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Who checks the air in their spare tire?

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  • Who checks the air in their spare tire?

    So I'm driving to my son's in a couple of days and I give the car a once-over. Check both cars... I have a 50 foot Poly-urethane hose to the Air compressor in the garage and a nice digital pressure gauge/fill valve that I put one of those good stay attached chucks to. And a stool so I don't have to crouch by the car. Takes only a few minutes with the right stuff, and honestly hasn't changed much since the last time I checked.
    Oil's still full, too.
    So I decide to check the spare which I don't always do. It is in a well under the back deck of the SUV back compartment. I have to take ot the crap I keep there (tool kit, compressor, jumper cables, squeegee, breaker bar etc to raise the mat and open the lid, not too bad..Move the tray and the next tray with jacks and parts. Finally, the tire and wheel appears! I look carefully and realize why I don't check it that often. The d*mn thing is installed with a hold down so that the only way to put everything in the right place is with the valve facing the bottom of the well. Cr*p. I curse the engineer who did that. Took me longer to air up the spare (it was at 30 and should be 60 PSI) than to air up the other 8 tires on the driveway. and I got my hands dirty and strained my old back and recovering shoulder taking the tire out.

    I mean he was surely faced with the decision on which way to put the tire and 2 seconds thinking for me would have made valve up the logical choice. It'll probably be another year before I check that one again.
    Last edited by LCHIEN; 12-22-2019, 08:05 PM.
    Loring in Katy, TX USA
    If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
    BT3 FAQ -

  • #2
    I used to do that on rare occasions if messing with something in the trunk or if needing the jack to rotate tires. But I have good jack now and don't need to use the skimpy jacks that come with vehicles now.
    Hank Lee

    Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


    • #3
      I used to check the spare's pressure occasionally with other cars, as the spare tire was in the trunk. But, with my Dodge Grand Caravan the spare is under the chassis, right behind the engine/transmission. There is a bolt head on the floor between the driver and passenger seat, that you need to pull a plug to access. Then using the crank handle kept with the jack you turn the bolt to lower the spare, which is on a plate, held by a cable. Once you wench loose the cable and lower the spare to the ground, you get out and on your hands and knees have to drag the tire w/cable and hoist plate out from under the car. To put it back, you reverse the procedure.

      Total PIA and I'm sure there is a special place that such designers get sent when they pass away!

      My first new car was a 65' VW 1200 "beatle". With the engine in the back and trunk in the front, there wasn't a lot of room to stash a spare tire, so they stuck it in the front, vertically at a slight angle to accommodate the hood. On the valve stem, was a short hose that ran up to the windshield wiper bottle, where it supplied air for the washer nozzle. There was a button on the dash, more toward the passenger's side. So, if you used the washer too much you depleted the air in the spare. When you took notice that the spray was looking weak, you knew it was time to open the hood and inflate the spare tire. (If you didn't take notice, then you had better keep a bicycle pump handy, just in case!)

      Other little oddities were that the battery was in a metal box under the right-side rear passenger seat. To check that, you had to pop the back seat cushion. The box had a metal lid and one time when I was checking the battery fluid level the lid slid out of my hand and shorted across the terminals.... nice flash that scared the Dickens out of me at the moment.

      The other 'oddity' was that the 10.5 gallon gas tank was in the front, between you and whatever it was you might collide with. Though the area above your knees was all metal, sort of sealed off from the trunk area, you still had that tank almost sitting in your lap. Flying down the highway one day I had a truck pull out in front of me and though I avoided hitting him, the friend that was traveling with me, pointed out that I barely slowed down. I jokingly explained to him about the gas tank location, and noted that if I was going to hit someone, the best I could do was maybe aim right and take them with us. Heck, I was 19 and a bit crazy... and picked up the nickname the "kamikaze kid".

      With almost every outside surface of the body, highly curved there appeared to be no place you could set your can of car polish... BUT, there was the VW medallion right there in front of the windshield and unbelievably it was the perfect size to fit the rim of the Turtle Wax can. Don't know of course if it was designed that way, but it surely seemed so. Similarly, there was a space behind the rear seat, below the back window that was perfect fit for my beagle, Corky! He'd get in the car, hop over into the back and rest in that area until we arrived wherever.

