Hooniverse Asks- Spare Tire or Run-Flats? Plus, What's Your Worst Tire-Changing Experience?

Tires are such an important part of how our cars rude and handle, that their choice is one of the most carefully considered buying decisions a Hoon will make. Four-season, shaved racing, uni-directional, mud & snow, Goodyear, Pirelli, Continental, BF Goodrich, the alternatives are staggering.
But many cars these days come with a type of tire that simplifies that choice considerably- run-flats – leaving you with only the question of white or black walls.
The technology for run flats goes back a few years now, but there are many reasons why more cars don’t offer the spare tire eliminating option. The reason that some cars do offer run flats is space allocation. The Mini would have to carry its spare on the roof, or in place of the fourth passenger, if it didn’t roll on a set of run-flats. Similarly, the BMW Z4 trades a spare for the ability to hide its hard-top roof under the trunk lid, while remaining super model small. And if you want a 2011 diesel E-class from Mercedes, you’re going to be giving up the spare tire as the space it normally occupies has been usurped by the container of pee that allows the car to be 50-state compliant for the stuff coming out of the tail pipe.
But what about those run-flats? Surely, BMW, Porsche, and even Mercedes wouldn’t pop them on a single car if they felt they weren’t up to snuff in the handling department.  And you could potentially throw away that AAA card as a flat tire will no longer require replacement on the side of a busy highway while you’re wearing your costume for your “furries” get together.
But if you get one of these cars without a fifth wheel, your option for replacement tires gets limited to only those tires, as the wheels have a special bead design. As anybody stuck with Michelin’s TRX wheels can tell you, that’s very limiting. What if you don’t like the tires?
So, are you willing to give up your spare for the weight and space savings run-flats afford? Or, are you so old school, you still keep your spare in tire rotation duty, and wouldn’t run flat if they paid you? Also, have you had any tire-changing experience that has made you wish for run-flats on your car? Let us know!
Image sources:[ Autoexperiences.com, ParkviewBMW.com]

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41 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Spare Tire or Run-Flats? Plus, What's Your Worst Tire-Changing Experience?”

  1. jims63valvert Avatar

    Neither.
    Been going commando for a couple of years now. I changed out my MINI's run-flats for some Bridgestone RE-01Rs.
    You left out 1 option: Schmutz, the goo you use to seal a puncture. Most high performance cars have this and a small compressor.
    There are countries that mandate you have a spare tire. This turns some 2-seater cars such as Boxster/Cayman or a Z4 into 1-seater cars. Not a pretty sight.

    1. jims63valvert Avatar

      BTW, Porsche doesn't use run-flats on any of their cars.
      Honestly, I've never had to change a flat tire. I've driven across country twice and many miles in company cars and the like. My worst experience in changing a wheel was this past week. I was taking the wheels off my 63 Valiant to get at the brakes. The lugs on the left front wheel did not want to come loose….even after Liquid Wrench, using my air gun, etc. Until I looked closer and noticed the L stamped in the end of the stud. The lugs on the left side of the car are left-hand thread. Changed direction on my air gun and blip…..came right off. Duh.

  2. Alff Avatar

    Full size spare, although to be honest, I've rarely needed them. In fact, I when I used the spare on the Alfa last year, it appeared to me that it was the first time that particular tire had touched the ground in 25 years!

  3. M44Power Avatar

    Full size spare.
    Worst experience? Finding out on a 20 degree day that the (not mentioned in the diagrams or owner's manual) spare tire carrier lowering key for a Ford F-150 was missing. And that Ford decided not to make the bolt on the spare tire carrier the same size as the lugs on the wheels. And the key really could have been designed into the lowering rod to begin with.

    1. Goingincirclez Avatar

      Funny that someone would steal the key and not the tire. In Chicago I rarely saw trucks that still had the spares under the bed. A key would be cheaper to replace… although not having either would indeed suck.

