the tyres, they need a-changing


Carrying a spare wheel is increasingly something we no longer have to do. Andy Enright checks out the ContiComfortKit, on the face of it, a more sensible solution

Pause to consider, for a moment, that most neglected part of your car - the spare wheel and tyre. It sits there out of sight, rarely if ever used, yet statistics show that when the majority of motorists catch a flat, the first thing they'll do is call the emergency services to change the wheel for them.

Not only does this mean that rapid mobility isn't really on the cards for many in the event of a puncture, it also ensures that your car is lugging the weight of a virtually redundant piece of kit with it everywhere you go. There has to be a better way.

Continental, manufacturer of some of the world's leading tyres, certainly thinks so. Possibly the best option is to use run-flat tyres which can carry on driving even when deflated for quite some distance. These are still rather expensive though and are really best left for cars that have had their suspension designed around the increased sidewall stiffness of run-flats. Retro fit them to a car designed for standard tyres and you'll notice a marked deterioration in everyday ride quality.

A more cost-effective and practical alternative for many motorists is the ContiComfortKit, a piece of equipment used as standard by manufacturers such as Aston Martin. This small portable device plugs into your car's 12v power supply and then pumps a mixture of sealant foam and air into the punctured tyre, simultaneously re-inflating it and plugging the leak.

The advantages are clear. With a mobility kit like this, car manufacturers - especially of sports models where space is at a premium - no longer have to find room for a whacking great wheel and tyre combo. This tends to mean more luggage space for your gear. For the motorist stranded by the roadside, it means no lugging of heavy and often filthy wheels, the extent of the manual intervention being to unscrew the tyre's dust cap.

The ContiComfortKit can also be used as a regular tyre pump and pressure checker, the illuminated gauge and integrated lamp meaning it can be used in the dark. Continental estimates that it takes at most 7 minutes to pump up a tyre from flat. I've taken longer than that trying to explain to emergency services exactly where I was when broken down.

Once inflated, the tyre should be replaced or repaired at a tyre fitters but the manufacturers reckon it's safe to drive for up to 125 miles at speed of up to 50mph and there's likely to be a good deal of safety margin built into those figures. The best part of the kit is its affordability. Available at selected tyre retailers, the ContiComfortKit is available for £59.99 with replacement sealant and tube packs at £14.99.

Catching a flat is never any fun but with the ContiComfortKit, it needn't prove a disaster. Inexpensive, useful - even when you're not stranded by the roadside - and a good deal more space and weight efficient than a spare wheel and tyre combination, it's no wonder that more and more manufacturers are turning to this solution.