Is it illegal to drive without a spare wheel?

Is it illegal to drive without a spare wheel?
Is it illegal to drive without a spare wheel?

It’s the go-to image to illustrate any breakdown – a frustrated motorist trying to change a tyre at the roadside. Yet only half of drivers think they could manage the task and a quick cast around the internet reveals a great deal of confusion around whether you need to carry a spare wheel in your car.

While it’s a useful feature to have – no-one wants to be stranded with a flat tyre – there is no legal requirement to have a spare wheel in your vehicle.

In fact, the RAC estimates that 90 per cent of new cars don’t come with a spare wheel. Most now feature either run-flat tyres, or repair foam and a compressor. Of those that do have a spare, many are space-savers – designed for low-speed, short-distance travel only.

MOT matters

Contrary to some opinions, a missing or damaged spare tyre will not lead to an MOT failure. Only the road tyres are subject to the test standard, although the examiner is supposed to advise you if the spare doesn’t meet the same standard.

MOT requirements 

Tyres must:

  • Be compatible with the types of tyres fitted to the other wheels
  • Have a minimum depth of 1.6mm across three quarters of its width
  • Not have any lump, bulge or tear
  • Not have a cut or tear in excess of 25mm or 10 per cent of the sectional width of the tyre, and which is deep enough to reach the ply or cord
  • Not have any part of the ply or cord exposed

That said, what’s the point in having a spare that you can’t use? Fitting a damaged spare tyre is not only dangerous but immediately leaves you open to a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points if you’re stopped by the police.

It’s also important to note that the foam-based repair kits are temporary fixes only designed to get you to the nearest garage. Even if the tyre can be repair it has to be done by a professional.

Space-savers, likewise, are only temporary solutions designed to get you to the nearest garage. They are often smaller and thinner than the standard road wheel and are limited to lower speeds. Presenting your car for an MOT with a space-saver fitted will land you an instant fail.

If your car doesn’t have a spare wheel as standard most manufacturers will offer one as a paid-for option but these can cost hundreds of pounds. There are also aftermarket companies who will provide a suitable spare.

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