A spare tire or spare tyre (or stepney) is an additional tire (or tyre - see spelling differences) carried in a motor vehicle as a replacement for one that goes flat, a blowout, or other emergency. Spare tire is generally a misnomer, as almost all vehicles actually carry an entire wheel with a tire mounted on it as a spare, as fitting a tire to a wheel would require a motorist to carry additional, specialized equipment. However, some spare tires ("space-saver" and "donut" types) are not meant to be driven long distances. Space-savers have a maximum speed of around 50 mph (80 km/h).
The early days of motor travel took place on primitive roads that were littered with stray horseshoe nails. Punctures (flat tires) were all too common, and required the motorist to remove the wheel from the car, demount the tire, patch the inner tube, re-mount the tire, inflate the tire, and re-mount the wheel.
Walter and Tom Davies of Llanelli, Wales, invented the spare tire in 1904. At the time, motor cars were made without spare wheels. Their company, Stepney Iron Mongers had agents distributing the U.S.A., Brussels, Paris, and Italy.  The word "stepney" is sometimes used interchangeably in countries that were once part of the British Empire such as Bangladesh, India, and Malta 
The first to equip cars with an inflated spare wheel-and-tire assembly were the Ramblers made by Thomas B. Jeffery Company. The Rambler's interchangeable wheel with a mounted and inflated spare tire meant the motorist could exchange it quickly for the punctured tire that could then be repaired at a more convenient time and place.
The pre-mounted spare tire and wheel combination proved so popular with motorists that carrying up to two spare tires became common. Automakers often equipped cars with one or dual sidemounts. The spares were mounted behind the front fenders as they blended into the running boards (a narrow footboard serving as a step beneath the doors).
In 1941, the U.S. government prohibited spare tires on new cars. Shortages of resources caused by World War II led to quotas and laws designed to force conservation, including rubber that was produced overseas and difficult to get. A similar ban was also implemented by the U.S. during the Korean War in 1951.
Usage in the 21st century
Contemporary vehicles may come equipped with full-size spares, limited use minispares, or have run-flat capability.
- The spare tire may be identical type and size to those on the vehicle. The spare may either be mounted on a plain steel rim or a matching road wheel as found on the vehicle. Among passenger vehicles, full-sized spares are usually provided for sport utility vehicles and light trucks, since a "limited use" spare would adversely affect such vehicles with higher centers of gravity. Due to the size of the full-sized spare, it is often mounted on the outside, such as the rear door of SUVs, and occasionally on the front hood.
- Certain vehicles are provided with a "limited use" spare tire, also known as a "space-saver," "donut" or "compact" spare tire — in an attempt to reduce cost, lower the vehicle's weight, and/or to save on the space that would be needed for a full-size spare tire. These supposed benefits are highly debatable; a space-saver is typically only 7kg lighter than a full-sized wheel and in some cars the so-called 'space-saver' may actually save little to no space. There is also the difficulty of transporting the full-sized wheel and tire once the space-saver has been fitted. The spare is usually mounted on a plain steel rim. They are typically smaller than the normal tires on the vehicle and can only be used for limited distances because of their short life expectancy and low speed rating. As well, due to the different size of a donut compared to regular wheel, electronic stability control and traction control systems will not operate properly and should be disabled until the original wheel is restored. Space saver spare tires also severely compromise the braking (especially on cars not fitted with anti-lock brakes) and handling of the car.
- In some cases, automobiles may be equipped with run-flat tires and thus not require a separate spare tire. Other vehicles may carry a can of tire repair foam, to repair punctured tires, although these often do not work in the case of larger punctures, and are useless in the event of a blow-out.
Spare tires in automobiles are often stored in a spare tire well – a recessed area in the trunk of a vehicle, usually in the center, where the spare tire is stored while not in use. In most cars, the spare tire is secured with a bolt and wing-nut style fastener. Usually a stiff sheet of cardboard lies on top of the spare tire well with the trunk carpet on top of it to hide the spare tire and provide a pleasant look to and a flat surface for the trunk space.
Other storage solutions include storing the spare in a cradle underneath the rear of the vehicle. This cradle is usually secured by a bolt that is accessible from inside the trunk, for security. This arrangement has advantages over storing the tire inside the trunk, including not having to empty the contents of the trunk to access the wheel and this arrangement may also save space in some applications. However it has disadvantages because that tire gets dirty, making the act of changing the tire more unpleasant and the mechanism may also rust on older cars, making it difficult to free the spare. The cradle arrangement is usually only practical on front wheel drive cars, as the cradle would get in the way of the rear axle on most rear or four wheel drive cars. A similar arrangement is also often found on trucks where the spare is often stored beneath the truck bed.
Vehicles like the Volkswagen Beetle used spare tires for ancillary purposes such as supplying air pressure the windscreen washer system.
In the Bristol Blenheim 3G, the spare tire was located in the front left quarter panel to maximize trunk space and still equip a full size spare.
- "OED Online main entry text frame". Bl.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Parc Howard Museum. "Stepney Spare wheel, made for early cars". BBC. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- "Wales - History - Stepney Wheel". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Hyde, Charles K. (2009). Storied independent automakers: Nash, Hudson, and American Motors. Wayne State University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-8143-3446-1. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- "The 1909 Rambler Spare Wheel (advertisement)". Western Medical Review (Nebraska State Medical Association) 13 (12): xiv. December 1908. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- Egan, Charles E. (1951-04-03). "Ban on Spare Tire Made Mandatory; U.S. Adopts Voluntary Action of Auto Producers--Rubber Goes to Heavier Duty". The New York Times.
- Holas, Igor (2007-12-09). "Spare Tire Is History". Zimbio. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- "Space savers - TUSTs". RACV. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
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