Spare tire controversy revisited

Spare tire controversy revisited

I’ve read just about every post on this forum as well as the Tesla Motors Club forum concerning the absence of a spare tire, and it amazes me that 1) many of you consider it to be a nonissue and 2) very few have contributed specific details about whether having a spare is possible and where to keep it. So, with that in mind...

First of all, flats DO occur and their frequency is random. In general, the more you use the car the more likely you are to get a flat but you could go years without having one and then have several within a short period of time. I got one the other day on my Model S (21” tires) with only 148 miles on the odometer. Fortunately, it was a slow leak and I made it home. The temporary Tesla service center is more than a half hour drive so I went to a nearby Discount Tire and they fixed it. But what if it had been a big leak? What if I had been on my way TO work rather than coming home?

Most of you seem to think that all one needs is a tire repair kit and a cell phone. Many of us have never used a tire repair kit. How dependable are they? Do they work most of the time? Isn’t it difficult to clean out the “slime” when getting the tire fixed? If the sealant works then how does the service person find the leak to repair it? I presume that the pressure monitor doesn’t get damaged. If it does, does Tesla cover it? If the repair kit doesn’t work then we’re dependent upon roadside assistance. This is a good backup plan, but how much wasted time is involved? First you have to wait for the flatbed trailer to arrive. Then there’s the process of loading the car. Then you have to drive to a service center or your home. Then the tire needs to be repaired. This process could take several hours to occur. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time. In addition, my boss would not be too happy if I miss a half day of work because of a flat tire. With a spare I could change the tire in half an hour and be on my way.

The biggest controversy concerning a spare (other than if one is needed or not) is whether or not it would fit in the frunk. A Tesla rep told me that it would but, after doing some research, my conclusion is that you cannot fit a standard sized spare in the frunk. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a 19” or 21” wheel because the tire diameter is about the same, approximately 27.7 inches. I tested this by cutting out a cardboard circle with a slightly smaller diameter of 27.5 inches, and it doesn’t fit. The width of the frunk is not the problem, it’s the length and how the back/rear of the frunk is shaped. If Tesla had made the frunk just a few inches longer and /or shaped it differently it would have been the perfect place for a spare.

Some have said that they wouldn’t want the extra weight and its effect on range. That’s understandable but the point is that we should have the OPTION of having a spare and a place to put it. To me the frunk is just wasted space which could’ve been utilized for a spare. Since a spare won’t fit in the frunk that leaves 2 possibilities – keeping a spare in the trunk or at home. Although a spare would easily fit in the trunk I’m not sure how you would secure it since there are no tie-down points that I could find. Having one at home might help but it doesn’t eliminate the problem of depending upon the repair kit or waiting for roadside assistance. Also note that purchasing a Tesla spare is a fairly expensive proposition – they quoted me $1300 for a 21” wheel with tire.

In summary, I really like my Model S, and purchased it knowing that there isn’t a spare, but I can’t believe that the engineers couldn’t have slightly modified the frunk so that buyers would have the option of keeping a spare up front if so desired.

AlMc | 26 May 2013

My take: As you indicated, Flat tires are random and rare. When happening on the way to an appointment or far from your home they cause a real problem.

I have used the 'foam' tire repair...several years ago and it does work well and did not affect my TPM sensors. There is no problem finding the puncture spot to affect a repair. Problem..Certainly will not fix a large blow out.

I have also had a convertible with 'run flats'. If one is really concerned you could put run flats on the 19" wheels...not sure if they come in 21"..doubt it.

I am OK with no spare but understand there is risk involved that many do not feel comfortable with...

cerjor | 26 May 2013

How about using run flat tires?

michael1800 | 26 May 2013

Personally, I don't carry a spare tire. I do realize the risk I'm running and do consider that risk satisfactorily dealt with through roadside assistance (+cellphone). If those don't cut it for your risk manage schema, carry a spare tire in the trunk as you stated. It is expensive, but having it is important to you--go for it. The engineers realize they can't make everyone happy, so likely went with an 80% great effect. As far as storing it in your trunk, have a custom insert fabricated to secure your tire. This will run you a few hundred dollars, but will address your priorities. I do understand your point, however. I anticipate the Model S will continue to evolve and will eventually accommodate your priorities as a stock option in future generations. Hang in there!

