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My 15" Sonic Steel Wheel + 205/65-15 ~$145 spare tire solution - test fit with pics

So I know there are a few threads already talking about spare different spare tire solutions for the Bolt for those of us who don't feel comfortable relying on the self sealing OEM tires and roadside assistance. In reading various threads about spare tire ideas like getting a Cruze spare and mounting a different temporary spare tire on it or buying an entire extra OEM wheel and tire I came up with this idea after reading what people were running for winter tires. Seems like this is a great balance between the cost effectiveness of the junkyard spare cruze wheel and a new tire and the practicality of a full sized tire & wheel.

I had already planned on getting a spare tire for the car, I've had my last car (still have it) since I bought it new in 2004 and in that time I only needed to use the spare tire once but when I needed it it really saved me a lot of time and headache.

As it turns out not 2 weeks after I bought the car I pulled into a driveway off-center and my right front wheel went over about a 2" of the transition where the driveway curves up to reach the curb, wasn't even a particularly jarring bump but it was enough to chunk my sidewall and destroy my tire, was completely flat within 60 seconds. What was worse was because I was miles from home with no spare and no jack I did not have a lot of options. I did not want to call GM roadside assistance which would just tow me to the Chevy dealer where they would sell me an overpriced crappy OEM tire (assuming they even have one) so I spent the next 4 hours running around my city (walked a mile to borrow a car, drive home to get a floor jack, drive back to the car to the pull wheel off car, drive wheel to tire store to have a used tire temporarily mounted, drive back to put wheel back on car, etc.).

Picture of tire with sidewall damage (you can see a small nick in the wheel).


Now I've got 4 new tires (I was planning on replacing these anyways at about 1000 miles but the incident accelerated my plans) and a renewed urgency to come up with a spare tire solution.

As I mentioned above I had been doing some research on what other people had done for a spare tire. I was planning on picking up a Cruze spare on eBay and then changing the tire for that to one that's a closer match to the OEM tire size (the Cruze spare is quite a bit too small) but that seemed wasteful and there are limitations with "temporary" spare tires anyways, you're not supposed to drive on them faster than 50-55 MPH or drive on them for longer than ~50 miles. Add to that that even the "closer" temporary spare you're going to mount on the Cruze wheel is not a great match for the OEM size so you could never use one on the front wheels without risking damage to your differential. I know a couple people have bought a new OEM wheel and mounted a full sized regular tire on it but that's a very expensive solution for something you (hopefully) never need to use.

I was checking out the winter tire thread and saw that some people were using 15" wheels intended for a Chevy Sonic and 205/65-15 winter tires. I figured that if you can run 4 of those in winter why not run 1 of them as a spare? One key advantage of this is that the 205/65-15 is an EXACT match spec wise (there is always going to be some difference in tire dimensions from tire to tire even in the same size) so I could in theory run this size on a front wheel at least for a while.

Went to Tire Rack and told them I had a 2014 Sonic Hatchback. Found the 15x6 steel wheel and a decent but inexpensive non-directional tire (since this tire could need to run in either direction) and ordered it. The wheel was $53 and the tire was $56, buy a tire and wheel from Tire Rack and they will mount and balance for free. I did have to pay $34 for shipping so the total came out to $143.94 which I figure is about $30-$40 more than I would have paid for a Cruze spare wheel and new tire for it.

This weekend I test fit the tire, took measurements and found that everything seems to fit great.

Here is the new wheel next to my OEM wheel. At first glance the new one seems quite a bit smaller.


Here it is between my OEM wheel with new tire and one of the 3 (unmounted) factory tires (I have these for sale BTW). Looks like the factory tire is the smallest.


I put the factory tire in the middle and stuck a board on top for vistualization purposes. The factory tire looks much smaller here but it's really not a great comparison since the factory tire isn't even mounted on a wheel.


Put the new spare and the OEM wheel next to each other and stuck a level on them. Looks like the tires are actualluy extremely close to each other after all.




Extreme close up of bubble.


Now I understand the concept of wheel offset but I don't know how to tell what that means when you are comparing wheels with two different widths. I figured one fool proof way to figure out if I was likely to have clearance problems would be to measure the depth from the tire to the rim.


Looks like the new spare does not portrude into the wheel well as far as the OEM wheel. Pretty much what I expected.



Now Tire Rack included new lug nuts with the new tire, I put them next to the factory lug nuts for comparison. Looks like the seat of the two is the same, the tire rack nuts are open instead of the closed factory nuts.



When I mounted the spare on the car I put one of the factory nuts on hand tight to see if these might work. Seems like they would though I did not attempt to torque it down.


Here's the wheel mounted on the car, I test fit on the front wheel because that's the one where I'm more likely to have clearance problems, either from the wheel not clearing the brake caliper or from the tire rubbing on something when I turn (though the measurements I already took told me that wasn't going to be a problem)


While I still had the car up on the jack I spun the wheen a few times by hand to make sure the brake caliper wasn't a problem. I also turned the steering wheel to full left and full right lock to make extra sure that nothing rubbed. Of course that would even be less likely with the car on a jack with the suspension not compressed.

