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The space race

Date: 05 September 2014   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Mobile tyre repair kits are increasingly replacing spare wheels in modern cars, but the absence of a proper spare tyre can be more trouble than it's worth, as Jack Carfrae finds out

It isn't exactly a secret that the spare wheel is a dying thing. Mobile repair kits (the can of foam that sits in the boot) have been replacing space-savers and full-sized spares for a number of years, the thinking being that they're lighter, which helps with CO2 levels, they leave more space in the boot, and modern tyres are stronger than they used to be so they're less prone to punctures.

Trouble is, the mobile repair kits don't seem to be living up to the hype. For starters, a lot of drivers are flummoxed when they lift up the boot floor and find a can, or compressor, rather than a wheel,
and they don't know how to use it.

"In [my] conversations with breakdown and recovery organisations, the biggest single reason for a call-out is vehicles not carrying a spare," says Peter Lambert, fleet director at Kwik-Fit Fleet. "I understand from a company car driver/fleet manager perspective that no spare is a hassle and causes disruption and added downtime when a tyre suffers a puncture and there is no spare."

It's a story that tallies with what the roadside repair specialists say.

"A very small percentage of people can successfully use the mobile repair kits, and we're going out to more and more punctures where there's no spare," reports Phil Ryan, head of technical operations at the RAC.

"It's doubled in the past three years. In 2013 it was 80,000, we're on track in 2014 for it to be 160,000, and we're expecting a quarter of a million in 2015."