Tyres are the one thing on your vehicle in constant contact with the road. Unfortunately being in contact with the road puts them in harm's way quite often. Punctures from debris, potholes and curbs can all cause damage and deflate your tyres.

Punctures are by far the most common reason for a flat tyre, closely followed by impacted debris on the road causing wheel damage. New tyres are relatively impervious to most damage but as the tread wears, the risk of a puncture or foreign object making it all the way through the tyre increases.
Spare tyre in boot of car

Your spare tyre might be inside the boot under the carpet or under the car, check your owners manual for your vehicle

Why have space saver spares become so popular in modern cars?

Gone are the days of every car having a full size spare. Space saver tyres take up less room inside the car, leaving more room for interior storage space. They also weigh less, and that means that space savers are technically more fuel efficient to carry around with you until the time that they’re needed. Fuel efficiency is a major selling point in modern vehicles, sometimes requiring trade offs in other areas, which brings us to:

What about the drawbacks?

Because space saver tyres are smaller, most of them are speed limited to 80kph maximum and only for up to a short distance (most space savers are only rated for between 100-450 kms). This information will be stamped on the tyre sidewall.

The slower maximum speeds and the shorter distances often make space saver tyres impractical for drivers who frequent rural and remote areas as the much narrower tyre tread will impact vehicle handling.

There are different types of spare tyre?

What you might not be aware of is that there are multiple types of spare tyre, and some vehicles that don’t even come with a spare at all. While we can’t break down exactly what combination each and every vehicle has in this article, we’ll cover a few of the most common types of spare plus some alternatives.

Full size matching If your spare tyre is the same brand as the type on your car and has a matching wheel, it’s recommended to rotate through all 5 tyres evenly. There are no downsides except for having to replace 5 tyres at a time when they all wear out as well as the space they can take up. If you have a full size matching spare, it is worthwhile including that tyre in your standard tyre rotation schedule so they all wear at roughly the same rate.

Full size temporary spare A full size wheel with a lightweight, light duty tyre mounted on it. These tyres function just like a regular tyre except for having far less durable construction with less tread depth. Designed to be replaced soon after being used. As they match the same size as your other tyres, ABS and traction control should not be affected.

Space saver Space savers are a lightweight tyre on a narrow wheel. They don’t take up much space and are easier to lift in and out of the vehicle. Their light weight means they don’t dramatically affect fuel economy while being carted around. The narrower tread means that vehicle braking, handling and ABS systems could be adversely affected. Your speedometer may also be inaccurate and some vehicles specify you can only run the spare on either the back or front of your vehicle. This means you have to change two tyres.

Folding space saver Some new cars are coming out with a full size spare wheel with an ultra low profile folding spare tyre. The downsides of this method are the requirement to use an air compressor to top the tyre up before it can be fitted to the vehicle and the tyre being rated as temporary. A folding spacer also limits your speed and the kms that you can safely travel on your spare.

Can-o-goop Not even a tyre, I guess we cheated on this one. These cans of sealant take up very little space and are easy and quick to use. However, they’re not guaranteed to plug all types of leaks (punctures, sure, sidewall tears, probably not) and the tyre can not be repaired after goop has been used, it’s a band aid solution to get you home at best. The tyre must be replaced after using sealant. All vehicles that come with this will have some kind of air compressor to refill the tyre once the sealant has been used.

Run Flat Tyres Instead of carrying a spare tyre at all, run flats are often found on luxury or high end vehicles. These tyres are designed to be driven on without any air in the tyres, albeit at very limited speeds and distances. Cars that are fitted from the factory with run flat tyres often do not have any alternate spare tyre, vehicle jack or toolkit as a plan B. A common complaint about run flat tyres is the poor ride quality from the much stiffer, reinforced sidewall design.
Tyre with a screw puncturing the tread

It's important to know what type of equipment your vehicle has to repair or replace a flat tyre

What about tyre age?

Any tyre, regardless of whether it’s a main tyre or a spare tyre, should be inspected after 3-5 years periodically to assess for damage, cracks and signs of tyre aging.

It’s no good to pull the spare tyre out of the boot of your car only to find that the spare is damaged, unsafe to drive on, or has gone flat in the boot of the car.
Man inspecting tyre while stuck on side of the road

Read your owners manual to find the proper jack points for your vehicle

If you live in rural areas or on gravel roads, it may be worthwhile to replace the space saver with a full size spare tyre that matches your main wheels. This will not have the same speed and distance restrictions that a space saver does, allowing you to get back to a town or city to get your main tyre repaired or replaced with with no speed or distance restrictions.

Whatever your vehicle has, it is important that you know how to use the included tool kit to change your tyre, or how to use the puncture repair kit and compressor your car may be equipped with. Have a look at our article here for advice on how to change your spare tyre!