Our Cars : MINI First – four wheels on my wagon

Keith Adams

MINI First (5)

They say that you need four wheels on your wagon but, after a bit of an unfortunate incident, I came away having come to the conclusion that cars really are better with five. It was the end of a long week and, driving on some back lanes to avoid a rather annoying traffic jam on a dual carriageway, a moment’s inattention led to us clipping a kerb…

There was a bang from the nearside front, which woke us up, and before we knew it, we were slowing down – already suffering from that sick feeling in the stomach knowing the tyre’s gone down. Once parked up in a safe place, it was time to inspect the damage, and it wasn’t good. The front tyre was indeed down and, worse than that, the wheel had a whacking great dent in it. Bugger!

MINI First (1)
Ouch! One dented steel wheel…

Popping the boot and having a look under the boot floor, we were reminded of the fact that MINIs don’t come with a full-sized spare wheel. Actually, it’s worse than that – there’s no spacesaver either. Like so many new cars, all you get now is a can of tyre sealant and a 12V compressor for re-inflating the standard fit Michelins. Yup, if you want a spare wheel, you can have a spacesaver, but only if you specify it as an optional extra.

A look at the image above will tell you it was fairly obvious this puncture repair kit wasn’t going to cut it. We did try, but – yeah – not a hope of reinflating our tyre on its damaged steel wheel. Time to call MINI’s emergency helpline. A few minutes later and with our co-ordinates passed on, we were reassured that a recovery truck was on its way to pick us up. The friendly operative asked where we needed to be and I just suggested we dump the car at the local dealership, Wollaston MINI, and we’ll make our own way home.

MINI First (2)
After a bit of wait, our ride turns up…

Being less than priority, we were in for a wait. A little over two hours later, the car was being recovered and we were on our way home. The next morning, and I was on the ‘phone to Michelin ordering a new Energy tyre (a British-made tyre from Dundee on my British-made car) and then on the blower to Wollaston enquiring after a pair of replacement steel wheels (yes, the rear also received a small dent, too). The good news was that Wollaston had the wheels in stock, but the tyre was going to take a couple of days…

I was keen to ensure we had a matching tyre to fit, so was happy to wait. Equally fortunately, Wollaston was happy to keep hold the car while the tyre turned up. While they were at it, the guy who originally sold me the car (an AROnline reader, as well as classic Mini owner), Paul Raynes, spotted a little dent in the rear flank (seems it glanced a wheelie bin at some point) and suggested I have it seen to while it was in at Wollaston.

While the MINI was in the shop, my partner ended up running my Dacia Sandero (that’s another story) and I put the potential cost of all of this out of my mind. Two days later, and Paul drops me a line – the new Michelin, which cost £89, was on the new front wheel, and the dealer’s tyre fitter swapped my rear off the less-damaged wheel and onto another for £25. On top of that, the dent had been sorted for £35, it’d all been washed and valeted and was ready for collection. Talk about excellent and unobtrusive service. I suspect it might have been a whole lot more painful if it wasn’t running on those cheap, yet stylish, steelies.

As for service –  the MINI dealer was excellent, MINI Assistance was, too, despite that long wait. The lack of a spare wheel is a real irritation (that many people suffer from these days) and I’m now considering sticking a spacesaver in the boot. Just in case…

MINI First (6)
New wheel and Michelin Energy tyre…
Keith Adams


  1. My absolute pet hate, cars without a spare wheel. I have had several instances of tyres with damaged sidewalls over the past 5 years where a can of sealant would be as useful as a chocolate exhaust manifold. A colleage was recently stranded on the M1 with a car full of kids due to his Touran not having a spare.

    When I was looking for a new (well, 1 year old) estate car earlier this year, I looked at BMW, Audi, Volvo & Mercedes.

    BMW 3 series: No spare wheel, nowhere to put one – removed from list
    Volvo V60: No spare wheel, nowhere to put one – removed from list
    Audi A4: No spare wheel as standard, optional for extra money
    Mercedes C class: Spacesaver spare as standard plus room for full size wheel under boot floor

    Guess which I bought?

    As I drive ~20k miles per year and am often at the other end of the country from where I live, I would not even countenance a car without a spare wheel.

    Yes, the BMW has runflats on some models but these are frankly uncomfortable to drive and stupidly expensive to replace.

    It is utterly ludicrous that manufacturers sacrifice the practicality of the vehicle on the altar of getting 0.001 mpg extra from the car and saving about £200 on the new price.

    IMHO the SMMT should get of their lardy self-serving backsides and give all cars a minimum of a space saver AND ensure that there is sufficient space to carry the full sized wheel.