    2. Nancy Avatar
      Nancy

      I have run flats on my Honda Mini Van and I love them. I have the peace of mind that when I get a flat tire I still can drive 50 miles to the nearest dealer to get another one and I will never be caught on the side of the freeway at night. They are more expensive but it's worth peace of mind.

  4. engineerd Avatar

    None of the above. I'm still trying to figure out how to adapt a CTIS to my Mustang.
    Luckily, all of my tire changes have been required in the spring or summer and in parking lots. Pretty cushy if you ask me.

  5. lilwillie Avatar

    Give me a proper spare of nothing at all. I'm not big on the run flats. I think the idea is grand, just not something I want or need personally. I've never really had a bad experience changing a flat. I do it often enough for work with road side service it becomes so second nature you really don't work up much of a sweat.
    I'd have to say my first experience was a funny one. After a blowout on the Dragon Wagon and no spare I limped the car back to the shop, got in after hours and mounted a tire on the rim and took off. I thought Dad would be none the wiser I tore a tire up (I was 16 at the time) but the next morning he wanted to know how my flat tire went. I was dumbfounded, how could he tell? Then I looked at the rim and realized I put the lugs on backward…..uffda, guess I shouldn't have been lookn' at the boobies that were with asking if I needed any help.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    If there is space I run a spare. When I bought my Z3 the spare was already gone. So right now, just a cell phone. But, I just bought a can of the green Slime stuff and I need to dig up the extra 12V compressor that I have. Up until recently I used to have the spare, but the first line of defense was Fix-A-Flat. I just found out two really bad things about it though, it doesn't like to work below freezing, and it will eat most alloy wheels. The wife had a flat on her Trailblazer, so my thought was use the Fix-a-Flat and top it of with the 12V compressor and send her to the tire store to get it repaired. The Fix-a-Flat wouldn't come out of the can since the temp had been in the 20s for a couple of weeks, had to just use the 12V compressor. Chevy was nice enough to mount a real full size spare on the Trialblazer, but the valve stem to check the air is inaccessible without dropping the spare. I keep the 12V compressor in case I ever need the spare.
    My worst experience was ruining a 40 series tire on my 94 Vette by running it too low. Really stiff sidewalls sort of act like run-flats but just mess up the tire.
    Do you still have to replace run-flats after using the run-flat feature? I'm pretty sure this was the case at one time.

  7. muthalovin Avatar

    Full size spare, but have only used it once in a decade of ownership. I never realized the importance of checking out the spare at least once in a while until I had to use it. It had some huge dents in the sidewall from being mounted so long. It served its purpose, so it got retired, and I replaced all the tires.

  8. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    I actually just had to use the spare just over a week ago. My wife and I decided, in order to save a couple hundred bucks on our trip, we were going to fly out of NY instead of Boston. The flight was at 7am, so she was driving all night making good time to NY. Just as we were exiting to JFK airport *BLAM**BLAM* big-ass-ninja-NY-stupid-pot-hole out of nowhere. As we were pulling into the departures in JFK, the low tire sensor started to go off. I get out of the car and see this…
    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2755/4417752870_f75c3efb2d.jpg"width=300&gt;
    MOTHERFUCKER!
    Bent the hell out of the front rim and dented the back. All I could think of is, we have a flight to catch and my mother-in-law has to drive this back to her place in Springfield. Thank Buddha that VW uses a full-size spare. I did a 2 minute pit stop wheel-swap and we were on our way.
    Long to short, I am a fan of the full size spare.

