Consumers warned over spare tyres

Many new car buyers are unwittingly buying vehicles without spare tyres, according to the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide.

Dog & Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said today: “Many new European cars are coming out without a spare tyre. Some cars come with a tiny air pump to inflate a flat tyre, and nothing else. If the air pump can’t re-inflate a flat tyre then all you can do is start walking.”

“Almost as bad are cars fitted with ‘run-flat’ tyres. When you have a puncture you simply drive to the nearest tyre shop and replace the whole tyre at great expense. Once these run-flat tyres have been driven flat you are not legally allowed to use them on the road again.”

“If you have a flat tyre on a new Ford Falcon – which comes with a proper spare tyre – it will probably cost around $30 to fix. If you have a flat tyre on a BMW 1-Series, it will cost up to $800 to fix. That is a complete ripoff.”*

Matthew-Wilson added that there was a considerable safety risk involved for motorists on cars with no spare tyre.

“Run-flat tyres were designed for Europe and Japan, where convenience is everything and there’s always a tyre shop nearby. However, run-flat tyres generally have a limit of 150–250 kilometres and there are plenty of places in New Zealand where there’s no accessible tyre shop within that range outside of normal business hours.”

“Imagine you’re on your way to a wedding late one Friday night, travelling between two distant cities. There may not be an open tyre shop for 500 kilometres or more. That’s assuming that the tyre shop has a suitable replacement tyre when you get there. Right now, on makes like BMW, you’ll probably have to get your tyre from a BMW dealer. How many BMW dealers do you think are open on a wet Sunday night?”

“Run-flat tyres were developed so that carmakers could increase boot space, save weight and avoid paying out for a spare tyre, jack and tools. Run-flat tyres aren’t even particularly clever; they’re just ordinary tyres with thicker walls, which means that the tyre doesn’t immediately go flat when it’s punctured.”

Matthew-Wilson added: “Almost as bad are ‘spacesaver’ tyres, supplied with most Japanese domestic cars and many local models. Tests by The Dog & Lemon Guide on a racetrack show that cars fitted with spacesavers handle very poorly and are difficult to control at even moderate speeds. Spacesavers have already been linked to at least one fatality. There’s no valid reason for car manufacturers to supply cars with spacesaver spares - it’s simply a cost-saving exercise at your expense.”

Matthew-Wilson has blunt advice for car buyers: “There’s a simple solution to all these problems: don’t buy new cars without a proper, full-sized spare tyre, or insist that the dealer fits one for you at his expense. Your life rests on your tyres, so you should make very sure they’re capable of protecting you.”

• Price quoted to The Dog & Lemon Guide over the phone by an authorised Auckland BMW dealer. Prices for replacement tyres vary because the tyres fitted to the vehicle vary. Depending on the type of tyre fitted to the BMW 1-Series, prices for its replacement range between $285–$772, plus fitting, plus GST.