Once I had the car down on the wheel I also repeated turning the steering wheel to full left and full right lock and drover forward and backwards a bit. No clearance issues at all. Now of course it's theoretically possible that when going over a bump you could have some rubbing but the measurements I took tell me that's not going to be a problem.


Once I got the new spare wheel back off it was time to put it in the back where it's going to live. It actually took up more space than I was expecting it to. At least with the factory all weather cargo mat installed it comes up right to the false floor. There is room in the wheel for my L1 charger though.


Putting the false floor back in place it's a very tight fit, in fact you have to put the false floor in at a shallow angle to get it into the slot. The false floor is in physical contact with the spare. This means there's not enough clearance to put the cover I already bought on the spare tire but I'm OK with it in general because it means the tire will help support the weight of anything heavy I put on the false floor. That floor seems way too weak for a lot of the things I carry but the tire will support it more than adequately I no longer feel I need to replace the false floor with a piece of 3/4" plywood as I was planning.



I weighed the new spare and the OEM wheel and I wrote down the measurements but I can't find where I wrote it down. As I recall the new spare was about 10# lighter than my OEM wheel and Kumho Ecsta PS31 tire. I'm thinking this might make this wheel and tire size a viable option for hypermilers because between the lighter weight and being a slightly narrower tire it should be a decent amount more efficient. Tire Rack does list several LRR tires in this size and most of them are under $100/tire.


That's the meat of it. I feel really good about this solution, being as the spare tire doesn't have the exact same diameter as the OEM wheels I probably would not use this tire on the front wheels if I had a choice but I like that I could drive around with this on the rear wheel indefinitely if I needed to and it would be perfectly safe.

If anyone wants to see the full resolution & uncropped pics I created an album in Google Photos. Here is the link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/97HkvBKJlQHfrpKj1
 

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I can't thank you enough for this post. I drive 120 miles round trip to work and always worry about having tire issues that might strand me.

Have you noticed an significant decrease on mileage lugging this tire around?

Another thought was deflating it so is to make it easier to store. I keep a small air pump in my Bolt that could inflate the spare if needed.
 

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Great write up, thanks!

I know enough to know that you probably don't want to run it in the front of a fwd but can you really run a different size in the rear for an extended time? If so, I might do the same and keep my old Prius winters (195/65-15) in the trunk too.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I can't thank you enough for this post. I drive 120 miles round trip to work and always worry about having tire issues that might strand me.

Have you noticed an significant decrease on mileage lugging this tire around?

Another thought was deflating it so is to make it easier to store. I keep a small air pump in my Bolt that could inflate the spare if needed.
I've only had it in the car for 1 day so I really can't say. It's only about 40 pounds for the tire (the jack and the lug wrench will have additional weight) so I think the difference it negligible.

I'm sure I'm giving up more economy running non-LRR summer tires (very few summer tires are LRR and none are made in the stock tire size) than I am carrying 50-60 pounds of tire+tools around.

Don't think you'd buy much by having the tire uninflated, maybe 1/4" of thickness but I doubt even that.
 

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That's a great solution !
BTW, raitchison, what jack do you use and where you put it safely under ? I didn't find any specially re-inforced jack placements....
 

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Discussion Starter #10
That's a great solution !
BTW, raitchison, what jack do you use and where you put it safely under ? I didn't find any specially re-inforced jack placements....
I bought a used jack on eBay from a Chevy S10, it hasn't arrived yet though. I paid $40 including shipping, I'm sure I could have found it cheaper if I was willing to spend an afternoon driving around wrecking yards.

As far as where to use the jack here is the relevant post from the thread that @GJETSON was suggesting. Here's another that has some more detail on the jacking points.
 

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Unmounted tires are always smaller than when mounted and inflated. Be careful
using mismatched tires on the front. This can also cause issue's with the ABS and Traction
Control systems.
 

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Jacks are easy to buy at your local pick a part junk yard, just about all cars made today use the same type jack.

These jacks lift the car on the pinch weld just under the rocker panel, when looking at a used jack just look at the screw mechanism for rust.

Most of the jacks that the junk yard sells are never used, but they can suffer if they were laying out in the elements.

Jacks are removed from the cars as soon as the cars arrive, the yard does not want the liability of anyone using a jack, having a car fall on a customer isn't good.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Jacks are easy to buy at your local pick a part junk yard, just about all cars made today use the same type jack.

These jacks lift the car on the pinch weld just under the rocker panel.
The Bolt doesn't have regular pinch welds (there are some but they have plastic molding that would be damaged) so a "standard" car jack won't work.

The S-10/Jimmy/Blazer jack isn't designed for pinch welds has a little inverted dimple on it that meets perfectly with the small holes at the lift points that were used to move the car around the factory.

Check out this post from another thread for more info and a picture. http://www.chevybolt.org/forum/12-wheels-tires-brakes-suspension/6025-bolt-spare-tire-options-3.html#post227538
 

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The Bolt doesn't have regular pinch welds (there are some but they have plastic molding that would be damaged) so a "standard" car jack won't work.

The S-10/Jimmy/Blazer jack isn't designed for pinch welds has a little inverted dimple on it that meets perfectly with the small holes at the lift points that were used to move the car around the factory.

