The days when every new car, ute and van was sold with a spare wheel included are long since past, and more and more vehicle manufacturers are choosing to save weight (not to mention money) by supplying run-flat tyres and portable tyre repair kits with their vehicles rather that full-blown replacement wheels.
These modern replacements for the traditional spare tyre work can reasonably well if one of your vehicle's tyres suffers a simple puncture, but they don't provide a great deal of peace of mind, and are much less useful when it comes to repairing more extensive tyre and wheel damage. Consequently, many motorists purchasing new vehicles will purchase a spare wheel separately to guard against on-the-road mishaps, and purchasing a spare wheel from a second-hand auto part dealer can be an excellent way to pick up a bargain.
Auto part recyclers and second-hand part dealers sell a wide variety of spare wheels, and choosing the right one for your vehicle is vitally important to the safety and reliability of your vehicle if it ever has to be used in earnest. To steer yourself in the right direction, ask yourself the following questions as you shop around for a second-hand spare wheel:
Do I want a compact or full-size spare wheel?
If you are purchasing a spare wheel for a large SUV, ute or 4WD vehicle, you will most likely opt for a full-size spare wheel. These wheels are essentially standard road wheels, and once fitted to your vehicle they can be used in the same way as your regular wheels.
However, keeping a full-size spare wheel on hand can be impractical for more compact vehicles, as they are quite bulky and heavy enough to dull the performance and economy of cars with smaller engines. If you are looking for a spare wheel for a smaller vehicle, consider choosing a compact, temporary spare wheel instead.
These wheels, while designed to replace standard-size tyres, are noticeably smaller and thinner, making them much easier to carry around on a day to day basis. Many are designed to stow safely in under-seat compartments. However, these compact spare wheels are unequivocally temporary measures, and will not stand up to prolonged driving -- instead, they are designed to convey your car safely to the nearest garage or tyre repair centre, where your damaged wheel can be properly repaired or replaced.
Does the tyre on the spare wheel match the tyres on my regular wheels?
To ensure that the spare wheel does not significantly alter your vehicle's handling when fitted, it should be fitted with a tyre broadly similar in form and function to the ones already fitted to yuor vehicle. This means choosing a spare wheel fitted with a summer tyre if your vehicle usually runs on summer tyres, and an all-season tyres if your vehicle uses them more often.
Should I choose a steel or alloy spare wheel?
If you do opt for a full-size spare wheel, you will also have to decide whether to opt for a conventional steel wheel or an alloy spare wheel. Alloy wheels are generally significantly more expensive, but they also tend to be lighter, and carrying one may have less on an effect on your vehicle's fuel economy. Alloy wheels are also much less vulnerable to rust than their steel counterparts, making them more suitable for external spare wheel mountings that expose your wheel to the weather.