Even if drivers do have a spare tire, they are often reaching for their cell phones to call for roadside assistance rather than changing the tire themselves. According to a previous AAA survey, nearly 20 percent, or 39 million, of U.S. drivers do not know how to change a flat tire.
As a replacement for a spare tire, some automakers are including tire-inflator kits that can temporarily repair small punctures in flat tires. However, a 2015 AAA study found tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage or blowouts. Not only are tire-inflator kits not a good substitute for a spare tire, they can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years.
“With low-profile tires and the elimination of a spare tire, many newer vehicles are especially vulnerable to roadside tire trouble,” Nielsen said. “AAA urges drivers to make it a priority to check their vehicle’s equipment and know what to do if faced with a flat tire.”
To prevent drivers from being stranded in the event of a flat tire, AAA offers these precautionary tips:
- Do not assume there's a spare. When purchasing a new vehicle, always ask for a detailed list of equipment and whether a spare tire can be purchased.
- Inspect all five tires. Check tire pressures monthly and have all tires inspected as part of routine maintenance. If your vehicle has a spare tire, be sure that it's properly inflated.
- Read ahead. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, read the owner's manual and understand how it works and its limitations.
- Check expiration dates. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, check its expiration date. Most need to be replaced every four to eight years.
- Consider roadside assistance coverage. Roadside assistance coverage can offer peace of mind when faced with roadside trouble, including a flat tire.
In addition, drivers should identify a repair shop they trust to help keep their vehicle tires in good shape.