Flat out changing ute tyres
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It is strange in this day and age that changing a tyre on a ute relies on a primitive chain and pulley arrangement.
Utes make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the vehicle market in this country.
And increasingly manufacturers are offering up-market models that appeal not just to tradies but to urbanites.
Demand for double-cab utes is growing faster than the traditional single-cab models, with utes being used as a work vehicle during the working week and for family recreation during the weekends.
While the tyres on utes are usually large and robust, the vehicles are more likely to be driven over rougher ground than family sedans and hatchbacks.
Flat tyres these days are a rarity, but they do happen.
In most single and double-cab utes, the spare wheel sits well-hidden underneath the tray.
This is a discreet place for them, especially given the relatively high ground clearance the utes provide.
But it seems odd that extracting the spare wheel involves a chain and pulley, in an age when modern utes are otherwise equipped with the latest driver safety and assistance technology.
Earlier utes had their spare wheel stored in the wheelbase. Photo / Supplied
The industry has improved the ride, comfort and safety of modern utes, making them easy and comfortable to drive, even over long distances.
But as Driven found out in Chile last week, the spare wheel arrangement hasn’t kept pace with the vast improvements elsewhere on the vehicles.
Trying to locate the mechanism to free the spare wheel in broad daylight was difficult enough, goodness knows how you could find it in darkness.
In most models, the jack and associated tools are kept under the rear seats — again well out of the way. These are relatively easy to access when you need them.
Manufacturers provide a clip-together extended pole, which is pushed into a nib that, once found, allows you to winch the spare tyre to the ground.
Compared to a conventional car, there is plenty of ground clearance to climb underneath the ute to see what you are doing.
It sounds simple and effective, but given the number of complaints on the internet from frustrated ute owners, the system is far from perfect.
Serious off-roaders deal with the problem by carrying more robust jacks and portable hoists, but those are not an option for most mainstream ute owners.
Instead they must use the tools provided — usually the standard jack, with extended pole to free up the spare wheel.
With utes fast becoming a more significant sector of the market, the motor industry should be working to find a more convenient way of accessing the spare.
No doubt there are after-market solutions that minimise the hassle involved in liberating the spare wheel on utes, but it is strange to drive a super-sophisticated vehicle equipped with the latest safety and driver assistance technology, only to be brought down to earth by the chain and pulley spare wheel winch arrangement.