AKRON—Spare tires seem to be a hot topic these days. No, I don't mean the extra weight that may inevitably happen as we head into the holiday season, but rather the extra weight that is no longer a staple in new vehicles.
On Tuesday, Rubbernews.com posted a report about AAA Inc. asking auto makers to stop the trend of replacing spare tires with tire inflation kits. The motorist organization claims it leaves more than 30 million drivers vulnerable along the nation's roadsides.
AAA research revealed that 36 percent of 2015-model passenger vehicles come without a spare tire, up from 5 percent in the 2006 model year. Times are indeed a'changin', but are they for the better?
Consumer Reports also ran a piece about this same topic, detailing a car owner to-do list and more information from AAA.
I decided to take to social media to get feedback from its followers about their thoughts on getting rid of the spare tire. Not surprisingly, the answer was a resounding “this is a bad idea.”
One responder explained that he likes to be able to change his own tire and get moving to where he then needs to go after replacing a flat tire. With the spare tire, people have the option to change the tire themselves or to call a service truck. It's a preference that way, but without it, there is a lack of options.
Another commenter explained it's a safety issue: Not all drivers feel safe without a spare. In addition, not all drivers like the ride of run-flat tires—which a number of auto makers are putting on vehicles instead of spare tires—and they certainly “don't enjoy the cost either.”
Consumer Reports points out that the reason why car makers are jumping on this trend is because they want to boost their fleet fuel economy averages. Removing the spare tire in a vehicle can lower vehicle weight by some 30 pounds.
While this can create fuel savings, is it enough of a reason to get rid of the spare tire?
Our story revealed some additional data that may come into play. Do people feel changing a tire is still a skill they need to have in today's world? According to surveys, maybe not. More than one-in-five millennial drivers (ages 18-34) do not know how to change a tire, whereas nearly 90 percent of drivers aged 35-54 said they do know how.
There is a gender difference with this skill: 97 percent of men claim to know how to change a tire, while only 68 percent of women say they are capable.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my brother taught me basic car care when I learned how to drive. While he did teach me how to change a tire, I still would leave it up to the professionals if I had a choice.
I also have been trained in CPR, but if a doctor is standing nearby, I would not push him or her out of the way to save someone's life. But I like knowing I am capable if called upon.
If I were stranded on a back road with no cell service, I would rather have the option to change the tire myself and get back on the highway safely rather than be stranded.
And as far as that gain in fuel economy by eliminating the spare, I drive a Ford Fiesta; I already have great mileage.
Will the outcry of industry personnel be enough for auto makers to change their tune? Only time will tell. What do you think?