I haven’t needed to change a tyre on my car for over 20 years. In that same time, I have had a flat battery that needed a jump-start, I have locked myself out of my car and I have run out of fuel. Yet, I still drive a modern car that has a spare tyre in the boot. No spare battery; no petrol container and not even a piece of blue packing tape to let me open my door when the keys are left inside. When you look at the latest figures published by the motoring groups, they show that only 11.3 per cent of call-outs are related to wheels, tyres and flats (and further stats show that most people don’t change their own tyre).
It was way back in 1888 when John Dunlop patented the pneumatic tyre – which was used initially on bicycles. In 1895, Andre Michelin started putting tyres on motor vehicles. This made for a better ride and better grip but, on horseshoe nail littered cobblestone roads, punctures were common. Early motorists carried puncture repair kits and pumps in much the same way as a modern road cyclist does now. It was obviously a major inconvenience to pull apart a tyre, patch the tube and pump it back up again.
You can imagine how popular Walter and Tom Davies were in 1904 when they invented the spare tyre. Now motorists only had to change a wheel rather than glue a patch on a tube. Over the subsequent 110 years, there have been incredible advances made in tyre technology with probably the biggest breakthrough occurring in the 1940s when steel belted radial tyres were commercialised. At the same time, our roads have improved dramatically with scarcely a horseshoe nail in sight.
I wonder why then we seem to be fixated on carrying a spare tyre for no logical reason. The stats show we are almost four times as likely to have a flat battery (40.7 per cent) and on par with a faulty wheel are problems related to running out of fuel (10.5 per cent); locking ourselves out of our car (8.4 per cent); or having general engine troubles (7.9 per cent). For historical reasons only, we ignore all of these other perils and carry a spare tyre. The other factor that we have failed to acknowledge in carrying our spare tyres is that since 1987 Australia has had access to a convenient tool called the mobile phone. Previously, if you had a car problem, it was up to you to fix it. Now, any car problems, including most flat tyres, involve a call to Roadside Assistance.
I do acknowledge that some manufacturers have been supplying cars with variants of spare tyres – space-save spares; run-flat tyres; compressors and foam but I would argue that they need to go further. Throw away the spare and become liberated. If you get a flat call for Roadside Assistance, the same as you do for every other problem you have with your vehicle. The average driver only has a flat tyre once every five years. On average, over 70,000km are driven between flats. It would make more sense to me for manufacturers to have an emergency battery or a reserve fuel tank.
It is probably about at this time (or maybe several paragraphs previous) that you start to ask why I seem so obsessed with spare tyres. It is not the actual issue of spare tyres that I object to – it is the thinking behind why we still carry spare tyres. This is a classic case of repeating an action because it has always been done. If I ask an organisation why a certain action is undertaken I cringe if I hear the response that “it has always been done that way.” One big challenge for all organisations, including Councils across the state, is to think in an ongoing critical fashion. The greatest challenge with this is that many people are comfortable with ‘how it has always been done’. Leadership, including Council leadership, involves creative thinking on the best actions for today and tomorrow – not yesterday.
Thinking critically doesn’t mean you have to change the way you do things. It may mean that you keep doing the same thing but at least you will understand why you are doing what you are doing.
As for car manufacturers, I’d prefer that extra boot space to be used for additional range in my electric car thanks!
Tell me if you have used your spare tyre in the last five years at email@example.com.