BOSTON (CBS) - It happens to just about everyone at some point, the dreaded thump of a flat tire. The biggest question for most people at that point is whether to change it themselves or call for help. When Joan Freeman had a blowout near her Waltham home, she called AAA. She said she was stunned when the technician looked in the trunk. "He said there's no donut. I said, what do you mean there's no donut?" she recalled.
Instead of a spare, there was a small repair kit in the back of her new car. It can be used to seal and re-inflate tires with small leaks. It was useless given the significant damage to Joan's tire. "We had to order a flatbed. It was really a fiasco," she said.
According to nationally recognized auto safety expert Sean Kane, this is a bottom line issue for car manufacturers. "It's just another profit building for them at your expense," he said. Many manufacturers are also leaving out the spares in order to trim the weight of the car to meet tougher government mileage standards. Either way, Kane says it's a safety hazard. "If you are stuck at night, there's nobody available to replace the tire. You are going to get a tow, then what are you going to do? Where are you going to go?" he said.
Joan and her husband are outraged the dealership never told them the car didn't come with a spare. "I never, ever would have bought that car without a donut," she said. "What if this happens when I was alone, or it was at night, or my granddaughter was with me?"
According to Kane, manufacturers and dealers need to take responsibility to make sure consumers are informed. "There needs to be ample disclosure, so you are not learning this on the side of the road," he said.
Kane believes if enough people complain, manufacturers will eventually have to listen. In the meantime, AAA advises everyone to double check their trunk if they are not sure. "We bring batteries, but we don't bring tires," one technician told us.
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