safely to a shop. All of these factors mean doughnuts have become dead weight. Spares are left out of cars to make them more fuel-efficient.
Still, when a driver goes to change a flat and finds nothing in the trunk they risk being stranded, especially in rural areas where cell phone reception is spotty. If you want to lug around a spare, you can get one as an option for an additional $100 to $400. Spares can be purchased online for about the same price. It always makes sense when buying a vehicle to know every aspect of the car, including what’s in the trunk, so you have no surprises in an emergency. When shopping for a new car, be sure to ask the salesperson if the car you are considering has a spare, or a kit to inflate the tire.