Why won't anyone repair my spare "temporary" tire?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

Could someone tell me why a "space-saver spare" cannot be fixed? I went to
five gas stations and a tire store, and got the same answer: "Because it's
a temporary tire." So what? It's still made of rubber like other tires,
isn't it? Why won't anybody fix this? -- Jan

TOM: For the same reason you don't bother patching a hole in a Dixie Cup,
Jan. It's engineered for limited use (i.e., it's cheap junk), and the
rubber isn't thick enough to hold a plug reliably.

RAY: These so-called space-saver spares are designed for emergency use
only. They're just good enough to get you off the highway, or off the
abandoned side road, and to a gas station where you can get your regular
tire fixed or buy a new one. In fact, most of them warn you not to exceed
50 mph and 50 miles of driving.

TOM: Why do they use such a flimsy tire? Well, if the rubber had the same
thickness and durability as a regular tire, it wouldn't, what? Save any

RAY: It's a compromise, Jan. Because tires are so much better than they
used to be, people get fewer flats. And because most people drive in the
general vicinity of civilization, 50 miles of driving is usually enough to
get you to help.

TOM: So on the odd chance that you have to use your mini spare and you wear
it out, you buy a new one. And for the average person, who gets a flat once
every five to eight years nowadays, this system works just fine.

RAY: If it bothers you, you can always go out and buy yourself a full-sized
spare. It'll cost more, it'll add weight to the car (which cuts down your
gas mileage), and it'll take up more space. But it's certainly a viable

TOM: And if you don't want to give up all that trunk space for a full-size
spare, heck, you can do what my brother does and just throw it in the back

* * *

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