    [Rant over]

  2. Thanks for highlighting what has become a real pain when driving a new car. It’s all very well saving a few quid off the cost of making the car by not putting a spare in, but the inconvenience and possible danger to the driver can be huge.
    I’ve had a similar experience myself a few years ago when the edge of a country lane had crumbled and my car almost ended up in a ditch. My front wheel and tyre were both written off, but I was driving a six month old Fiat which had a space saver spare in the boot (when it was normal to provide a spare of some sort)so I could at least get home.

    However, what happens now if for example you’re in one of those parts of the world where mobile phone signals are virtually non-existent (they do still exist)and the nearest phone/town/village is several miles away? A can of tyre weld and a pump isn’t really going to be much help is it?

  3. IMHO I think spacesavers should be illegal. The car would not pass an MOT with one fitted, so how is it legal to use one even in an emergency? It should be law that cars are equipped to accommodate and come with a matching replacement spare wheel and tyre. In any case if you are unfortunate enough to have a puncture surely you just want to change the offending wheel for a like for like replacement on the spot ( by yourself unless you consider yourself above such things) and then get it repaired at your leisure.
    I ( and surely I’m not alone in thinking this) think it’s a disgrace that for what you pay for cars these days you don’t get a spare wheel and the manufacturer thinks they are doing you a favour by making you pay extra for a glorified get you home bicycle wheel. Bluetooth/IPod connectivity , DAB and all the other fancy gadgets cars come with now , nice as they are serve no purpose when you are stranded at the roadside with something mundanely low tech and otherwise simple to rectify as a puncture.
    It must be at best frustrating not to say embarrassing to be stranded at the roadside waiting to be winched onto a recovery truck for something that surely even the most inept of us could sort out there and then in approx. 15-20 minutes

  4. Those repair kits are fine to plug a small hole and get you to a garage and have the tire repaired-but if it’s anymore serious-forget it.
    When a viscous curb assaulted the Polo’s rear offside tire last year I was amazed that it came with a full size steelie! (it’s an 05 car).

    Thankfully we were able to get the damage repaired on the tire the next day for £30, but the full size spare meant it was able to be driven as normal until then.
    Imagine if you couldn’t afford a tire repair or a new tire, and just had a space saver-or even worse, nothing. You’d be in schtuck…

  5. Nothing wrong with a space saver. You just need to be aware that you’re driving a lame vehicle. It’s gets you where you need to be and to a tyre fitter.

    Because wheels on cars are getting bigger (partly a fashion thing), a full size spare wheel does take up a lot of space. The CO2/mpg league table is important for sales, so I can see why manufacturers go for the pressurized goo option, but I would avoid it.

  6. I used a Rich Tea biscuit masquerading as a spare wheel on my S-Type recently and was amazed at how well it drove. It obviously would have it’s limits, particularly during evasive and emergency actions, but it was fine just so long as it was not abused. Seems an elegant solution to space saving to me.

  7. When we were speccing up a MINI, the dealer advised us that a spacesaver needed to be specced there and then, as the accommodating bodywork had to be assembled at the factory.

    Don’t know if this is true, or if he wasnted us to take a pricey option there and then.

  8. How does a spacesaver have any inpact on CO2? they are as heavy as a normal wheel on most cars anyway.
    The previous generation Megane had a moulded plastic bootfloor that happily accomodated a full size spare,car of this size and above have no excuse for for having a spacesaver.

    How is a bottle of spunk and a compressor going to repair a blowout?

    How come the original mini managed a full size 10″ spare and this thing cant handle a 15″ with a profile to suit the various rim sizes already fitted to the car?

  9. I, for one, would bite the bullet and go and buy a spacesaver spare wheel straight away. In my case there would likely be more chance of me making an error with a can of sealant than fitting a spacesaver.

  10. You can retrofit a spacesaver spare kit to all MINI One/Cooper petrol and diesel despite what many MINI Dealers say…mainly through lack of any practical knowledge. (The only MINI hatch which can’t be retrofitted with a spare is the Cooper S due to its rear boot mounted battery and twin rear central exhaust boxes).

    How to Retrofit the MINI Spacesaver Spare Wheel

  11. MINI Countryman spacesaver solution shown below using a Mercedes compact folding spare!

    Spare Tire Solution~
    After extensive measures we have developed a Spare Tire Adapter Kit for your 2011+ Mini Countryman (including S & ALL4 models).
    Our Adapter Kit includes a CNC machined aluminum Hub-Centric/Wheel-Centric Adapter & all associated hardware of proper grade strength, mounting socket with handle & a convenient storage case.
    The total weight is well under 5lbs & easily fits under a seat or in the hatch under the storage area. This updated version clears both the front & rear calipers. Use it whereever your flat is!

