Friday, January 27, 2012

Where's My Spare? The mystery of missing tires

Teenagers changing a flat tire

Flat tire? Not as many cars are coming with a spare nowadays.

Not too long ago, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency established some new rules regarding fuel economy, and set goals they wanted car makers to hit. According to their regulations, the average fuel economy of a car must reach 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016, and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Other than using hybrid or electric technology in a vehicle, what's one other easy way to make a car more efficient? If you guessed shedding extra weight, you'd be right! Because of this, auto makers are finding every way possible to make their vehicles lighter - using lightweight steel and carbon fiber, and in some cases, getting rid of the spare tire that many of us have come to expect in the trunks of our cars. The idea of dropping pounds is relatively new, too. According to Christopher Knittel of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, "From 1980 to 2004, the average fuel economy of the U.S. new passenger automobile increased by less than 6.5 percent. During this time, the average horsepower of new passenger cars increased by 80 percent, while the average curb weight increased by 12 percent."

Removing that spare tire can lower the weight of a car by up to 40 pounds, slightly aiding the car in reaching MPG goals set by the manufacturer. When I drove my old vehicle around, it didn't come with a full size spare. Rather, it had a "donut", which is a smaller tire designed to only travel short distances (until it can get replaced at a repair center). I was ok with this, because my car had more trunk space as a result.
However, AAA is reporting that the days of donut spares may be quickly coming to an end as well! In fact, some cars might only come with a sealant kit, or "run flat" tires, specially designed tires that can be driven on for short distances after a puncture has occurred, so that a driver can safely get to a repair center.
So what Toyota vehicles have ditched the spare?
  • Sienna XLE (run flats)
  • Rav 4 Sport (run flats) 
  • Scion iQ (inflator/sealant kit) 
Fortunately, all newly purchased or leased Toyota vehicles come with 2 years of ToyotaCare service, free (and if from us, you also get AutoAwards coverage!) So whether you blow a tire, need your battery jump started, or a tow, you'll have 24 hour roadside assistance available.

Would you prefer a spare tire in your car for peace of mind, or do you like the newer alternatives, such as the sealant kit or the run-flat tires being equipped in certain vehicles? Do you think 40 pounds makes a noticeable difference in improving fuel economy? Leave a comment or share your thoughts with us on Twitter @LouFuszToyota !