Carefree | 26 May 2013

The frunk might find a much more desirable use yet. There's a lot of speculation that Tesla will offer a range extending swappable battery that fits in your frunk. We'll have to wait and see.

David Trushin | 26 May 2013

I just started looking at the new cadillacs and the one i was interested in has no spare. Not concerned. Have had flats but haven't used the spare in decades.

Ven Rala | 26 May 2013

I don't mind having a spare.
1. I have only successfully changed one flat tire in 19 years of driving.
2. Once I had 2 flats at the same time, the one spare in the trunk was of no use: call tow truck
3. Another time I tried to loosen the lugnuts with the tire iron, and despite all of my strength was unable to (I think with the power tools mechanic shops have now, they are often on too tight to be removed by hand powered tire iron: solution was to call a tow truck
4. Slow leak in tire: used foam tire repair until I took it to mechanic next day to patch the leak

For these reasons, I don't miss having a spare, I'd rather save that money in the price of the car and space in the trunk/frunk

Brian H | 26 May 2013

"With a spare I could change the tire in half an hour and be on my way. "

You think so? Where would you place the jack? What jack? 130-lb torqued nuts. How strong are you? That's about double normal.

Some have said an inflated wheel+tire will fit the frunk if angled up at the back(?). Good luck.

Schief | 26 May 2013

I was worried about this as well when I first bought my M3 as it did not come with a spare either - just the compressor w/goo kit.

After 10 years of driving that car I only got a flat once (7 years in), and the compressor/goo worked like a charm - no mess, quick fix.

cb9 | 27 May 2013

Because I got a flat within the first month of taking delivery, I ordered run-flats and new wheels from Tire rack and got TPMS from Tesla. Looks great, but I have lost traction, which was confirmed in a test drive yesterday by a military-trained extreme driver who was very impressed with the handling of the car, but noticed the tires weren't quite right - oh well. I have not noticed any difference in range.

+1 Brian H & Andrew P though - it is a concern for many and I am not totally thrilled with the run-flat solution either. To be honest, a simple YouTube h2 video that shows non-car-geeks like me how to tell if a flat is fixable, how to jack up car, repair, etc. would go a long way. And at least with the MS, I can put the link in favorites and have it on the 17" screen - darn site better than RTFM.

cloroxbb | 27 May 2013

Last time I actually had to worry about a flat tire was back in 2001...

Every car I have had since then, has had the temp spare (donut) and I have never had to use it.

Im not going to carry extra weight in the car all the time for the probability of getting a flat tire. If a flat happens, then it will be an inconvenience, but even having a spare, it will still take time to change and such, so its not like having a spare is automatically a "no stress" ticket.

Everybody has a different scenario though, and priorities.

Pungoteague_Dave | 27 May 2013

Even if you had a spare, what about a jack? No normal scissors jack will safely lift this heavy car, and there is very little clearance. Also, the car has no standard jack points that you can get to with a regular jack. Yes, bad stuff can still happen to tires, but that doesn't change the fact that spares are a relic now that tires are more reliable, and are bigger and wider and heavier than ever.

A normal human cannot remove or reinstall the Model S lug nuts without special tools (I have removed all four wheels, but needed a heavy duty torque wrench and breaker bar to do the job). Lots of things can strand cars, but given the range limitation with an EV, we are never going to be in the middle of nowhere - service will always be a simple and fast phone call away. As pointed out above, even people with spares generally call for service due to the hassle and dirt associated with a tire change.

The first thing I do with my ICE cars and trucks is remove the spares and tool kits and store them in our barn. Wasted weight and fuel - with one exception - the '52 MG would not look right without the rear-mounted wire wheel spare.

DouglasR | 27 May 2013

I suspect that failed 12V batteries have been as common on the Model S as flats. Maybe we should all be carrying spare 12V batteries.

Zebuf | 27 May 2013

If you are really adamant about having a spare, why not find some off-the-shelf 'emergency spare' that fits the 5-bolt model S hookup, but on a smaller rim. A 205/45-18" should fit nicely inside the frunk. The handling and ride-quality would suffer with an odd tire, but it would get you safely to work - and then to the tire-dealer/fixer.
That is, of course, if you manage to unscrew the blown tire first...

