What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car


The set of any modern car includes many different elements that can come in handy when the situation requires emergency measures from the driver. So, in the trunk of the car there must be a towing cable (about its choice is described here) and a set of tools (what should be included in it is described in separate review).

Another important element that can help out in an emergency is the spare tire. With its help, the driver will avoid additional waste on the evacuation of the vehicle with the help of a specially equipped tow truck.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

Consider how a classic wheel differs from a stowaway, as well as how a spare wheel is used in the case of certain types of cars.


What is a stowaway?

The dock is the same spare wheel, only in this case the manufacturer took care of saving space in the trunk of the car. It is a small wheel made of steel. Its size is selected depending on the bolt pattern and diameter of the wheels used.

Sometimes lightweight materials are used in the docking wheel, but externally it looks like a full-size disc type mounted on an axle. But more often than not, this disc is thinner, which saves space in the trunk when the wheel is not in use.

Why is it necessary?

No experienced driver thinks about the need for a spare wheel. It is not pleasant when the tire is punctured, and further movement is impossible due to the fact that there is nothing to replace the damaged wheel with. Some motorists keep a special repair kit in the toolbox in case of a breakdown (popularly called laces for tires). But this kit can not always save.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

For example, it only removes a puncture, but there is no way to repair a cut or disc deformation on the road. For this reason, the emergency kit must include a spare tire. Changing a wheel will not take much time, of course, if the car is equipped with a jack.

In case of a breakdown, the wheel changes to a stowaway, which will allow you to get to the nearest tire service. In some situations, the tire can completely deteriorate (the motorist did not notice the breakdown, and drove a certain distance, because of which the rubber was simply cut by the disc), and a prepared spare tire will allow you to get to the store without hindrance.

History of origin

When the first cars appeared, there was a need for such an element as a spare tire. By the way, this idea was also popular in cycling, when a cyclist competed with two spare tires at the ready.

The reason why carmakers equipped their products with a spare wheel was because of the bad roads. Most often, the transport moved along a dirt road or pavement. Often, such a coating could contain various sharp objects, for example, nails or metal particles.

The American firm Thomas B. Jeffrey was a pioneer in the use of stocks on vehicles. Despite the fact that it lasted only fourteen years (1902-16), various vehicles, especially the Rambler models, were very popular.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

The operation of those cars was made easier by the fact that a punctured wheel could be replaced in a matter of minutes. The work was so simple that even a beginner could handle the task. If a motorist knew how to repair tires, he could do it in a relaxed home environment, instead of sitting on the side of the road.


Other automakers have adopted this idea as well. For this reason, a car with one, and in some cases even two, spare wheels was commonplace. Initially, the spare wheel was fixed on the sides of the engine compartment.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

Subsequently, for convenience in accessing the engine compartment, as well as for reasons of increasing aerodynamics, this element migrated to the outer part of the body from the trunk side. During the Second World War, it was not possible to use spare wheels in the United States, as the country experienced a shortage of rubber.

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Difference from a conventional tire

Today, every car or truck is equipped with one or more spare wheels in case of an emergency. The kit can include a standard wheel size (especially important for trucks, because a puncture or rupture often occurs during transportation of goods) or an analogue, but having a reduced size in width.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

The usual spare wheel and stowaway have a standard disk diameter for a particular car. The difference between the two is as follows:

  1. The standard wheel has the same weight as other wheels that are installed on the car. The dock will be easier. Some motorists deliberately do not take a spare tire on the road in order to save a little on fuel - no one needs an extra 20-30 kg on the road.
  2. In addition to the weight, the stowaways have smaller dimensions compared to the standard analogue.
  3. The standard wheel and tire are made of better materials, so the cost of the rolling analog is much less.
  4. The dock is used only in emergency cases, and the standard wheel can be ridden for a long time. In addition, when using a lightweight spare tire, the driver must control the permissible vehicle speed.
  5.  The lightweight spare tire is fitted with lower quality rubber compared to the classic wheel.

