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Are Puncture Repair Kits Overblown?

Are Puncture Repair Kits Overblown?

Tyres. They help to keep us safe when the road conditions get tough. They support the car and, for the most part, work with the suspension to aid a comfy ride. What would a car be without them? A cart, that’s what. So we’re all agreed then – tyres are a good thing. That is, until they puncture.

When tyres get punctured there are certain facts of which you can be sure. It will be dark. It will be raining. The baby will have just delivered a rip-snorter and you’ve run out of nappies (been there!). You will have forgotten to charge your mobile and your sat-nav thinks you are somewhere north of Murmansk. You sigh and with a resigned shrug exit the vehicle, open the boot and discover to your horror that the spare wheel has gone and in its place is a small pump and a flagon of goo.

Congratulations. You have just discovered the latest trend in car design. No spare wheel. As more and more manufacturers get on this money-saving bandwagon so the argument for and against rages with ever increasing fury. The general consensus amongst motorists seems to be that repair kits are a bad thing.

This is the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” debate. Car makers say that losing the spare saves a lardy 20 kilos, thus making the car lighter and more fuel efficient. Others might suggest that it is just a money saving gambit and, in any case, if manufacturers wanted to save weight there are plenty of other ways. Lightweight bonnets for example.

Let’s be fair though. For a start, punctures are not the phenomenon that they once were. Tyre build quality and strength has improved – despite us having road surfaces that resemble the surface of the moon – and indeed some drivers never experience tyre failure. There’s an alternative suggestion that, in fact, motorists fail to educate themselves about their car and when the crunch comes they have no idea how to operate the repair kit, assuming erroneously that a spare was supplied. These days the canny buyer checks first.

Nevertheless, tyre damage isn’t always a pinhole that can easily be stopped up by process of a chemical bung. Sometimes it’s more disastrous, like a tear or shredding. It would be like trying to keep a punctured airship inflated by stuffing an old sock in the hole.

Horror stories about these space saving kits have started to appear on television and on consumer websites. It’s certainly true that the roadside assistance organisations have experienced more call-outs for the problem of puncture stranded drivers. Manufacturers say that their cars come with roadside assistance in the price, but that’s usually only for the first year. Then what?

There are alternative solutions. Run flat tyres as standard, narrow space saver spares or even buying your own spare steel wheel with a budget tyre fitted. The downside of the latter is, of course, that cars designed without a spare wheel won’t have a handy boot well to drop one in.

The debate rumbles on. Until such time as a consensus is reached (don’t hold your breath) the best thing a would-be buyer can do is check with the dealer and see. But what if you really, really want a car despite the lack of a spare? Well, then it gets even more confusing…

NEWSFLASH 21st October: Ford have announced that their dealers have been instructed to tell customers that the car they are ordering does not have a spare wheel. Failure to do so will result in the customer being entitled to a full refund. Great, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

This post was written by:

- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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