      The VW 'beatle' was an odd little car compared to American cars, but boy did I love that thing. It was just plain fun to drive! I had it when I dated my wife, and her being a curious girl was always asking questions about this or that. On our second or third date, I picked her up for a movie date and I stopped to buy gas. As we sat there, she saw that washer button (no label on it) and she asked, "What's that for?". My reply was that it was secret, so don't touch it. We went back and forth a couple of times with my final answer being, "Really, don't touch it!" Well as I knew she would, she reached up and pressed the button and sure enough, she squirted the attendant who was leaning over cleaning the windshield! I had known Jim (the attendant) for a couple of years, and while he got a surprise, and a heckuva laugh, his biggest smile went to my girl who was more shocked then he. On the next visit with her, he came over and tapped on the door window and laughingly asked if she would mind getting out of the car so he could safely wipe the windshield, at which we all got a laugh. Heck she still married me

      (BTW I don't drive like that anymore and haven't had an accident or violation in more than 40 years!)

      Think it Through Before You Do!


      • #4
        I was doing some service work on my 04 F150, and like you, decided that it was about time to check the air in the spare that Is cable lifted between the frame against the bed behind the rear axle. It was very flat! I wasn’t sure rubber tire was actually touching the rim, and was probably full of mud and nasty water ..... and like cwsmith, the valve stem was on the top of the tire against the bottom of the bed! Yep, there just has to be a special place in **** for these engineers, bless their hearts. ​​​​​I crawled around and under the truck looking for a way to lower the tire for a while before I relented to looking in the owners manual. Not something a man really wants to do. Then I had to read half the dang manual before I finally found it. You have to use the jack handle and the lug wrench key for the locking lug nuts. Luckily the lug key was still rolling around in the bottom of the console, under all kind of clutter. Boy, if you ever changed wheels to put on some shiny 24s and chunked that piece of chrome key that looked like a 6” chrome cigar, you would be in for a surprise if you ever had to change a tire. Anyway, to lower the spare tire you locate an unobvious hole in the rear bumper next to the license plate, poke the tire lug key that you have somehow decipher connects somehow on the end of the jack handle through the hole and jiggle it around until it magically finds its way into the winch end that will lower the spare tire to the ground! I couldn’t find any mechanical reason for the tire to be hoisted up against the bottom of the bed with the valve stem facing up. After I serviced the tire and poured in a quart of tire slime I did install it with the stem facing down where I could check the air pressure. If there was a reason for the tire to be installed so the owner couldn’t access the valve stem I can not see one, if there was at least the manufacturer could have connected a hose to the stem and terminate it someplace it could be serviced. Would this 16 year old tire that has never seen direct sunlight be safe to operate on the highway? NO.... tires have a “birthday” and a lifetime of 6 years. After 6 years old and definitely 10 years old they are to be replaced with new tires. If tire manufacturers were concerned with people faithfully replacing their tires if they were too old then they should put the replace by date on the tire........ both sides..... where you could decipher it without a code book, just like they should put the tire air pressure data where you can find it and read it without a magnifying glass.


        • #5
          I have full size spare with tpm on it.

          First Tire I check when light turns on


          • #6
            I keep a travel tire repair kit in my truck tool box that has a 12 volt pump, a can of green slime and a plug kit. Knowing how much trouble it would be to get the spare tire out I will use the repair kit before I consider messing with all that junk. We have emergency road service, that would be my second choice depending on where went flat and weather conditions.


            • #7
              When we purchased our Honda early this year I recieved a long survey from Honda. One of their lines of questioning was about spare tires. One of the questions was about them discontinuing providing the small emergency tire and them providing a tire repair kit. My reply was that I will never willingly put myself in the position of walking because of not having a spare tire. I previously stated that my truck spare tire was flat, I didn’t know that so shame on me, but I will not buy an automobile that doesn’t have a spare tire.