RedShift | 27 May 2013

I didn't know the MS lug nuts required much more torque than other cars' lug nuts. I have now abandoned the idea of buying a spare 19" wheel and tire...

therealmach3 | 27 May 2013

Tire failure is about as random as battery failure or radiator overheating. I don't carry radiator fluid and have only sporadically had jumper cables in my ICE and that has worked just fine. In the last 15 years, I have had exactly zero flats. I have had some slow leaks, but I catch those in plenty of time to get them plugged at a tire shop (not like the car doesn't tell you when tire pressure is low). I consider the spare tire on my ICE (many luxury ICE cars do NOT have spares btw) as "old thinking" and just another one of the items traditional car companies put on the cars because they cater to emotions (that they actually don't understand) and conventions that only cost me money as a consumer. But hey, for those that have personal stress from the lack of a spare tire, just throw one in the frunk and you still have more space than you do in your ICE.

Anthony H | 27 May 2013

I solved it this way... I bought a can of pressurized Slime, and had an old 12 volt compressor, they're both now in the bottom trunk. (Hey, you, don't procrastinate on this.) Next, I'm in a large city with roadside assistance available, Tesla and we have AAA also. I carry a cell phone.

That's enough insurance for me.

therealmach3 | 27 May 2013

@Anthony H ... like it, that is my approach | 27 May 2013

@Anthony H (and others), be aware the 12V accessory connection is 15A only. Smaller compressors are fine with this (typically 12 amps), but some of the larger ones draw 16-18 amps and will blow the fuse. Check your compressor ratings to confirm you'll be ok.

runswithscissor... | 27 May 2013

I had a flat while on a trip. It occurred on a Sunday away from a big city. Roadside assistance could tow the car to a place to repair the tire, but could not transport the 4 passengers. Motel rooms, meals, and the local tire shop opened first thing Monday morning. Compressor and goo would have been much cheaper. Taking time into account, a spare might have even been cheaper. Either one would have been more convenient. I am OK with no spare, but the alternatives are not perfect.

carlk | 27 May 2013

I've been driving a car without spare for the last 6 years. The car has low profile high performance tires too. I was not used to it in the beginning but eventually found it's not a problem at all. Never once I had a flat that I need to use the spare or call a tow truck. The TPM is great to let you aware of leaks developing before you got an undriveable flat.

I never used the gooey stuff and tire pump either but that's as a good plan B as the spare tire. I hate to stop at freeway shoulder struggle with tire change at the same time wondering when some idiot would drift into my lane. Lacking of spare tire is an absolute non-issue to me now.

Skotty | 27 May 2013

I believe a spare tire should be an added cost option. I've had many flats in my 20 years of driving, and it's a big risk going without a spare.

I find it odd that the Model S would have wheels that have to be torqued to double what ever other car in the last 100 years of automobiles requires. There is no need for the Model S to be any different. Why would they do this? Assuming it's true, this could make hand tightening and loosening difficult. The probable lack of jack points would also be a problem, but probably one that could be solved. Space isn't really an issue, Tesla's have plenty of that, though it would be nice if it would fit in the frunk.

I guess these days people just call for help. Where I grew up, though, you do it yourself or it doesn't get done. Fixing my own flat is far more natural and easy thing to do than calling some service for help. I would probably spend more time searching for paperwork telling me who to call than it would take for me to put a spare on my car. It costs a lot more time and it's far less efficient to have to call a flat bed tow truck out to tow your car to a service center, rather than just replace the tire yourself and drive yourself to a service center when the timing is more convenient.

The going to work example is a good example of why it's better to have a spare. Case 1: No Spare -- You get a flat, call work tell them you won't be in for awhile, call service, wait for flatbed tow truck to arrive, have it tow car to service center, then figure out how to get from service center to work, then after work figure out how to get back to service center. Sucks. Case 2: Spare -- You get a flat, change it, drive in to work, work your day as normal (maybe 15 minutes late or so), then after work drive to service center, get tire replaced while there. Easy. Cheap. Little interruption to your daily flow.

The 12v battery failure analogy is a poor comparison. Flats happen in extremely inconvenient locations. If a 12v battery dies, it happens at home, or maybe in a parking lot, but they don't fail while you are in between towns on the highway.