How to choose a stowaway

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

Before purchasing this product, you should consider a few subtleties:

  1. Usually a stowaway is created for a specific car model;
  2. Since the spare wheel will be used only as an emergency element, first of all, one should pay not the quality of the product, but its dimensions. If a motorist plans to purchase a modification that will have a long resource, it is better to stay on a regular wheel.
  3. If non-standard rims are installed on the car, for example, for low-profile tires, then the rolling radius may differ from the element used by no more than one inch. For example, if the R14 disc is installed on the axle, then you can buy a spare wheel with a radius of 15 or 13 inches.
  4. At the expense of rubber - it is better to purchase an all-season than summer / winter. Otherwise, it will be an additional waste. Of course, the tread in such a tire will differ from the pattern on the rest of the wheels, so the stowaway should be used only at short distances and in compliance with safety requirements.
  5. In addition to the reduced spare tire, the driver must ensure that a suitable pump is always in the car. Since the width of the rubber in this product is almost half the standard, the wheel needs to be inflated strongly. Basically, the tire pressure should be at four atmospheres.

Where to place the spare wheel?

The dock is placed in a niche specially designed for this in the trunk of the car or under the bottom. It depends on the design of the vehicle itself. In some cases, the spare tire is positioned vertically at the rear of the vehicle. This applies to some models of buses and vans.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

If the car has a special niche for a spare wheel, it is practical to use this option. In this case, the wheel will not be damaged if sharp objects are transported in the trunk. An exception is vehicles equipped with HBO (the system is discussed in detail in another hundredтth). Most often, the gas reservoir is in the form of a tablet and is installed in the place of the spare wheel.

In such machines, it is practical to use a stowaway. This element will take up less trunk volume than a full-fledged analogue.

Recommendations for using the stowaway

Here are some tips from experts:

  1. The diameter and bolt pattern of the stowaway must correspond to the set of wheels that are used in transport;
  2. If there is an opportunity to choose a better quality rubber, it is better to dwell on this option, since a cheap product has a small working resource;
  3. Restrictions are applied on the disc of each repair wheel, which the driver must comply with;
  4. If the machine is equipped with a set of thick-spoke titanium or similar discs, the longer bolts are used to secure them. For docking, you should purchase standard wheel bolts, and keep them near the repair wheel itself, so as not to get lost;
  5. Periodically check whether the tire pressure is correct, especially with the onset of cold weather.
  6. Ideally, it is best to purchase a product designed for a specific vehicle.
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Can I use my spare wheel permanently?

This question is asked by those who first encounter the concept of a stowaway. On this score, tire specialists have a unanimous opinion: a lightweight spare tire cannot be used as a full-fledged wheel.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

The peculiarity of the temporary element lies in the simpler design of the tire, as well as the disc itself. Such a wheel can be driven only for short distances, as well as with a speed limit. When installing a stowaway, driving worsens.

Dock or spare tire: which is better, pros and cons

Before switching from a classic spare wheel to a lightweight repair wheel, it is worth weighing the pros and cons of this analogue. Here are some arguments in favor of using a stowaway:

  • The very first thing that the owners of vehicles equipped with gas equipment pay attention to is the small size of the repair wheel. It is narrower than the standard wheel. The free space can be used by the motorist to store other items that he rarely uses.
  • It is allowed to use a variant with a small deviation from the radius norm.
  • Some stowaways are two times lighter than regular reserves.
  • For the manufacture of such repair elements, lower quality materials are used, as well as a simpler design. This affects the cost of the product.
  • The dock is easier and cheaper to repair.
  • The lightweight design makes it easier to mount the repair wheel on the axle.
What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

Despite the mentioned advantages, the stowaways have decent disadvantages:

  1. The level of safety while driving on such a wheel is reduced. This is due to the width of the rubber. A thin tire is not able to provide proper traction with the road surface, which is why the car loses some controllability. In the event of an emergency stop, the braking distance increases significantly. In wet weather, there is a risk of aquaplaning (how to deal with this effect under normal conditions, read hereсь).
  2. If the car drives on a dock on a bad road, the product may break or deform due to low-quality materials.
  3. The repair wheel has a small resource due to the fact that the rubber on it is of poor quality, so it wears out quickly.
  4. When driving on a repair wheel, the differential and other elements of suspensions and transmissions experience additional loads, which can cause them to break during a long trip.
  5. Many modern vehicles are equipped with electronic stability control systems such as ESP or ABS. If they are not turned off, they can malfunction due to the difference in wheel revolutions on one axle. The reason is that the electronics will interpret the difference in rotation as slipping, so one of them will block. If it is not possible to deactivate the device, experienced motorists recommend driving at low speed and without sharp turns of the steering wheel.
  6. On the dock, you can cover only short distances - only a few tens of kilometers. You cannot continue a long journey on it. This will adversely affect other critical systems on the machine.
  7. In the case of some cars, it is not recommended to install a stowaway in place of a wheel that has failed. For example, this applies to front-wheel drive models. If the front wheel is punctured, you first need to jack up the rear axle and put the emergency wheel there. The dismantled fit is installed instead of the failed one. In addition to the fact that this will take additional time, due to the mismatch of the tread pattern of the drive wheels (some motorists use different tires on the front and rear axles), the car will have reduced handling.
What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

Many motorists believe that the biggest advantage of a standard wheel over a stowaway is that it can be used as an identical alternative to a broken one. In fact, this is not always the case.