              • #8
                In defense of some of those engineers:
                1: folks buying cars often look at specs so product planners push to get as much stuff "elsewhere" to maximize every nook and cranny space in the interior. That ends up padding the "interior volume" spec even though much of it is pretty useless space. Moving the spare underneath, rather than putting it in a pocket in the interior or in the trunk floor, means that interior volume is available for the spec sheet. The engineer may not have much choice in the matter. Sometimes the height of seat cushions, especially the rear seat, was made rather low to pad that interior volume spec. Cheesy, no?

                2: Aiming the valve stem upwards on under-mounted spare tires protects the stem from road debris, rocks, sticks, and other junk that could be kicked up by the tires. It'd really suck to have a flat only to find out your spare was 100% flat and un-fillable because the stem was busted off who-knows-when. Full-size spares carried underneath a vehicle often have the same rims as the main wheels; putting the spare rim "shiny side down" just means that rim is going to get clobbered and damaged more often by that same road debris.

                3: Production cost. Manufacturers squeeze as much as they can out of assembly line time/costs (what they call "recurring costs") since the vast majority of the buying public does not know what to look for or what questions to ask. If the customer won't complain about something until AFTER the sale, cheapen that something as much as possible. (subject to safety laws/requirements, warranty life, etc.)

                How many folks asked about the spare tire and jack stuff when shopping for a new car? Combine that with the fairly large percentage of folks that wouldn't change the spare - they'd just call AAA or Allstate - means there is even less incentive. With wheels getting larger and larger as time goes on, a lot of drivers today would not be able to lift the wheel+tire themselves anyway. AAA or Allstate again. Folks shopping for new cars rarely ask about scheduled maintenance costs, repair costs for common things (alternators, water pumps, etc.) or know what to eyeball under the hood to see if such things are accessible (less labor hour charges to service) or not. Buyers are far more likely to ask about how many airbags a car has (the one safety thing the public seems to want to spend money on), they listen to the stereo, check the seats for comfort, etc. So design effort, time, and money is spent on such things... jacks, spare tires, etc. are relegated to 3rd class status. A few cars don't even bother with spares at all now; I remember seeing a can of Fix-a-Flat being provided by the manufacturer instead of a spare tire on a very expensive car years ago.

                The spare in my cars lives below the trunk floors. On my Genesis, the spare is upside-down so getting to the stem requires removing the spare. Why upside-down? Because there is a molded insert fitted to the cavity formed by the upside-down mini-spare's rim to hold the jack, lug wrench, and the screw-in loop for towing. Though the spare is one of those mini-spare donuts, the actual storage space is large and deep enough for a full-size rim and tire... i.e. if I use the spare, there is a place to store the dirty flat tire + rim. That same insert fits inside the full-size rims so it still has a proper storage spot when using the spare. Mounting the spare right-side up would require the jack and related bits to be somewhere else; that inside-the-rim volume would now face downwards and wouldn't be large enough for an insert. Two other cars have mini-spares because those cars have different sized rims & tires front vs. rear (common on sports cars) so a "full size" spare really has no meaning. The spare tire area is deep enough only for the mini-spare... get a flat and I have to put the regular wheel on the carpeted hatchback floor. If I had suitcases, boxes, or any other cargo they have to fight for space. Actually, when those cars were used for the annual long-distance drive to visit the folks - and thus the cargo area would be full - I'd start packing by taking the mini-spare plus jack stuff out and stashing it behind a front seat. That way, if I did have a flat on the road, I wouldn't have to unload the cargo first. I used bungee cords to hog-tie the spare to the beefy metal brackets that latch the rear seat backs upright so the spare wouldn't become a projectile in the event of sudden braking, a roll-over, etc. Yes, anything heavy in the cargo area of the car (a hatchback) was also strapped using built-in tie-downs in the floor; the car came with a nice "V" shaped strap setup for anchoring cargo.