So maybe most people these days live in pristine communities where children don't know what nails are, but not all of us do. It would be really nice if a spare was at least an option. I would probably pay up to $1500 for it, though really, it shouldn't cost more than maybe $300.

Lush1 | 27 May 2013

I live in a big city and don't drive far from the beaten path any more, so I'm comfortable driving a car with no spare. It is becoming increasingly common for car makers not to provide one. Also, the tools most companies provide are woefully inadequate. The jack that came in my 2003 MB I wouldn't try to lift a Mini with.

I've been driving for 45 years and have had my share of flats, most in the 60's and 70's, though I found as recently as 2009 and again in 2010 that I'm still pretty good at changing tires, because I was prepared with the right tools for the job. Those determined to carry a spare tire should also carry tools that can lift the car and loosen the lug nuts. The stock stuff in even most luxury late model cars is very cheap and poorly designed. Those OEM scissors jacks that can only rotate a 1/4 turn at a time should be outlawed.

I recommend one of those small, bottle shaped hydraulic jack. Remember, get one that can support your 2.5 ton car. They are relatively small and can easily be stowed in any number of places in a Tesla. (CAVEATS: I have no idea where to put one on a Tesla frame and am not sure it is even advisable. A backing plate of some sort might be a good idea too...don't want to punch a hole in your battery case! Do more research.)

Also, a good tire wrench is a must. The old fashioned crowbar style lug wrench won't get the job done. Too many mechanics at repair shops and tire places over-torque lug nuts with impact wrenches, so if you ever have to take your own tire off, a strong wrench is a must. I carried a "spinner" wrench in every ICE I owner for over 40 years before I got my Tesla. It's sort of "cross" or T or X shaped, with 4 different wrench sizes to fit various lug nuts. It is strong enough to stand on, which is what I often had to do to crack the nuts loose. Get them started (but not removed) BEFORE you jack the car up. I weigh about 200 lbs and have never had any trouble getting a tire off, though sometimes it took standing on the wrench and a bit of careful bouncing.

The jack and wrench add additional weight you will always have to carry, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A spare that you can't mount because you can't remove the flat will mock you mercilessly and compound your frustration exponentially.

I have retired from tire changing, but I wish luck to those who need to do it and hope my suggestions are helpful.

fmezz | 27 May 2013

I just purchased the Tesla tire repair kit for some piece of mind. Myself I'm not giving up on having some sort of spare for long trips.

Tow trucks come with jacks and breaker bars and can easily change a flat tire if I have a spare.

I'm not worried about a slow leak flat, you can see that coming. I'm concerned about a hunk of metal that puts a big hole in my tire on a long trip. As was pointed out now you are being towed and waiting for a new tire in who knows where.

Around town, yes I will not carry a spare, just my tire repair kit. But for let's say another trip from LA to San Francisco I would like a spare.

I'm researching the proper wheel and tire to do this without carrying a full size Tesla tire/wheel. I found Tesla Model S is a 5/120 bolt pattern with about a 35-50mm offset. I'm looking around for a light weight maybe smaller in diameter tire/wheel combination. Would ultimately have to test this ahead of time. Also possible that the spare would only work on the front or back depending on how the car was designed. Not obvious that a smaller spare will work on this car but it is worth a try.

jat | 27 May 2013

The last 3 cars I have owned didn't have a spare and had no place to put a spare should I have wanted one, and I haven't had any trouble with them.

eltonf | 27 May 2013

I'm fine with driving without a spare. I had a slow leak flat in my Model S last month (went flat in 3 hours while parked) but I was able to air up the tire with the Tesla repair kit, then drive to Firestone to get the tire repaired.

For those of you that insist on carrying a spare, there is another option to save space. Carry a semi-deflated spare. Just make sure it has enough air for the tire to stay connected to the rim. You can use the air compressor on the tesla repair kit (or equivalent) to air up the spare to proper pressure only when needed.

Brian H | 28 May 2013

Nope, no instructional videos on the touchscreen. No videos period. Text and pictures only.

David Trushin | 28 May 2013

I don't understand the point of this thread. If you want a spare, go buy a spare. I hope you all are not saying that I have to buy a spare to ease your anxiety. What is the controversy here?

RZitrin1 | 28 May 2013

AndrewP, I participated in and even started, I think, one of those early discussions. I get lots of flats here in SF, including sidewall. Everyone poo-poo'd those comments too.