    What Else Do I need~
    Good Question! You will need a spare *tire/rim & an air compressor. We do not include these items in the kit. Here’s why:

    – An Air Pump Kit. We simply do not offer any brand of this kit. These are readily available in a variety of kits/brands/sizes. Some include ‘Slime’ etc. (typically around $20)

    – A Compact Folding Spare. You need quite a specific wheel/tire here. It is only available New from a Mercedes Benz dealer & is quite expensive. Hold on..We’ve discovered these are readily available through eBay, Craigslist & even local Junk yards. (The MB part# is 1704010502 ).

    These are typically found on 1998-00 SLK models & many others. This is a 15×4.5″ Space Saver Compact Folding Spare. Usually w/a Veredstein Tire.

    – Your factory cone seat wheel bolts. You will need these to mount the Adapter to your car. *if you are running an aftermarket wheel that uses a supplied ‘ball seat’ bolt, be sure to place 5 of your OEM Cone Seat bolts in the vehicle.
    More Details with pictures here:
    TDNCMSTAK, Mini Countryman Spare Tire

  12. Looked at a new model Toyota RAV4 in Canada. Over there it comes with a space saver spare. In the UK a spare is not even an option. I’ve got a rental Corsa from Alamo (they are pants – phoned up as the air conditioning wasn’t working to be told that they didn’t guarantee that cars of that size would have air conditioning; the fact that it was broken was of no concern to Alamo) and this thing comes with a can of shit and a compressor. Stupid.

  13. Both my recent Focus’s have full size spare wheels (fine) and my ZS & 45 had spacesavers (also fine). I would much prefer having a spacesaver wheel than a sealant can.

    In fact, as a spacesaver need only be used for a few hours or couple of days whilst repairs are in hand, I think they are the best option… I valued the extra boot space in my MG and Rover too.

  14. Worth remembering, even with a spacesaver wheel, that you need enough space to stow the punctured item after doing the swop…

  15. Went looking at Vauxhall Zafiras recently. Cheapo models have a place under he back of the car for a spare, but there’s nothing there. You get a can of gunge and a pump instead. On more expensive models, there’s a spare (space-saver I think). You can have an actual wheel on the basic one as an optional extra. I wonder how many people don’t check and find out there’s no spare when they’re down a country lane with a puncture.

  16. Right Jonathan… always worth checking what’s in (or not in?) the boot when buying a car. I think a spacesaver option is the best compromise.

  17. Whatever happened to runflat tyres, eg Dunlop Denovo and various subsequent attempts. I can’t help thinking that the whole concept of bolt on wheels/separate pneumatic tyres is ancient technology that should have been improved upon decades ago. What other spares are routinely carried in cars these days?

  18. @20
    Some models of MINI and BMW’s come with the modern version of runflat tyres but the stiff sidewalls can give a harsh ride and replacement tyres are expensive…..I swapped mine out for standard tyres when the MINI runflats were worn out….much better ride and cost in my opinion.

  19. I wonder how long its going to be before a lack of a spare wheel and a passing sociopath gets some girl killed, or worse & believe me there is worse…
    If its not bad enough that many women & young drivers don’t know how to change a wheel safely (no, you don’t put the jack under the fuel lines… not twice anyway) they couldn’t do it even if they’re capable. Basic vehicular repair should be taught at driving age. I’m not talking about complicated stuff like putting driveshafts back when your Cayenne hit a deep puddle – but changing wheels, basic troubleshooting, even how to bump start a car.
    There’s very little point having curtain airbags & ABS if the guy you just accepted a lift from is intending to introduce your internal organs to you.. on the upside I hear Chianti is nice…
    On the MPG front its worth almost zero. pumping up tyres to 40psi gets you 5.6%. Its putting lives at risk both from accidents & potential violence & should be made illegal in Europe.

  20. I think Jemma makes a very valid point, does Sweden or Norway or some other nice country teach kids at a young age something on these lines?

    Why worry about having huge front overhangs like a throbbing knob on the front of the car to cater for potential pedestrian collisions when more time and energy could be spent on the rear being able to carry more than a spacesaver and sex toys.

    Stuff like this should be part of a practical driving test-changing a wheel.

  21. Even if you vaguely knew how to change a wheel, some of the wheel braces you get with cars are useless. I usually carry one of the extendible ones.

    Some people might not feel safe changing a wheel on the side of a busy B road, especially when it is pelting down with rain, and might prefer the breakdown services.

    Could you imagine a 60 year old lady at the side of the road changing wheels?