  9. Goingincirclez Avatar

    There's something about run-flats that just seems like so-much false sorcery to me. As if the question should be, "if it can run flat, then why bother inflating it at all? Why not design for this feature?"
    I've never been stranded with a flat in a bad place, but my '88 T-bird had this wierd, unnatural ability to eat tires as soon as I got somewhere. 3 memorable exambles (abridged):
    1) Drove to Grand Rapids Michigan to visit a friend, no problems. Drove from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo to visit some relatives, no problems. The entire way back from K'zoo to Chicago I'm wondering "WTF just happened to my car, it's driving so odd and yet not exceedingly alarmingly to merit a stop" and when I get back, the left rear tire is almost on the rim. Never heard anything to indicate it… filled it back up and it was fine. How the heck does that happen?
    2) Several months later I go downstate (IL, very boring) unannounced to visit my GF while she's holed up on a road job. Nobody knew where I was going or when – it was just a spur of the moment deal. Get there with no issues. Get back to Chicago with no issues… pull up to the house and as I exit the car, I calculate A) how to explain to my dad where I was and B) how much sleep I can get before work the next day… as I shut the door and step away I hear a "Popfiiiiiiissssssshhhhhhhhhhhh" and turn around to see the left FRONT tire deflate before my eyes. WTF? I called in to work that moment and said I'd be late the next day…
    3) First trip to visit my girlfirned out of state, I get drive all of 370+ miles uneventfully. I'm at a stoplight about 3 miles from her place when some other guy revvs up for a friendly street race – sure! Light turns green, I hit gas and BLAM! I thought the motor blew up, but the whump-whump-whump betrayed the right front tire, which was a frayed shambles when I got out to look. Since her roommate had the phone line tied up with internet dial-up (remember that), I rim'd it the rest of the way to her place.
    I then used my a shiny new (one week-old) first credit card to finally buy a new damn set of tires.

  10. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Full size spare in the F150. Had to use it once.
    It's going to be replaced with Green Slime and a 12V Compressor soon though. On the 33" tires I don't think the standard jack will get the truck off the ground. The wife takes it alone to art shows and I can't have her getting stranded.

  11. P161911 Avatar

    My 67 Imperial, seen in my avatar, had the same feature as did most Mopars from the 1950s to 1070s. When I bought the car, the previous owner had Pep Boys install some of the 4 for $99 tires. Somehow they managed to get the tires on without realizing this. There were about 5 lugs total , out of 10, holding the left side wheels on.

    1. jims63valvert Avatar

      Yeah, my left rear is missing one lug.

  12. citroen67 Avatar

    Runflats FTW!
    Worst tire change story (the short version):
    Wal-Mart parking lot…12 degrees outside…$300 worth of groceries over top of the jack stowage compartment…and an aluminum rim fused to the hub. Had to pay twenty bucks to a tow guy to basically swat it with an effing tack hammer! Not a good way to spend a Friday night.

  13. rocketrodeo Avatar

    It's rare that a puncture will ruin a tire if you catch it soon enough. If you're in tune with your car you can tell if you have a low tire before it gets critical, but on a motorcycle it's really, really obvious. I carry an $8 Wally World T-handle plug kit that uses the sticky-string plugs, a small pair of needlenose pliers, and a 12v tire inflator. It's a trick I picked up early in my crosscountry touring days, and I have lost count of the number of times I've plugged a rear tire on one of my motorcycles. Never had a front puncture — I think the way the front tire kick up debris makes it much more likely that nails end up in your rear tire. Often you don't even need to remove the wheel to fix it, and that applies to cars as well. A plug kit is really cheap insurance, and often can have you on your way quicker (and cleaner) than changing to a spare.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      +1. Tube tires are a fun beast to be prepared for… a good part of my toolkit for my KLR650 is a crappy Chinese foot-operated pump, the wrenches to take both axles out, a pair of 8" aluminum tire irons (if I don't have enough leverage with them I'm probably doing something wrong), both sizes of spare tube, and a small bottle of dish soap for bead lube. I've had to use the tire supplies exactly once, but it was sure better than walking home 20 miles.

  14. Kurt Avatar
    Kurt

    Generally, a spare tire since run-flats still suck monkey ass. My Mazda MX-5 doesn't wear run-flats and doesn't carry a spare. Instead, I've got a can of Slime, two plug kits, a compressor and faith that I'll never get a blow out while driving it.
    Worst tire changing experience? Working in the family garage, changing tires on a fleet of delivery trucks, outside in the summer heat. With hand tools. And a world class hangover. Break one lug nut loose, dash to the fence and hurl. Repeat as necessary over the next five hours.