                Some of the "service jacks" that come with cars however really take the penny-pinching too far. The scissors jacks on my Corolla or my Starion are really easy to use and work quickly; the crank handle is a rod bent into a "Z" shape with two 90 degree corners - similar to the business end+crank portions of a good brace-and-bit setup. Those jack handles snap into positive slots in the scissor jack so it is really easy to spin the jacks up or down; the slots act a bit like a u-joint so you can hold the crank at an angle, away from the pavement, and spin-spin-spin it. A Ford/Mercury jack, on a rental car years ago, was MUCH klutzier. The handle was two straight sections joined by a u-joint. One end plugged into the jack; you'd bend the u-joint 90 degrees to form the handle, then turn it 180 degrees. At that point, the crank handle was against the pavement... so you'd swing it 180 degrees horizontally (not jacking up the car) parallel to the ground, then do another 180 degree jack raising crank. Slow and cumbersome, and much of the time the slop in the u-joint made the crank pop off the jack. That same handle served as the lug wrench too... if the lug nuts were too tight there was no way to stomp on the wrench with your foot... the u-joint just let it swing around instead. My Corolla and Starion have single-piece lug wrenches, separate from the jack and jack handle, that you can stand on if necessary. My Genesis has a two pieces mortise-and-tenon together to form the handle (the joint forms the 90 degree bend in the handle to give you leverage) that hooks into a slot on the jack; that slot acts like a u-joint so you can spin-spin-spin the two handle pieces but it takes a little effort to keep the two handle parts connected. It's a ton better than that Ford/Mercury setup but not quite as nice as the 30+ year old Corolla and Starion designs.

                Spares slung underneath the vehicle, held by cables with some sort of hoist-like assembly, are probably the worst for consumers to use. It's difficult to examine the spares, the hoist mechanisms are often clunky, often rust, etc. And the spare is easily stolen too, especially on raised pickups. But it is very "out of the way" utilizing otherwise totally wasted space. Plus, many pickups are designed with "chassis cab" configurations in mind - i.e. the manufacturer is going to sell the frame/chassis, engine, and cab but no cargo box to some outfit that will add whatever to the back end: tow truck stuff, ambulance stuff, etc. So the spare can't be part of the normal cargo box. An interesting spare location was used on older Subaru vehicles: with the "flat 4" engine, most of the engine was fairly low. The carb and air filter assembly were the highest things (as they are on many engines); those parts may be "tall" but they weren't very large front-to-back on the engine. So there was some space between the air filter assembly and the firewall... Subaru put a notch in the firewall for almost half of the spare, the rest was above the engine and behind the air filter. The stem faced upwards and was readily accessible, and it didn't steal interior volume. I imagine it could be a bit of an awkward reach to lift the spare from back there though... back then, Subies had small wheels and tires so it probably wasn't THAT heavy.


                edit: yes, I check the spare tire pressures even on the one car where I have to take the spare out to get to the stem. I have an air compressor in the garage so, every once in a while, I do a round of tire-pressure checks and that includes the spares.
                Last edited by mpc; 12-23-2019, 01:52 AM.


                • #9
                  How many folks asked about the spare tire and jack stuff when shopping for a new car? Combine that with the fairly large percentage of folks that wouldn't change the spare - they'd just call AAA or Allstate - means there is even less incentive. With wheels getting larger and larger as time goes on, a lot of drivers today would not be able to lift the wheel+tire themselves anyway. AAA or Allstate again. Folks shopping for new cars rarely ask about scheduled maintenance costs, repair costs for common things (alternators, water pumps, etc.) or know what to eyeball under the hood to see if such things are accessible (less labor hour charges to service) or not.
                  My three daughters (all adults) ask the hard questions and/or google those questions before buying a car. I taught them to do that with these questions: Do you work? Do you have schedules? Do you need to be somewhere on time? DO you have time to wait until an AAA service arrives and fix things even for a flat tire?
                  Sometimes, "yes" is viable but there are times when waiting is not a option. One daughter was driving between her university and the airport for an international connection flight (70 miles sparsely populated) when she had a flat. She planned an hour extra into the check-in time. Thank goodness for that. If she had just stopped and waited, she would have missed her initial flight departure for an international connection.

