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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.

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

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?

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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


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.

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!

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).

@ 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

@DTsea, @Mathew98, thanks for the info. This user group (and forum) are super helpful and I've been taking notes on the various options - Telsa and otherwise - for spare tires/do-nuts/etc. The info on this and other threads re: fitting a full spare in the "frunk" was also very helpful.

It's certainly not a religious war which group you're in... if you're group 1 in a good region with great roads and few hazards (along with many years of trouble-free driving) that's fantastic and I am jealous! I unfortunately haven't had that experience and the region ain't great for low profile tires and so forth, so I have to be group 2 or 3.

P.S. @Mathew98 have you tested or tried mounting the wheel? Would you mind sharing the exact brand/model you purchased? (While the 21s look amazing, if I ever went down the Model S route I'd probably go with the 19s.)

The car I had for seven years do not carry a spare either, and yes it has high performance low profile tires too. Never needed one even in the few times I had puncture and air leak. I would still do the same thing like I did, pump it up if necessary and drive to a shop to get the tire fixed/replaced, even if there is a spare tire with me. TPM always give me ample warning for me to drive to the shop safely.

Like some said even a spare is not 100% safe. You might not be able to changed in the dark. Not to mention change spares on the road side is probably the number one cause for people to get killed on the freeway. Drive with a compact spare is not any safer than drive with temporary sealed tire anyway. Just carry a sealant and pump for a quick fix for the rare case that you can't even drive away for a few miles. As the last resort you can always sit in the car wait for the flat bed but I have never needed that (or to use the sealant).

For people who are interested in the sealant and pump here is one that looks very good. It's TPM friendly and got a recommend from Consumer Reports.

The local tire shop charged me $20 to mount each replacement for me.

RIAL 19" rim = $239
GY 19" tire = $119

Click option to have them mount and balance the tire before shipping.

The people in the "carry a spare" camp seem to be willing to rely on calling a service truck anyway, because there is no jack, the car is very heavy and low, and the lug nut are torqued to an astonishing 129 ft-lbs. So even with a spare, you are still on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. Why not just deal with it like any other breakdown - pt it on the flat bed and take it where a proper repair can be made.

I am on the side of not carry a spare due to the improvement in tire technology. Spare tires are vestigial tails of self-reliance necessitated by poor road condition, tube-style tires, and inferior rubber compounds found in the first 75 years of automotive history. As late as the 1960, roadside tire changing was a routine thing. Of course tires lasted only 10,000 miles at best back then, and many people drove around with "recaps to save a few bucks (my father always bought recap bias ply tires to save money). However, I have driven and ridden over a million miles, much of that on motorcycles in places like Africa, South America, and Southwest Asia. I always carry a plug and CO2 kit, but have never had an on-road or off-road flat tire in over 35 years of driving. With that said, when chasing the Dakar Rally in January through Argentina, Boliva, and Chile, we did note that almost all of the competitors sustained multiple flats Somehow us spectators were more lucky when fording rivers or avoiding rocks in the road.

@PD Why not just deal with it like any other breakdown - pt it on the flat bed and take it where a proper repair can be made. As one of the leading proponents of "carry a spare" I'd say you haven't thought it through. First of all, a flat is not the same as any other breakdown. I don't know of any other break down you could have that is as easy to remedy as a flat. If the 12v dies, if the inverter dies there's nothing you can do to help yourself. But, if you carry a spare, a two ton jack, a breaker bar and torque wrench like Dramsey does you can be on your way in no time.
Second, if you have a spare and a AAA card, once the help arrives a few minutes later you can be on your way. Without a spare you have to be towed somewhere than can either repair it, or replace it in case of a blowout. Tire shops are not open 24/7. Yeah, not much of an inconvenience if you can get a tow to a Tire Rack during business hours, but how long should it take to get a flat fixed if the tire is shot? Also, if you bent the rim try finding someplace that has one of those on a weekend. The chances of you getting back on your way the same day are pretty slim.
As for advanced tire technology, all well and good, but it's still a matter of percentages. For my part, I don't want to be late for my sister-in-law's wedding and try to explain to my wife that the tires are much better than they used to be.

Yeah does anyone talk about having a backup car in tow all the time just in case the car breaks down or got into an accident? Things happen when you drive. There are always easy ways to take care of them in this car centered modern world long as no one is injured.

I think a lot of people who own a Model S are risk takers, own their own business, and are very resourceful. So not having a spare tire is not a problem. If it happens they will figure it out. Or they have a plan in the back of their mind on what to do.

@mrrjm And nothing says smart, successful and resourceful like being stranded on the side of the road with a flat and no spare . . . good plan.

Having been towed for 2 flats I agree 100 % with JT. Have a full sized spare in the frunk. If my plat doesn't respond to the compressor and gel I still have the inconvenience of calling for assistance to jack up the car and change the tire but I can then be on my way without needing a tow.

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