  15. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Hrm, take a closer look at that image. Does that say? It sure looks like it says…
    "Extended Hump 2" wheel. Giggety.

  16. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    This just makes me think about that new set of tires I need to buy this summer.

  17. BGW Avatar

    No one flat experience in and of itself was too bad, but the sheer frequency with which they happened at one point nearly had me considering a bus/bike commuting solution. The Saturn From Hell came new with mid-grade Firestones. This was right about the time of the Ford Exploder/Firestone hub-bub. I lost 3 in the space of 6 weeks- a right front once and a left rear twice. All I could think of was that I was about to be the first non-Explorer victim of a high-speed interstate blowout (even though these were plain old flats rather than structural failures, but let's not let common sense get in the way of a panic). The icing on the cake was, en route to pick the car up from the tire shop for the 3rd of the flats in the then-girlfriend's car, I got cut off and forced onto the shoulder…where I hit a pothole the size of Delaware with the right-front, bent the rim, trashed the tire and invented at least 7 new curse words.
    So yeah: full size spare or bust, plz.

  18. Thrashy Avatar

    After a couple seasons of autocrossing, I've gotten frighteningly good at tire changing. I can switch my anti-theft rusted steelies out for summer tires on 15" wheels in under 20 minutes with nothing but a scissor jack, a breaker bar, and a torque wrench.
    And to think, when the Nimitz had a flat back in high school, I had to ask a friend to show me how to change it…

  19. Tripl3fast Avatar

    Full size spare on the VW. It got regular use when I was living in a subdivision that was still growing. Nails were always finding my tires. Since I moved into an old neighborhood, it rests quitely in the trunk.
    Run flats seem like it would be more money and less effort to fix, where as it is more effort to change to a spare and less money.

  20. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    How well do run-flats do with law enforcement spike strips? They could aviod the added embarrassment of coming to a halt in a shower of sparks. Anybody?

  21. blueplate Avatar

    I think you're going to want to look into the Tweel, a concept tire-wheel combination that Michelin débuted around 2005 or so. It's basically a semi-rigid plastic tire and wheel hybrid, so there's nothing to deflate.
    You just drive around until you either get Six Stars and the tanks come out for you, or until you find a Pay 'n Spray; then you're off scott-free.

    1. smokyburnout Avatar

      These guys http://www.resilienttech.com/products/non-pneumat… are making a Tweel-style tire for the military…

  22. faster,Tobias! Avatar

    Run-flats, while offering convenience and safety, have a number of big knocks against them. First is the cost, running around $300 each from TireRack ($460 CDN at the MINI dealer here in Calgary). Second, they are very unforgiving of bumps and potholes, and coupled with a reasonably 'sporting' suspension, the ride is spine compacting. Third, because the rim is designed to hold the tire on without pressure, they are a bitch to get on and off the rim and not all tire shops have the gear to remove them. MINI advertise them as being good for a 150 Km (90 miles) at 80 Km/h, so if you're on the highway a 100 miles from anywhere you're out of luck. And the tire is trashed if you go any distance without any air in them, as the sidewall heats up and starts to come apart. Last, there aren't a lot of options out there with regard to stickiness, and that is the main reason I don't have run-flats on my MINI for summer rubber. I do have a set of run-flats for my winter wheels because if I am going to get a flat I don't want to be fumbling lug nuts in -30C!

    1. tiberiuswise Avatar
      tiberiuswise

      I hear you on the cost. My brother just got a quote of $1,500 for his wife's Honda mini-van. Afrer only 30,000 miles! I think he's going to go the new rim and regular tire route. It's got a well in the back foir a doughnut anyway.

