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Where’s the spare?

Probably any number of you have been trying since January 1st to “lose that spare tire.” If only you could take a page from the automakers’ book – just redesign so that it isn’t there in the first place.

And at the same time, improve the gas mileage by lowering the driving weight.

By eliminating the spare and the tools you need to carry to change a flat, manufacturers can save 40 pounds. Along with other weight-saving measures like eco-friendly foam fills and using plastics instead of heavier materials in the accoutrements, such steps mean cars are lighter – and manufacturers are getting closer to the mpg requirements they must meet this year and by 2016.

Some cars already have eliminated the spare tire. Alternatives are in place so that the only issue is if you don’t know you don’t have a spare. Who needs a surprise like that?

So what do you get instead, if your vehicle comes from one of the estimated 27 carmakers who are selling products without the traditional spare tire?

Some vehicles come equipped with “run-flats,” those specially made tires that can be driven on without any air pressure for a few minutes or a few miles – long enough, it’s hoped, to get you to a repair shop or at least to a safer place to pull off the highway and get assistance. Other cars include an inflator and sealant kit that work for holes in the tread up to a quarter inch.

Here, a Goodyear "ride on flat" tire shows the steel-reinforced sidewalls that allow safe driving even when the tire is completely deflated.

It’s important that you know in advance what you have – regular spare and tools, run-flats, or sealant and inflator kit – so you can get familiar with your particular solution in the case of a flat. We all know they don’t usually occur with any convenience to us.

Michelin's run-flat tire uses a polyurethane supportive ring inside to shore up the tire as it's deflating or once it has fully deflated, one of tire makers' designs that yield a safer driving experience than regular tires.

As to getting rid of that other kind of spare tire, it’s the same old boring, no-fun solution as always: eat smaller portions, avoid fats, sugars and processed foods, and get more exercise. Good luck with that!