For a complete replacement, the wheel must be identical to the one that was damaged. In this case, the driver will have to fork out. The fact is that in order to fully use the spare wheel, you need to purchase a set of rubber for all 5 wheels so that the tread matches after replacement.

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However, you should not buy directional tires, because you will have to carry two wheels for each side of the car. The same applies to the winter / summer set. Only if all these conditions are met, the spare tire can be used as a full-fledged wheel.

Features of control and movement on the emergency wheel

Regardless of whether an original stowaway or a similar emergency wheel is used, the installation of this element will immediately affect the vehicle's handling for the worse. For this reason, this option is not recommended for inexperienced motorists.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

We have already talked about the disadvantages of the repair wheel. Here's how a driver should drive a vehicle if there is a docking element on it:

  1. The distance in the stream should be increased. The reason for this is the increased stopping distance if the brakes are applied sharply.
  2. On unstable road surfaces, the speed must be reduced to a minimum, since a narrow tire already has a small contact spot, which decreases with the appearance of moisture, snow or sand.
  3. When cornering, the speed should also be reduced in advance, and the steering wheel should be turned as smoothly as possible. If the repair wheel is on the pivot axle, there will be understeer or drift at high speed (what is this, read in another review). In the case of rear-wheel drive, the car will suffer from oversteer or skid.
  4. Each repair wheel indicates the maximum speed limit at which you can drive. Usually this is the bar of 60-80 kilometers / h, but for the sake of safety, you should not accelerate more than 50 km / h.
  5. Sharp maneuvers on a car with a stowaway are strictly prohibited.
  6. After installing the wheel on the axle, the pressure in it should be rechecked, even if this procedure was performed recently.
  7. Typically, the tread remains usable for two thousand kilometers. For this reason, in order not to spend money on a new repair wheel, it is better to minimize the distance on such an element.
  8. One-time on the dock you can cover no more than a hundred kilometers, if there is no desire to subsequently repair the car.

How to put a stowaway on a car depending on the type of drive

The basic rule of thumb for using a repair wheel is not to mount it on the drive axle. This principle is easiest to follow if the car is front-wheel drive. If the drive wheel fails, you should alternatively use the rear one, and instead install a stowaway. Although you can see a slightly different situation on the road (a lazy motorist installs a repair wheel on a front-wheel drive car in front) - you should not neglect this rule, since the car must maintain controllability.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

As for rear-wheel drive cars, you should sacrifice handling in favor of maintaining traction of the driving wheels, and install a repair wheel on the front axle. Otherwise, such vehicles are more likely to skid around the bend. Also, the discrepancy between the difference in the speed of rotation of the driving wheels will adversely affect the differential (in addition, you can read about how this mechanism works here).

Is it possible to ride a docking wheel

The technical part of this question is already known, and the answer to it is no, you cannot use the stowaway on an ongoing basis. The same answer is given by the rules for operating vehicles. Traffic rules prohibit the operation of vehicles with different wheel sizes and tread patterns on the same axle. There are no exceptions to this question.

What is a stowaway - why do you need a spare wheel for a car

The only thing that will help the driver avoid a fine for driving on a dock is one exception. To rephrase this rule, when a car breaks down, the driver must take steps to fix the problem. Otherwise, a repair wheel is installed, the emergency light is turned on, and the transport is sent to the nearest tire service.

In this case, you must adhere to the extreme right side. If you need to make a U-turn on the track, then it is allowed to rebuild in advance to the leftmost lane before breaking the marking. Considering this side of the issue, the standard wheel has a clear advantage (if the tread pattern is identical to the replaced wheel).

We offer you to watch a short video on how a car with a stowaway on the rear axle will behave:

How to ride a dock in winter? Features of driving with a summer spare tire
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