Spare tires get shortchanged

FRESNO, Calif.

And many of us don't spend much time thinking about them after we buy a car either. But Consumer Reports says many owners are in for a big surprise when they get that first flat.

For one, the standard spare and jack are no longer a given. Auto manufacturers are always looking to optimize passenger and cargo space and to reduce the overall weight of the car to improve fuel economy; eliminating the spare tire is an easy way to get both.

For example, the Hyundai Accent comes with just a small air compressor and a sealant kit to help fix a flat tire- no spare. The problem is that those kits don't work if the damage to the tire is in the sidewall area. In that case you'd be stranded until someone could come to help you. If you don't have a spare or your spare is flat, there is nothing that can be done for you other than to tow the car.

Then there are run-flat tires that are designed to let you keep driving after a puncture. You won't be stuck on the side of the road having to change a tire. But they can be more costly to replace, and they are sometimes not as readily available as a standard tire.

Owners of vehicles such as the Mazda3 and the Subaru Impreza are also in for a surprise when they get new tires. Turns out those lower-priced cars come with performance tires that are very expensive to replace. And while they offer better braking and handling, they also wear more quickly.

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