Knowing where your spare tire is can help you out of an emergency situation. The only problem is, how are you supposed to know if you even have a spare tire? It’s tough to spot a pickup’s spare tire, but I’ll help you through the process.
Most modern pickup trucks have a spare tire. They’re typically located under the bed of your truck, attached with a cable that keeps the tire in position. Locating the release for that cable can be tough — it’s usually located near the bumper of the pickup and requires you to use a tire iron to loosen a fastener within an access port.
In this guide, I’ll talk about spare tires, whether or not pickup trucks include them, and how to spot yours.
The Purpose of the Spare Tire
If you never got a flat tire while driving, you might not know anything about spare tires. Their purpose is to replace a popped tire in the case of an emergency.
For all intents and purposes, these are fully functional tires. They’re filled with air, have a metal rim with the correct lug nut pattern, and they fit into your vehicle’s wheel well.
The only time you would realistically use a spare tire is if something’s wrong with your current tire. You would pull over, remove the defective tire, and put on a spare tire for a limited time. The alternative is to call for a tow truck and spend hundreds of dollars trying to get to a nearby mechanic.
Do You Actually Need a Spare Tire?
The big question is, do you even need a spare tire? Some people go their whole lives without getting a flat tire, so what’s the point?
In my opinion, it’s a lifesaver. Without a spare tire, you could be stranded wherever you break down. This is a huge hassle and honestly terrifying. Think about it — if your tire goes flat with extreme weather outside, in a remote location with bad cellular reception it can be a life or death situation. With no spare tire, you’d be entirely dependent on someone passing by.
With a spare tire, you can very quickly swap out your tire and get back to driving. It offers more than enough durability to get you to a house or repairman.
To put it simply, a spare tire can get you out of an emergency situation, so I think it’s very important. It’s the same reason why I have an emergency kit in my trunk (if you don’t have one, learn how to make an emergency kit in this article).
Reasons Why Spare Tires Aren’t Included
At this point, you might be scratching your head. I mentioned that spare tires are critical and can potentially save your life, but this article is all about whether or not pickup trucks have spare tires. Are spare tires optional? From an auto manufacturer’s perspective, they are. They have a few reasons why they might not include a spare tire in their vehicle.
To Save a Few Hundred
The first consideration is that spare tires cost money. If it costs the manufacturer a hundred dollars or so, it means a higher sticker price of at least double that.
To Cut Down the Overall Weight
If you’ve lifted a tire and wheel, you know how heavy they can be. The tire assembly could easily be more than 40 pounds. In addition, a metal framework is required to mount and hold the spare tire. On top of that, the manufacturer would also need to include a jack and tire iron which might be another 10 to 20 pounds.
The weight adds up. When you’re talking about a sedan that barely has enough power to haul a car full of people, this weight might be seen as needless. With pickups, the added weight won’t make a huge difference since they’re often rated to carry tons of extra weight.
In Order to Make the Vehicle More Fuel Efficient
When you add weight, you hurt the fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Another big focus for modern cars is to keep the estimated miles per gallon as high as possible. Adding this extra 50-plus pounds could take away a full mile per gallon from the estimate.
This small difference might hurt the company’s sales and allow their competitor to take a bigger market share.
To Save on Space
With a sedan, you have to give up a lot of trunk space just to store your spare tire. Once you take out the trunk cover and plywood, you’ll notice how deep your trunk really is.
Another important buying factor is how much cargo space a vehicle has. All of a sudden, manufacturers need to sacrifice space just to include a spare tire. As you might imagine, this is another factor that deters some manufacturers from including spare tires.
The Previous Owner Used it
If you go where your spare tire is supposed to be and it’s not there, it could be because the previous owner used it. I’ve seen this a lot in junkyard purchases or salvage auctions. When a car is bought second-hand, no laws force the previous owner to keep the spare tire intact and installed.
If you buy it from a shady seller, they might have intentionally removed the spare and sold it somewhere else for some quick money.
Not All Spare Tires Are the Same
With a typical sedan, the spare tire is undersized and only good for 50 miles at a speed under 50 miles per hour. Again, a spare tire is to just get you home or to a dealership safely.
With larger SUVs and pickup trucks, the spare tire isn’t the same. Most of these options have an exact replica of the tire and rim that came installed on your truck. In other words, your fifth tire can be used as a spare.
This means that you don’t have to worry about quickly swapping the spare out for a purchased replacement. Instead, you can continue driving with this one (assuming the other three tires aren’t aggressively worn).
Do All Pickup Trucks Have Spare Tires?
In every case that I can think of, modern pickup trucks have spare tires. There are inevitably going to be some exceptions to that rule, but I haven’t found any specific pickups from the past 10 years that don’t include a spare tire.
If you think about it, it makes sense — pickups have the added space, muscle, and price to make it easy to add a spare tire to the vehicle.
The best way to find out if a truck has a spare tire before buying it is to locate it. Not sure how to do that? Keep reading.
Locating Your Pickup Truck’s Spare Tire
If you’ve been behind a Jeep, you already spotted their spare tire — it’s proudly displayed on the rear gate of the vehicle. With most sedans, you’ve probably seen enough TV shows and movies to find out that spare tires are located under a compartment in the trunk (a common place for drug dealers and mobsters on TV to hide things).
With trucks, it’s a little trickier. To be honest, it took me 30 minutes to find the spare tire the first time I got a flat in my pickup a decade ago. Most pickup trucks hide the spare tire under the bed of the truck, on the underside.
After all, where else would they put it? Putting it in the bed will eat up valuable real estate, and there’s not a ton of space in the cabin for a massive spare tire.
Under the bed, there will be a metal contraption that holds your tire tight. There’s probably also a threaded stud in the center that has some sort of fastener keeping the tire in position. The only problem is, how do you release it?
Check for a release cable hole
The first place to check is on the bumper. There should be a little plastic door cap that swings open or the cap is completely removed, and that’s how you release the tire. It’s likely hidden so it’s not an eyesore but look for a recessed area where a finger or key can be used to open the door. It could be near the license plate, in the middle of the bumper, or right below the bumper through the body of your truck.
In some trucks, you’ll need to use your key to unlock the entrance which then exposes the hole. Regardless, this little door is your way to release the spare tire. If your pickup truck uses a special key, the location of the key is usually located near the spare jack.
Once opened, you’ll find one of two things. Either a cable that you can pull which will release the spare tire or a seemingly empty hole. If you see a hole, grab your included tire iron and use the open end to connect with the stud in the hole.
Turn your tire iron counterclockwise to loosen the assembly and release the spare tire. Once released, take the end of the cable with the metal wings on it and fit it through the center of your spare tire.
Your tire is officially released and ready to use.
Check in the Cab
I’ve also been in a buddy’s truck that had a plastic cap piece in the cab that released the spare tire. It had a picture of a tire on it, and it was hidden on the underside of the dashboard, near the floor. By pulling the plastic cap piece, it released the cable and dropped the tire.
I haven’t seen a similar setup since then, so I’m not sure how common this is. Still, it’s worth looking for if you can’t locate the switch at the rear of your truck.
I just talked all about spare tires and pickup trucks in particular. They’re more likely to have a spare tire, but the tire is also more difficult to access. I hope that my guide helped you through the process.