  23. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    San Diego, early 2003. I'm on my way to work for a short shift in the morning before heading back to UCSD for a mid-term in the afternoon. Had budgeted for 1-2 hours of studying in between.
    I get a flat on the way to work, in the pouring rain. Said flat is on one of the 35×15.5" Super Swamper SXs on my '85 4Runner. Super Swamper SXs are bias-ply with 6-ply steel belted sidewalls. Tire + steel wheel = around 100lbs. My spare is a mere 33", so I call my roomate who happens to have a 35" spare with the same lug pattern. He drops it off and I make the swap and head to a local tire shop to get it patched.
    All of my work time and study time are gone, and I'm soaked. I squished my way into the test 10 minutes late and bombed it while dripping on the paper.

  24. Marquis de Saab Avatar
    Marquis de Saab

    9 months ago I tore a bit of the sidewall off my front right tire going over a curb near a construction site in Montreal a little too fast from my own graduation at 1 in the morning. As luck would have it I'd just gotten the snow tires off and had a spare summer mag with tire as well -back from being trued, giving me five full spares to choose from. I couldn't believe my luck, even managed to get 3 nuts off with out dirtying my suit and tie but had to call CAA when the POS wrench became an O instead of a hex. The first CAA guy didn't carry metric and wanted to tow me to a garage. I made him call someone else and made it home an hour later. Now carry a badass tire wrench but only 1 small spare.

  25. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

    Full size spare under the back FTW Recently, None, nor have I ever had to change my own tire. But I have done it multiple times for other people.
    One time I'm out with a friend and he somehow manages to hit a curb that's at least a foot tall, and he has no idea how to change a tire So I pull his spare tire put and his jack but cant find his lug nut wrench, and I ask him where it is "Oh, it's at home" WHY the hell would you leave that at home? So I had to flag down a passerby to borrow there wrench. And did I mention this is late march in the Boston area? and its raining?
    Another time my friend nailed a curb in his car because it was covered with snow. He runs inside so his Chinese food doesn't get cold, and I'm changing the tire in a snow storm.
    Best of the bunch though was as I came out of work i noticed a customer's tire was flat. so when she shows up i mention this and offer to change the tire for her. One thing led to another and now she's my Fiancee.
    Overall, Changing tires has been good for me

  26. coupeZ600 Avatar

    Semi's all have tires/wheels that are fundamentally just like the tire/wheel on a bicycle(without the tube) only a bit heavier. This why you'll see a tire on the back of a Truck, but no wheel. Two tire-spoons and a bead-breaker hammer fixes the tire on the side of the road exactly like they'd do at the shop, except at the shop you'd have some shade and a bigger compressor. While it's a dirty and heavy job, there's something quite satisfying about fixing your own flat, especially at night on the side of the road. .

  27. coupeZ600 Avatar

    Oh, and as a side-note/Public Service Announcement, Stay as far away as possible from the trailer tires on any Semi. The companies cycle the worst tires to the back and the guy driving it probably has dragged it over about a hundred curbs. This seperates the plies and makes them incredibly weak, and the freaking tire weighs about 100lbs on the ground but when it's blown-out at 70 mph and flying through the air it's mass decides what's fair and what's not.

  28. Derek Avatar
    Derek

    30 miles on dirt from the nearest phone, and 11,000 feet way up a narrow canyon in the Inyo Mountains, a sharp piece of chert sliced the sidewall of my truck tire. It was a new Nissan 4×4 and I was unpleasantly surprised to find that it had a "space saver" spare tire! I was finally able with much difficulty to change the tire while parked at an extreme angle, but then the problem was rock crawling back to the graded dirt road to Bishop, I almost didn't have enough ground clearance to get out of there. My lesson, never assume your new 4×4 has a full sized spare tire.

  29. tiberiuswise Avatar
    tiberiuswise

    While trespassing on state land in my CJ5 a few (too many) years back I put a stick right through the side of the Goodyear Wrangler radial. Had a spare but no jack. Apparently I never checked when I bought the thing. I contacted the seller and he said, "oh yeah, I took it out 'cause it rattled too much."

