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AAA warns that spare tires are going extinct

Spare tire

No one likes changing a flat tire. In fact, just storing the spare can be a problem: if it's inside the vehicle, it can take up valuable cargo space, and if it's kept outside, it may prevent you from using bike racks or other accessories. But AAA says that thanks to new fuel economy regulations, we may not have to worry about either of those things much longer, since spare tires could soon disappear altogether.

We've spilled a lot of ink discussing the new fuel economy rules handed down by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Those regulations will require average fuel economy to hit 34.1 mpgs by 2016 and 54.5 mpgs by 2025. 

Automakers have a number of tools at their disposal to help them reach those goals -- for example, hybrid and electric powertrains. But reducing the weight of vehicles is also important, because as every carbon fiber fan will tell you, reducing weight is an easy way to boost fuel efficiency. 

In recent years, much of that weight has been coming out of the trunk. It's increasingly rare to find full-size spares in many vehicles, and in their place are lighter "donuts", which aren't meant to travel long distances or at high speeds. AAA says that the new fuel economy rules could make even these pint-size spares go the way of the dodo, leaving vehicle owners with run-flat tires (which can go limited distances when punctured) or fix-a-flat kits (which work fine on small holes, but do little or nothing for bigger problems, much less blowouts).

Worse, as AAA points out, owners may not even notice the absence of a spare tire when they're purchasing a vehicle. We encourage shoppers to make a checklist of things they want in a new car, and to put "spare tire" on it. Even if you're comfortable with run-flat tires, you should know in advance what you're getting (or not getting) for your money.

In fact, it's probably a good idea to check your current car, just to make sure that everything's up to snuff. Do you know where your spare is? Is it inflated? Do you know how to remove it? Can you locate your jack? If you don't have a spare, do you have fix-a-flat on hand? Given the lousy weather that we've seen over the past few weeks, we'd hate to see anyone caught in the rain or snow unprepared.

Suzanne Kane at Family Car Guide has compiled a list of cars without spare tires. Whether you're in the market for a new or used ride, it's a must-read.

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