Since the 19" wheels are too large for an effective donut, here's what I did: I bought a new wheel and tire! Not that expensive (400?) Bad news: it just misses fitting in the front trunk. So it sits in back right behind the back seat, covered with towels, and I STILL have oodles of trunk space, including access to the "lower trunk" as well.

And I'm happy I did it.


jat | 28 May 2013

@David - the issue is that there is no place to put a spare, as it won't quite fit in the frunk. Given the size of the brakes, it seems hard to imagine getting a compact spare that will fit.

RZitrin1 | 28 May 2013

Put it in the trunk like I did. Plenty of room. A bit unsightly, but you can decorate the top.

Brian H | 28 May 2013

What is your plan for jacking, and loosening the lugnuts (130 lbs torqued)? I think your spare is unusable.

RZitrin1 | 28 May 2013

The "spare" is an entire wheel, which will simply be swapped for the existing wheel containing the flat.

My plan is to call AAA and have them jack it and change it, check the tire pressure, etc. Then I can check my tire at my leisure.

Brian, does that make sense?

Musterion | 28 May 2013

Brian H: That's 130 ft.-lbs. for you :)

Brian H | 29 May 2013

If they have a clue what they're doing. The MS is not a slightly different Dodge.

jasonvw | 30 May 2013

I can confirm firsthand that the standard 19" wheel with fully-inflated tire do fit in the frunk if tilted up at the back.

jonbones | 15 September 2013

100k+ and no spare tire feature, that's a pretty glaring omission. I understand the point about rarity, run flats, repair kit, but like anything in life you only realize it when it happens to you, just like backing up important data. It's just a precaution, and seeing as to how service centers aren't exactly dotting the landscape (yet), more reason to have one. Are we supposed to call a tow truck just for a flat and wait till them come, what if you're in the middle of nowhere... stuck, just for a flat? it's enough you have to wait for the battery to charge now, you can't make any wrong turns or you'll drain the range, don't get any flats either.

Thomas N. | 15 September 2013

2014 BMW 750Li fully loaded - $110K. Four 20" run-flat tires. No spare.

2014 Porsche 911 - $110K nicely optioned. 20" tires. No spare.

2014 Audi R8 - $130K nicely equipped. No spare.

2014 Nissan Maxima - $30K nicely equipped. Spare included.

Make your own judgements.

cwmenne | 15 September 2013

I don't see what the big deal is, Tesla has a great solution. I haven't had a flat that forced me to pull over in over 20 years, plus, Tesla sells a small air compressor with a "fix a flat" chemical that you can deploy into the tire for $50. WAY better deal than what BMW sells a similar kit for. If you're worried, just buy that kit, throw it in the trunk well next to your UMC and don't worry about it. I'd much rather connect a small compressor to the valve stem than actually change a flat tire on the side of the road.

jat | 15 September 2013

Other cars with no spare:

Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Chevy Spark, Ford Focus Electric, Ford CMAX, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, BMW 335, Hyundai Elantra, ...

Deal with it, spares are going away - the Edmunds article says 21% of current vehicle models supply a repair kit in place of a spare, and that trend is only increasing.

Just like choosing a pure EV over a hybrid -- why would you carry around something that you only need 1% of the time?

mrrjm | 15 September 2013

The Tesla compressor kit is fine. And just is case now one knows once you repair the tire you loose the speed rating. So you should no longer drive fast. For safety sake REPLACE the tire.

jat | 15 September 2013

@mrrjm - it depends on how it is repaired -- a patch/plug from the inside will even maintain Z speed ratings.

J.T. | 15 September 2013


Simply imagine that the full size spare came as an option for $475.00. Would you still buy it? If yes, then buy a spare rim and tire, it fits in the frunk, make sure your AAA is up to date because you don't have a two ton jack or a torque wrench for the lug nuts. That's what I did.

Dramsey | 15 September 2013

Be aware that using "tire slime" will effectively ruin a tire. So calling it a "repair" is a stretch.

I use "punch" type repair kits: they have two metal punches: one is like a round rasp, that cleans out whatever hole is in your tire. The second is designed to press a (very) sticky piece of thick rubber cord into the clean hole. Earlier kits used to come with some sort of rubber cement you were supposed to soak the cord in, but later kits just include the punches an 6-8 pieces of cord.