  30. KillerZomBee Avatar

    2 incidents, I'll let you decide which one was worse.
    I pulled Brownie, "The World's Greatest Crappy Old RV" out of long term storage last year for use as tow rig and World Domination Headquarters for our Lemons race team. Taking it to work that next Monday I noticed it had some pretty significant flat spots from siting for so long (years), but figured they would eventually round themselves out. As I made my way through the interchange from one freeway to another during morning commute traffic the flat spots suddenly got worse and noisier, followed by a couple loud bangs. I pulled off to the side of the cloverleaf and got out to look. The tread on the outer rear dually was separating and large chunks were missing. So I opened the storage compartment and discovered my jack and lug wrench had been stolen. "Uh oh".
    Not having any roadside service on a 30 year old motor-home, I stupidly decided to drive slowly along the shoulder to get off the freeway and figure out what to do next. But the next exit ended up being several miles down the road and I got committed to going faster than I had anticipated. By the time I got there all the tread had disappeared, and the ride was a series of thump-thump-thumps followed by BANG-BANG-BANGS, and then a quiet zing-zing-zing before the thump thumps started again, and I watched chunks of tire leaving in the rear view mirrors.
    When I finally got off the freeway all that was left were the chords, and a bunch of smashed important RV bits inside the wheel well. I figured hell, the damage has been done and it is still holding air, so I'll drive it the last couple miles to work and start calling tire shops. Besides, there was a second dually tire for backup! 🙂 Right?
    When I got to work I got out and looked… I had created the world's largest brillo-pad! People came out of our office building just to see it. But unbelievably it still held air! I then found out these old RV tires are becoming obsolete, and it cost me $300 to have a replacement sent out from Bumphuk Egypt. A second tire Kamikaze'd itself a week later and I went ahead and bought 2 more for $400 at a small service station. Realizing that the rest were all just as dry rotted and dangerous, I sprung for the last 4 online to the tune of $1,200.
    $1,900 in 7 tires for a free motorhome!?!? Sheesh.
    The second is on the other end of the scale. We took my wife's smart-car camping up in the Sierras near where I grew up, and it gave me a chance to use my new antique Allstate Single wheel trailer, with all the camping gear in strapped into an ex-convent Nun's trunk. That way we could take our Chow-chow with us and stuff it behind the seats. Bark-bark-bark!
    Yeah, single wheel. As in just one. Behind the smart. Talk about rubbernecking.
    Many miles away from civilization on dirt roads the tread on the 50 year old single tire started to separate… did I mention it only has ONE wheel?
    You would think I'd learn eventually… I came up with all kinds of contingency plans, like putting the trailer on TOP of the car, inside the car, holding it up with a rope etc just in case, coming back for the wife later etc…
    The tread came off in an odd checkerboard pattern but amazingly it too never went flat.. 120 miles and 10 tire/camping/trailer stores later we found a replacement tire at a Wallmart in Sacramento. I bought a spare while I was there, and I keep the old tire as a reminder how much smarter I could have been without all that partying….

  31. Andrea Avatar
    Andrea

    Okay so i know this is an old post but this is my worst experience with blowouts/ flats.
    Friday Night 11P.M. flat tire on the side of the road. no flash light. no freaking jack. had to call family to bring me a jack and a flash light…
    next day. got new tire on just in time to make it to grandma's funeral. get to the funeral and parked. go in with the family. come out after the service get in car to go to graveside with my younger cousins riding with me. get going in the funeral percession have yet another blowout. with a piece of rubber actually hitting my brother's car. we had the hole funeral procession stopped to change the tire and make sure my brother's car was not damaged.
    graveside to walmart.
    spare tire comes off car. i sold that car two days later. and got a ford focus.

  32. marcus Avatar

    yeah flat tire can give a nightmare.

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  34. Cody Avatar

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