                  My girls know the importance of "being prepared" for sudden emergencies and that factors into their purchases. They check (google) ease of tire change, common issues and design flaws before buying a vehicle, and long term operating costs. I don't know why others don't do this as it doesn't take long to do.

                  AS to the location and design of tires, I helped a lady about a year ago change a tire on her SUV that had the "spare tire lowering on a cable" and the need to get on ones knees to get it. There is NO Need for such as this. This is a case of pure design laziness combined with bean counter control. Sure one can say "over 10 million vehicles with this design, they saved $20,000,000 dollars. But how many sales did they lose on the next purchase because customers did not like that feature in emergency situations? How many people moved away from that brand?

                  Apple, shortly after Steve Jobs died, hired one of the top corporate retail sales managers in the world. He came in, cut sales people, made people wait in stores longer, thinking of how much money was saved. He lasted about 6 months. Apple was not about bean counting and penny pinching. Now, I hear people referring to other companies as: The Apple of cooking thermometers, the Apple of such and such. Cutting corners hurts in the unexpected long run.

                  When I lived in Japan for the last 7 years, LOML and I lived in a neighborhood that was filled with Toyota engineers. One family we got to be friends with was the head engineer for his department. I asked why he designed. He said: "My department designs the battery compartments." We get together with other departments and coordinate location with function and use computers to show us things we can't see."

                  I had a blowout on my '09 Camry about a year ago ( a fellow not looking - cut me off and I had to hit the curb at 30 mph to prevent a fender bender) and getting to the spare donut was a fairly easy, efficient and quick. The jack and handle could have been better designed, but it was adequate.

                  There is no need for design corner-cutting today.

                  WHILE I am on a rant: I don't know why automobile companies don't increase the cost of cars by $30 - $40 and put more insulation material inside of finders and 1/8 to 3/16 inch coatings under the car. Dampening the road noise makes a car drive much more smooth. Psychologically, sound dampening does that, but most people never connect the two. Uncoated tin (steel) and even plastic reverberates road noise amplifying it and making bumps seem worse than they are! With $40 of insulation and sound deadening, the car will seem more like a luxury car in its ride and no more than 20 pounds will be added.
                  Last edited by leehljp; 12-23-2019, 10:51 AM.
                  Hank Lee

                  Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


                  • #10
                    My wife's car has no spare or a place to put it. It came with a fix-a-flat can, and that's all. She discovered all this when she bought new tires and reserved the best for a spare, and we finally got rid of it after it sat behind the house for a year or two. She was quite upset about not being able to change her tire, if necessary. She was 68, then, and the idea of her changing a tire wasn't realistic, or, in any way a good idea to try. I told her never to try to deal with a flat tire, just pick up the phone and call the number on the back of the AAA card. Murphy's law dictates that the tire that is flat will be on the traffic lane side, at night, and when a drunk is driving down the road and starts to follow your taillights and flashers. Even AAA guys won't try to change a tire on the traffic-lane side and just load up the car and take it some place safe.
                    By the way, having worked as a service rep for an automobile manufacturer, I can tell you that most of the things left off of cars, even insulation and undercoat, are because of weight. It takes energy to move mass, and the use of energy means fuel economy.


                    • #11
                      The 2012 (first generation) Chevy Cruze LS came without a spar tire, but with a trunk well to hold one. The buyer did get a can of "fix-a-flat", but at the time many people didn't like the idea. Tire dealers began offering donuts on wheels as an aftermarket solution, but you still had to go buy a jack and lug wrench. The idea was weight saving for the sake of gas mileage. Later, Chevy began offering the spare, jack, wrench as an extra cost option. Given our advancing age, I do a first of the month check of all fluids and air pressures (including the spares) on both cars. Gotta love that Ryobi One+ 18 volt inflater I recently purchased. I know it sounds a bit AR, but it gives SWMBO peace of mind.
                      Jim Frye
                      The Nut in the Cellar.


                      • #12
                        Gotta love that Ryobi One+ 18 volt inflater I recently purchased. I know it sounds a bit AR, but it gives SWMBO peace of mind.
                        I have one also; VERY handy and helpful.