I had the first flat I've had in over a decade about 10 miles outside of Reno in my 2013 A6-- driver's side front. Pulled off the highway, swapped on the donut spare, and drove home. Once home I repair the original with the punch kit, re-inflated it, and put it back on the car. That was two weeks ago and it's fine.

I could have done the repair on the road-- my emergency kit also has a pair of needle nose pliers in case I need to remove whatever punctured the tire-- but I have yet to find a decent 12V air compressed. The one I bought today to try will put less than 1PSI per minute into my Audi tires, which makes it useless. 500+ strokes of a bicycle pump was what it wound up being!

mec92 | 17 September 2013

I went to and got the OEM Goodyear tire and wheel for $250. My new "fullsize spare" fits in the frunk and I still have room for some tools and other items. I also have a AAA membership and the Tesla Tire Repair Kit (Compressor).

AmpedRealtor | 17 September 2013

@ jonbones - Put an extra tire in your frunk and you have nothing to complain about. Judging by the rest of your post, you're not a fan of this car to begin with and probably have no intention of buying one.

PaceyWhitter | 17 September 2013

The newer slime kits do not ruin a tire. They don't even damage a TPMS sensor. Slime cannot repair every damaged tire, and the tire can be annoying to clean out and repair after sliming but those are the only downsides.

David Trushin | 17 September 2013

Thomas N add to your list $60,000 Caddy XTS with everything...but a spare tire.

msung330 | 28 March 2014

Disclaimer: I don't own a Model S but am doing all the final research before potentially buying one. I've also scoured all the forum posts here and other places on RFTs, spare tires, fix-a-flats, etc. I also live in the NYC area.

@AndrewP, here has been my experience after reading as many of these posts as I can find. There seem to be a three camps on this issue:

Group 1 = "I've been driving for xxx years and have never gotten a flat - you're crazy, you don't need a spare tire, get with the program."

Group 2 = "I have/haven't gotten a flat in xxx months/years but carry a comfort kit, goo+compressor (and may have used it, it worked great, etc.)"

Group 3 = (you) "I need a spare as an option."

I've had the unfortunate pleasure of *two* flat tires on my BMW 335i in the past couple of months. I hated the OEM RTFs so much (increased noise, "slippier" handling vs. what I would expect - so anecdotal, literally zero snow performance albeit they were performance summer tires, expensive, 10+% hit to fuel economy, etc.), so when two or three developed the dreaded sidewall bubbles last year, I replaced them with regular all-seasons. I was very happy with the switch until...

...I had my first flat tire, driver rear, on a busy exit ramp hitting a small pothole. Sunday late afternoon (with wife+infant in car), everything closed, roadside an expected 2+ hour response time. It looked like the pothole "sliced" the sidewall so I was SOL but I tried the Conti kit anyways; it had trouble injecting the goo into the tire (perhaps since it was completely flat?) so next time I should try jacking up the car slightly to take some car weight off the flat before injecting the goo. Anyways, I was lucky I was close to a train station so I limped to the parking lot, got home, and took care of it (tow truck + new tire) the next day.

Second time was a similar situation on the way to work, early in the a.m. Small pothole (again!), I "heard" the tire bottom out, thought "oh no" but was okay for about 30 seconds... and then saw the low-tire pressure alert. Ironically I was about 5 blocks away from the tire shop that replaced my first flat, so I limped there, got breakfast at a 24-hr diner, and waited for them to open. My Conti kit was empty but it probably wouldn't have mattered... sliced sidewall again.

So for folks in Group 1, I applaud your good luck, region/geography, driving skill, or whatever you've done to cause the flat tire gods to smile at you. Given where I live -- and a lot of you live here and know the winter was brutal -- I'd need to figure out some "spare" solution for whatever my next vehicle ends up being. Ideally, I'd look for the option to have goo+compressor and a weight- and space-saving do-nut at all times.

DTsea | 28 March 2014

I dont think you can use a donut on a model s, and certainly not for rear tires. Group 3 people get a full size spare.

Mathew98 | 28 March 2014

I got a full size spare from Tirerack with OEM Goodyear 19" tire for less than $400. Mounting, balancing, and shipping included.