  22. What’s the chance of an aerosol and a cheap compressor still working after two or three years? Of course spare tyres are neglected, but they’re much simpler.

    One of my first purchases after getting my Volvo S60 was a full size spare wheel with half-worn tyre, from a breaker. For about the cost of a new tyre.

  23. Part of the problem with spacesavers is that they really are only temporary measures, with a speed limit of 50mph.

    I remember one time I needed to be run to the airport 150 miles away on a Sunday for a business trip, the other half said that she would run me as her car was better on fuel.
    When we woke up on the Saturday she had a flat tyre.
    I changed it onto the spacesaver, and at 11am nipped to the local tyre fitters who weren’t interested in the work in selling a new tyre, instead looking to knock off just before 12.
    Indeed, everywhere I went seemed to be closing or closed, and at lunch time I gave up til Monday.

    The thought of a 150 mile motorway / dual carraigeway trip (when we cross the border the motorway speed limit is approx 75mph) at 50mph didn’t sound appealing, so we took the big gas guzzler Honda.
    Got the mileage expensed, though had to explain to my line manager why it was double what the estimate for a 40mpg car should be…

    Full size spare are useful, though I know someone had a Vectra VXR and because of the special alloys, there really wasn’t space for a full spare, even though there was a wheel recess in the boot. He got a cheap spare off a diesel model from a scrap yard, for emergencies.

  24. I first encountered a space saver on a Seat Ibiza 11 years ago. A horrible, mean looking tyre which limited you to 50 mph and made handling precarious. Couldn’t wait to get it to Kwikfit the following morning.

  25. @24 I carry a reasonable length breaker bar after bending a 38a wheel brace undoing the wheel nuts. Once upon a time, Range Rovers came with a wheel brace that was hinged in the middle to give double the length for undoing the nuts, compared with tightening them.

  26. I agree with Kev Sharp Full size spare should be issued with all cars space saver do the job but restrict your driving speed distance and so on had my 1st experience with 1 na month ago 40 miles plus with most of it motorway stuck at 50mph whilst all around doing 70 leaving me at risk of someone not paying attention slamming into my rear though at least I had the spacesaver and not a can of sealant which raises another point what if for some reason the powerpoint in your car was’nt working what then when something as simple as a penny going into it by accident can blow the fuse

  27. First I have to admit that I am happy to drive my LPG’d Maestro anywhere without a spare wheel on board. But even though tyre failures seem to be rare these days, the only ones I had in my recent years of motoring have been those where only a spare wheel helped:

    One was a rough contact with a curb after a hectic drive to get to the ferry on time (it was in the harbour actually) – the tyre didn’t blow, but the bulge it had was so large I did not trust in using it for the reminder of the journey.

    The second incident was on the M5 at night: while overtaking a lorry our Rover hit something hard on the middle lane – immediate blow of the front right tyre. The police later found two rusty trailer steel rims someone lost on the motorway – and traveling with my LHD beams partially covered does not really help in spying such things on the motorway. BTW, Police and Highway Patrol were quite helpful.

    In both cases a can of sealer would not have been so helpful!

  28. I have a Zafira and it came with a full size spare although it has never suffered a puncture or a bad enough kerbing to need to change a wheel. I have so far had 2 of the bastards stolen now .I have now fitted a K lock,and just in case that does n’t stop them my spare is bald in places. I do n.t care if it happens I’ll chance it.

  29. I hate cars with no full size spare wheels and wouldn’t purchase one.Now just imagine you are fully laden and have a puncture -where would you put the full size punctured wheel when you put your skinny space saver on ?

  30. @Comical_Engineer (#1) – the Audi A4 definitely has a spare wheel – I have a 2013 A4 Avant and have checked. Only the basic TDIe models do without a spare (for weight saving purposes, to keep the CO2 figure down) and it is available as a cost option.

  31. Just a light hearted comment on all the very good and serious points made here.
    Alfa Spider – has those squirty things – it’ll be a chuffing miracle if they work if ever I should need them.
    MINI Cooper Clubman – has those horrible run-flats – wanted to upgrade to normal tyres – my tyre dealer warned me off. Chuffing ridiculous things – you have to throw them away and buy new if you do get a puncture (so I’m told)
    1934 Wolseley Nine – Proper spare wheel in it’s own compartment.
    Sorry – how are we spelling ‘progress’ again?

  32. @34
    Don’t listen to tyre dealers warning you off…..just swap to normal tyres fitted on the runflat rims, better handling, smoother ride and cheaper tyres. Did this on my MINI 3 or 4 years ago and there is space to fit a spacesaver spare kit on the Clubman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.