                        most of the things left off of cars, even insulation and undercoat, are because of weight. It takes energy to move mass, and the use of energy means fuel economy.
                        At some point, the loss of mass interferes with safety. AS to undercoating and insulation, there are trade-offs and again at some points they are not worth the trade offs. Wind noise, engine noise and "bump" noise on bumpy roads drive me nuts. I have high pitch hearing loss but car driving noises are usually lower frequency, and I have above normal low frequency hearing. (I hear low level hums exceptionally well). When discussing this with many others they acknowledge it but don't want to do anything to change it.

                        While I haven't purchased those "quiet" Bridgestone tires, I do research noisy tires and relatively quiet tires. I have 340,000 miles on my '09 Camry. Just last month a fellow commented on how quiet and smooth the ride is on my Camry. I attribute it to tires as much as anything else but I can hear wind noise at 70 mph and up. I hate extra noise and that noise does affect the perception of the ride.
                        Hank Lee

                        Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


                        • #13
                          When I was about fifteen, my father taught me how to check the oil and other lubricants, replenish if necessary, and also to change a tire on our 1956 Mercury. Figured that I'd be with Mom and if she ever had a problem, I'd be the one there to help. Around that time, I even remember learning how to remove a tire from a rim and install a new one as Dad did a lot of his own auto-maintenance, and that included fixing your 'flats'.

                          I didn't get my driver's license until I was seventeen, and I bought that Mercury from my Dad when I was 18. Dad always looked at driving as being a big responsibility. Not only do you know how to drive the thing down the road, but I had to also know at least basic 'on-the-road' maintenance, like checking fluid levels, changing the oil and filter, tires, wipers, etc.

                          While I am pretty diligent about checking things out, I leave my oil and filter changes to whatever garage I frequent in the areas where I've lived. They are better equipped and far more efficient than what I ever could be in my own driveway or garage; and, I don't have to worry about the old oil.

                          I do have a couple of compressors, as well as the 'inflator' I keep in my trunk and I also have the general assortment of tools, automotive wrenches, sockets, jack, etc. along with some basic auto mechanic skills. But generally it's a lot more efficient just to leave that kind of thing to the pro's. Still, a driver needs to know enough to foresee problems and a good way to do that is know how to check things like tires, battery, oil and power accessory lubricants, engine cooling, etc. and to know that if fluids are down or tires not evenly worn, it's usually for some concerning reason.


                          Think it Through Before You Do!


                          • #14
                            Subaru with the spare tire on top of the engine???? That answers my question I had years ago when we use to see Subaru’s with a tire on their rooftop luggage rack! I wonder if those people were ever repeat buyers.

                            MPC To quote Elizabeth Warren...... “ they are just wrong”. I still say There really is a special place for these engineers. ( 1 quart oil consumption / 1000 miles is acceptable for some years 5.4 Ford engines )


                            • #15
                              capncarl - often the engineers are "over constrained" (by Marketing, Product Planners, bean-counters, etc.) and end up making ugly designs... not much they can do in that situation. But yeah, when they are not over-constrained and still create stuff that is needlessly difficult to use or "fancy for the sake of being fancy" then I agree - not good engineering. I see the same nonsense with computer software these days, especially web software. House-of-cards programming too: when something goes wrong the fancy-but-stupid system can't gracefully handle it and it gets totally "wrapped around the axle" as a friend likes to say. Reboot is the only option. "Different for the sake of being different" is a pet peeve of mine. Don't change something unless there is a real benefit to doing so... another area where modern software fails miserably since many changes were made just to be different from the prior version - gotta make it look different so you can convince folks "it's better."

                              1 qt per 1000 miles is more or less the auto industry standard for "acceptable" or "normal" oil consumption especially when it comes to warranty claims. Hyundai used this criteria on early 2012 Tau V8 engines that had poor piston ring to cylinder wall sealing properties. Those engines did consume a lot of oil... and made back bumpers black too. I'd be upset if any of my cars consumed a quart of oil between oil changes, let alone every 1000 miles.