ORLANDO, Fla.—The national auto owners' club AAA Inc. is calling on vehicle makers to stop replacing the spare tire in their vehicles with tire inflation kits, claiming that this practice may leave more than 30 million drivers vulnerable along the roadside.
“Flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are,” said John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of automotive engineering and repair.
“AAA responds to more than 4 million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, we have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.”
AAA calls tire inflation kits a “high-cost alternative” for consumers that cannot provide even a temporary fix for many common tire-related problems due to their “limited functionality.”
AAA research reveals that 36 percent of 2015-model passenger vehicles come without a spare tire, up from 5 percent in the 2006 model year. Over this 10-year period, AAA calculates 29 million vehicles on U.S. roads now have no spare tire.
While each four-pound kit eliminates approximately 30 pounds of weight, resulting in minimal savings in fuel consumption, the replacement cost is high. With some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.
“Auto makers are facing increasingly-stringent fuel economy standards and the spare tire has become a casualty in an effort to reduce weight and boost miles-per-gallon,” Nielsen said.