Sunday 30 April 2017

So you think puncture repair kits are the real thing? Maybe it's time to think again!

Amid a constant stream of complaints from readers, here's one family's nightmare account

No plan is in place for those for whom the puncture repair kit doesn't work
No plan is in place for those for whom the puncture repair kit doesn't work

Independent Motors has long lamented the virtual disappearance of the spare wheel and the emergence of dreaded repair kits.

So have many, many motorists judging by the constant stream of complaints and queries that we get here on a weekly basis.

People are genuinely fearful of being stranded with a messy concoction on a narrow road on a wet, windy night - and not having a clue what to do.

This week we publish one family's account of what happened when they got a puncture.

It brings many strands together in one cogent, coherent argument that highlights the exasperation and maddening, futile messing that can be involved.

In its way it shows why repair kits can be such a waste of time, money, patience - and fuel.

Of course, you may disagree. I'm sure a lot of people do. There is an other side to the argument.

Let us know if you do - or don't - agree and why, at: (ecunningham@independent.ie).

But first take a minute to read this.

- Eddie Cunningham

"Dear Eddie,

I know you already covered the topic of spare wheels not being supplied in the majority of new cars and the reasons the manufacturers give to excuse this.

We purchased our first car without a spare wheel and believe me it will be our last.

Our 151 Mercedes C-Class was purchased last August and all was going well until Friday, January 6. My husband was on his way home from work on the M50 when he got a puncture.

He got out the repair kit and used it according to the instructions but it was unsuccessful due to the size of the puncture (it leaked out through the puncture).

He rang the Mercedes breakdown service and waited for almost two hours before they reached him. They brought car and owner home.

Now, you are looking on a Friday evening to try to resolve this conundrum.

There was no answer from any Mercedes service centres (as expected) until Saturday and then he managed to reach one in our general area but was told the tyre replacement service was outsourced to a private company.

We had no choice but to wait until Monday.

You have to bear in mind the car does not come with a jack or a wheel brace so you now have to see if you can get a mobile unit to come to replace the tyre and we were told it would take 17 days.

We are lucky enough to have a neighbour with a large car jack and, with the wheel brace from my car, my husband was able to take off the wheel.

We phoned various tyre companies but it was not possible to get an exact match for the tyre.

By Tuesday, January 10 we got one and as I write this email to you, my husband is replacing the tyre.

After he has done so, he has to take the car to the garage to move the tyres around so as to not have two different tyres with different treads at the front of car.

I realise this is a bit of a first-world problem but I don't think one would have to think too hard about the various scenarios where this would be a lot more serious.

Who does it suit not to have a spare tyre?

The manufacturers of course.

They tell us it takes away the danger of replacing a tyre on the side of the road.

But they neglect to say one has to put in the repair kit at the side of the road.

They tell us that it makes the car lighter and we will save on fuel. It will save us boot space?

No, it will save the manufacturers money. No plan is in place for those for whom the repair kit does not work (25pc according to the statistics).

If a carmaker wants to supply vehicles with less than 100pc success with their repair kit they should have a mobile tyre replacement unit to ensure people are not left without a car for 4-5 days for a minor problem which would have been easy to sort out if one had a spare tyre, or at the very least run-flat tyres, or a space-saver spare.

We decided we didn't ever want this to happen again.

We decided we would try to buy a space saver tyre and a specific car jack and wheel brace for the car (which will certainly limit our boot space) but can you believe that they are not available?

We have since been contacted by Mercedes and they are going to give us a space-saver wheel and kit suitable for the car.

But while we are grateful for the offer it makes a joke of the whole business.

Now we will have a space-saver tyre in our boot without a designated space - one of the reasons for not supplying the tyre was to save us boot space.

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing the carmakers to reduce the weight to save fuel (if my research is to be believed €15/10,000km is the saving).

Surely it makes nonsense to have breakdown trucks having to pick up cars for a mere puncture - much more damaging for the environment I would have thought.

According to RAC and Green Flag in the UK there is a huge increase in the use of their services for punctures.

Someone with a modicum of common sense must take this up with the car manufacturers.

A huge saving is being made by them but at an enormous cost to consumers."

Indo Motoring

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