Should I replace the spare tire "donut" with a full size wheel?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I just bought a 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback Wagon. This is an all-wheel-drive wagon that comes with one of those stupid little Dunkin' Donuts mini-spares instead of a
full-sized spare tire. I've heard that if you have to use the mini-spare, you're supposed to disengage the all-wheel-drive so you don't mess it up. Is there any reason
(besides money) that I shouldn't just buy another 15-inch rim and stow a full-sized spare in the back? -- Dave

TOM: There's no reason you CAN'T do that, Dave. But personally, I don't think it's necessary.

RAY: You DO want to avoid using a mini-spare in all-wheel-drive mode, because using one smaller tire could damage the center differential. But taking this car out of
AWD mode is a piece of cake.

TOM: To put the car in "front-wheel-drive-only" mode, all you have to do is insert a fuse. The procedure is described in your owner's manual, and it's really very

RAY: Plus, the mini-spare is not stupid, in my opinion. It may look flimsy (OK, it IS flimsy), but it's really quite adequate for emergencies. It's good for about 50 miles,
which is enough to get most people home, or to a gas station, or both.

TOM: If you live out in the boonies and often find yourself more than 50 miles from civilization, then it makes sense to have a full-sized spare. But for most people, it's
just not necessary. And besides, flat tires are becoming rarer and rarer these days due to significant improvements in tire quality.

RAY: Then there's the issue of room. While many cars have room for a full-sized spare, some do not. I don't remember whether or not the '96 Legacy has a full-sized-
spare-tire well, but check before you buy a wheel and tire -- or you may wind up with a permanent tire-sculpture-art installation in your cargo area.

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