I have always been pretty sceptical about the space saver spare wheels and puncture repair kits supplied with many modern cars. I recently had an opportunity to see a puncture repair kit in action and was reluctantly impressed with its convenience – although I’d still prefer a full-size spare wheel, for reasons I’ll explain.
First, the puncture repair. A friend of mine has a Ford Focus that has no spare wheel at all, just a puncture repair kit.
One morning recently, we were setting out in his car for a day out and discovered that a tyre had gone flat overnight. He nipped round to the boot and got out his Ford puncture repair kit, explaining that he had used it before and it was all rather spiffy and easy to do (to learn more, check out our new guide to car tyre puncture repair kits)
At this point, I was still sceptical, only half expecting that it would work at all. But it did – really well, in about 10 minutes. Here’s how:
- Plug in bottle of latex gloop (the big white thing in the picture) to the compressor
- Connect the air hose to the flat tyre
- Plug in the compressor to the car’s 12V accessory/cigarette lighter socket
- Sit back and wait while it pumps away
- Disconnect, pack up the kit and drive away, remembering that you need to get your newly-sealed tyre replaced ASAP.
The good news is that it really worked and was fast and easy – within ten minutes, the wheel was pumped up and we drove away. Even a heavily pregnant woman or frail elderly person could do it (for example), not just someone strong enough and knowledgable enough to change a wheel.
However, there is some bad news, too:
- If the puncture had been a gash in the sidewall or a blowout, the kit wouldn’t have worked – we’d have had to call out breakdown assistance for recovery to a tyre garage
- Bottles of latex sealant are expensive – about half the price of a new tyre
- Tyres that have been sealed are not usually plugged (repaired), even if they could have been. Instead, most tyre places like to replace them (although some will still plug them, despite the mess the sealant makes of the tyre). This means you may have to pay for a replacement tyre rather than just a plug…
- Once the tyre has been sealed, it is only intended to be a ‘get you home or to the garage’ solution and can’t be used long term. It also can’t be used at motorway speeds – the instructions with my friend’s Ford kit said that he shouldn’t exceed 80km/h (50mph) after the repair.
- A final sting in the tail is that while ATS replaced the tyre on my friend’s Ford, he had to go to a Ford dealer to get a new bottle of gloop. Until he did that, he couldn’t fix another puncture. With a spare wheel, there’s only one journey involved in getting it fixed properly.
So, to sum up, car tyre puncture repair kits work well, but only in limited circumstances. They are, overall, more expensive than having a proper spare wheel and less flexible, resulting in you being less self-sufficient than you could be if you had a spare wheel (even a space saver spare wheel).
If you’ve had any experiences (good or bad) with space saver spare wheels or puncture repair kits, I’d be very interested to hear them – just leave a comment below.