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It’s coming up to the end of the Financial Year, which means I’m working flat out undertaking equipment trials and writing up final reports on my various projects. For the past two weeks, I’ve largely been based at a customer site near Cambridge, staying in a Premier Inn at a rather grotty service station, and spending long days working on the equipment trial. That was hard enough, but Monday was a pretty trying day even by current standards.

It all started when the four of us working on the equipment trial met up in the office at 08:30 on Monday morning. That in itself was significantly earlier than I usually get in, and I felt sorry for my colleague who had picked up the hire car in Bristol earlier that morning, and driven up to Malvern to pick up the rest of the team to take us onward to Cambridge. After the usual last-minute faff making sure we had everything we needed for trial, we loaded up the hire car with our bags and set off. We’d gone no more than four miles on a back road between Malvern and Worcester, when we had to pull over at the side of the road as the car was making a strange noise and handling very badly. Somehow, we’d got a puncture and the rear near side tyre was completely flat.

Not to worry, there were two strong blokes in the car and changing a wheel should only take them ten minutes or so. We unloaded all of the bags from the boot – but there was no spare tyre. Not even one of those space-saving spares that you can’t drive too fast on. Instead, all that was provided was a “puncture repair kit” – essentially a bottle of glue/sealant and a pump. We gave it a go, with absolutely no effect whatsoever. The tyre stayed stubbornly flat. 

So then we tried phoning the emergency rescue number as documented on the hire car paperwork. It turned out to be the AA, who said they would be with us “within the hour” to recover us to a garage. They weren’t. After an hour, we phoned again, to be told that we were now right at the top of their priority list, but they had just realised that with four of us in the car they couldn’t use their normal tow-truck, but would need to get hold of a bigger recovery vehicle. However, they would be with us “within the hour”. 

We had no confidence that would be the case (and indeed it wasn’t) so we tried to get the hire car company to take some responsibility for solving the problem and helping us get to Cambridge. After all, they had been the ones who supplied us with a car with no spare tyre. They wouldn’t let us abandon the car, which was our first thought. We could have walked (or got a taxi) back to work and started afresh in one of our own cars. Or, we suggested, the car hire company could bring out a substitute car to us, we could take that, and they could wait with the broken down one for the recovery vehicle. That way, we could be on our way with minimal extra delay. But no, we had to stay with the vehicle.  Anyway, the Malvern office of the car hire company claimed they had no other vehicles available at all, though the Worcester office thought they might be able to find one that would do. 

We finally agreed that when the AA did eventually turn up, we would get them to take us to a garage in Worcester, where we would be met by a representative of the car hire company. We would finally be able to abandon the car there, and he would take us to the company’s depot in the centre of Worcester, where we could pick up another hire car and continue on our way. That was better than nothing, but still far from ideal, especially as there was still no sign of the recovery vehicle. We called the AA back again, to say that it had been two hours since our first call; we’d been given several estimated pick-up times, all of which had passed; and when would they get to us? Once again, we were told it would be “within an hour”, and that they would call us back twenty minutes in advance to let us know that help was (finally) on its way. They didn’t call us back at all, but after another half an hour we did finally see flashing orange lights approaching, which was indeed our rescuer. It wasn’t even an AA van, but a local recovery firm from Ledbury who had been subcontracted just half an hour beforehand to come and pick us up – probably after we phoned and hassled the AA again!

After that, things did run rather more smoothly. We were indeed met at the garage by the car hire man, and although our replacement car wasn’t quite ready for us, we were able to grab some lunch at a little cafe nearby while they sorted it out. We finally set off from Worcester four and a half hours after we’d originally planned to leave!  We got to the customer’s site with time to do just an hour’s worth of work before we were chucked out as they all wanted to go home, but at least we’d managed to show our faces there.

According to the recovery truck driver, he wasn’t at all surprised that the puncture repair kit hadn’t worked. Apparently, they’re only good for very small punctures. If the hole is the size of a nail or bigger, the sealant simply doesn’t work. And in the absence of a spare tyre, you’re completely stuck. It’s shocking that the kit is considered to be adequate, as it quite clearly isn’t. I remember making a huge fuss when we bought our Mini, insisting that it had a spare tyre rather than the run-flats that it came with as standard. I shall most definitely make a similar fuss when it comes time to replace it – I’m simply not prepared to be completly stranded for the want of a spare wheel!

{ 1 } Comments

  1. pauld | 25 February 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Good reason to remember when buying your own car to insist on a REAL spare not some silly little repair kit thats no use whatsover, even if it means being rude to car salesman !.

    Last good puncture i had was on quiet country road in mountains when a peice of slate ripped a gash in sidewall of tyre, no repair kit would have been any use !