Some things sound like a good idea, but aren’t—like a game of Monopoly with close friends or the opening of Jurassic Park.
And, yes, while giving a driver their own, personal tire inflation and sealant kit in lieu of a spare tire sounds like it would be a big help, the often costly alternative cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, according to the results of a new AAA study.
Tire inflation kits have replaced spare tires on 29 million vehicles over the past 10 model years, according to AAA. The practice was first done in sports cars, since these approximately 4 lb. devices eliminate about 30 pounds of weight. Today, with fuel economy standards higher than ever and expectations growing, more and more automakers are following suit, in an effort to build a lighter car. In fact, about one-third of 2015 model year cars has one of these kits instead of a spare, according to AAA researchers.
The problem is it can cost 10 times as much money to repair a tire that has been temporarily fixed with a tire inflator kit, according to AAA. This is attributed to the cost of replacing the kit (in most cases, about $300) as well as the tire pressure monitoring sensor.
What’s more, swapping a spare for an inflation kit actually saves very little fuel, points out John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair.
“Advances in automotive engineering allow for weight to be reduced in ways that don’t leave motorists stranded at the roadside,” Nielsen said.
Even with the new kits and improvements in tire technology, the research shows that AAA has seen no decline in flat-tire calls over the past five years.
Thus, AAA is calling on automakers to halt the elimination of the spare tire, said AAA Media Relations Manager Robert Sinclair, Jr.
“While we understand that manufacturers face pressing government-mandated mileage regulations, the convenience and safety of the motorist comes first,” Sinclair said. “As such, all new cars should have spare tires so that when the seemingly inevitable flat tire occurs, motorists will have the ability to take themselves out of harm’s way by the side of the road and continue on with their trip.”
In order for tire inflator kits to work, the tire has to be punctured in the center of the tread and the object must remain in the tire.
In those cases, it works well enough to get you to a repair shop, the study found, but it does not work, at all, if the object is no longer in the tire or when there is sidewall, blowout or pothole-related damage, according to researchers.
AAA researchers simulated tire puncture situations in passenger cars and light trucks with new and used tires. Tires were punctured with roofing nails, drywall screws and finishing nails and repaired with the kits, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you’re buying a new vehicle, AAA recommends asking the staff if a spare tire is included—if not, one can often be purchased. For a complete list of vehicles sold without a spare tire, click here.
If you own a vehicle with a tire inflation kit, learn how to use it before you have a tire issue and be aware that the kit itself has a lifespan of about four to eight years, AAA researchers recommend.
Does your car have a tire inflation kit in place of a spare tire? What do you think of this new trend? Tell us in the comments.