You're late to work, it's raining and the kids need to be dropped off at school. That's when it happens: You hear a loud pop or you see the tire pressure light come on. As you inspect the tires, you notice the culprit: a nail.
"No big deal," you say to yourself. "I have a spare."
But when you reach into the trunk, there is no spare tire. In its place, you find a small device with a gauge and a power plug. It's a tire repair kit, and at the rate things are going, learning how to use one of these may be more valuable than learning how to change out a spare.
Decades ago, nearly every car came with a full-size spare tire. But fuel economy requirements, trunk space considerations and the dangers involved in setting up a jack on the side of a road prompted automakers to shift toward smaller, temporary spares. Today, some vehicles have no spare at all. That doesn't mean carmakers are stranding you, however. Your car may be equipped with run-flat tires. Or, in place of the spare, you'll find that tire repair kit.
The worst time to find out about the different types of spares is when you have a flat. It's better to learn about the pros and cons of various spares during your search for a new car. It can be as easy as popping the trunk to see what's there. Depending on how strongly you feel about the spare type, its presence or absence might influence your decision on which car to buy. Let's take a closer look at each spare tire type and how they've changed over the years. We'll talk first about the ones people might be least familiar with.