GM Offering Tire Inflator Kits Instead of Spare Tires on Some Models

In order to meet consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles General Motors Company has replaced the spare tires in some of its models with electric tire inflator kits.

Among the models GM now offers sans spares are the Chevrolet Cruze, Volt, Corvette Z06 and Camaro, as well as the Cadillac CTS.

In a statement released on Friday, Chevrolet said that replacing the conventional spare tire and jack with the tire inflator kit has reduced the weight of its 2011 Cruze Eco by 26 pounds and boosted fuel economy to an EPA estimated 42 mpg highway / 28 mpg city.

General Motors’ Director of Tire and Wheel Systems, Terry Connolly, said the automaker’s decision to remove the spare tire on the Cruze was influenced technological advancements, like the development of the tire pressure monitoring system, which have made flat tires far less common than in the past.

Connolly said, “Getting rid of something as important as the spare tire wasn’t a decision we made lightly. The universal implementation of tire pressure monitoring systems over the past five years has significantly reduced the likelihood that a flat tire will leave you stranded by the side of the road.”

GM spokesman Sam Abuelsamid said another factor in the decision to ditch the spare tires is the OnStar system which provides subscribers with roadside assistance in the event of a flat tire or blowout.

The tire inflator kit is stored in the trunk and can be plugged into the vehicle’s 12-volt power port. In the event a tire has been punctured, the kit can inject a sealant which the automaker says is capable of plugging holes of up to ¼ inch in diameter.

Consumer Reports senior engineer Gene Peterson is less than enthusiastic about GM’s decision to abandon the traditional spare tire. He points out that the tire sealant injected by the tire inflator kits only works on punctures located in the tire tread area. Punctures in the tire’s sidewall cannot be sealed.

Another concern for Peterson is the fact that puncture seals are not a permanent fix. Some drivers, he fears, will not replace their sealant-fixed tires in time to avoid another, possibly more serious failure that could result in damage to the wheel.

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