Check out this post from another thread for more info and a picture. http://www.chevybolt.org/forum/12-wheels-tires-brakes-suspension/6025-bolt-spare-tire-options-3.html#post227538
Don't know about that, I have been jacking up my Bolt on the pinch welds for the past month or more, with my floor jacks.

I change my tires to snow tires and then back when the snow is gone.

On the jack I use an old folded microfiber towel but its only because I didn't want to chip the paint to get the car rusting on the welds.
 

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Thank you very, very much.

When I began driving as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS) a few years ago, I thought about the potential problems with the run-flat tires I had on my Mini Paceman; it came with no spare tire because of this. I decided that it was a terrible idea to not have a spare tire, and risk having someone miss an appointment because of a flat tire when taking her/him to an appointment. Now that I have a bolt, I definitely want a spare tire for the same reason. This will also give me the peace of mind in replacing the stock tires with some that are more performance oriented, as I did with my Paceman.

So, thank you again so much for sharing his information about your spare tire/wheel solution, and to everyone else who provided their own experiences and thoughts. This is a fantastic community of Bolt enthusiasts. I am completely enthralled with this car, and my ACS passengers react better to it than I ever experienced with the Mini.
 

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How about the TPMS sensor? Did you install one? If not, when you had the tire mounted and balanced, was there any issue, since I understand that shops are not allowed to mount tires without the sensors if the car came with them, which the Sonic did, I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
How about the TPMS sensor? Did you install one? If not, when you had the tire mounted and balanced, was there any issue, since I understand that shops are not allowed to mount tires without the sensors if the car came with them, which the Sonic did, I guess.

The tire came shipped from Tire Rack already mounted and balanced, I did not opt for a TPMS sensor as that wouldn't work even if were fitted on the spare unless I also carried a TPMS re-learn tool with my all the time and programmed the car to recognize the TPMS in the spare when it's mounted.

I have not heard there was any requirements regarding only fitting tires with TPMS sensors on cars that originally came with TPMS. Honestly that sounds like a load of BS that a disreputable tire shop would push on an unsuspecting customer.
 

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The tire came shipped from Tire Rack already mounted and balanced, I did not opt for a TPMS sensor as that wouldn't work even if were fitted on the spare unless I also carried a TPMS re-learn tool with my all the time and programmed the car to recognize the TPMS in the spare when it's mounted.

I have not heard there was any requirements regarding only fitting tires with TPMS sensors on cars that originally came with TPMS. Honestly that sounds like a load of BS that a disreputable tire shop would push on an unsuspecting customer.
OK, good to know. I checked with TireTrack and indeed they can mount the tire to the wheel, so I'll do that. My current thinking is that anything other than an original tire and size will need to go on the rear wheel, requiring a swap from rear to front if the front goes flat and the self-seal doesn't work. I looked at the donut spares on ebay and sent a message to the seller requesting more information, but haven't received a reply, which I don't like. I do like the idea of a smaller, lighter spare to allow more room and an easy fit in the trunk, and since it will only be run temporarily on the rear, it need not be stock size. I've come up with the combo of 1) Sonic 15x6 5x105 steel wheel, paired with 2) Continental Contact TX 165/65R15. The size is about halfway between a donut temporary spare and a full size stock tire: 14 lbs, 6.7" width, 23.4" diameter, about 2" less than stock in each dimension and 2" more than a donut. And, it's a fully rated tire with a T speed rating and 65K mile warranty. The wheel + tire will be 31 lbs total. Total cost at TireRack is $169.68 which includes mount + balance + shipping. So, unless anyone sees problems with this setup, this is the route I'll go.
 

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OK, good to know. I checked with TireTrack and indeed they can mount the tire to the wheel, so I'll do that. My current thinking is that anything other than an original tire and size will need to go on the rear wheel, requiring a swap from rear to front if the front goes flat and the self-seal doesn't work. I looked at the donut spares on ebay and sent a message to the seller requesting more information, but haven't received a reply, which I don't like. I do like the idea of a smaller, lighter spare to allow more room and an easy fit in the trunk, and since it will only be run on the rear, it need not be stock size. I've come up with the combo of 1) Sonic 15x6 5x105 steel wheel, paired with 2) Continental Contact TX 165/65R15. The size is about halfway between a donut temporary spare and a full size stock tire: 14 lbs, 6.7" width, 23.4" diameter, about 2" less than stock in each dimension and 2" more than a donut. And, it's a fully rated tire with a T speed rating and 65K mile warranty. The wheel + tire will be 31 lbs total. So, unless anyone sees problems with this setup, this is the route I'll go.

Seems reasonable, though I wonder how much space you'll really be saving with that smaller tire.

While in terms of specs my spare is the exact same diameter as the OEM tire I know that there are slight differences between tire manufacturers and models and even between a new and worn tire of the exact same model. For that reason I would not want to drive with any spare on the front tires for an extended period of time, (at least until we know more about the durability of the differential in the Bolt) but it's nice to know that my spare is close enough that I could safely drive on it on the front wheels if I needed to, if for example if I had a flat on the side of the road with a soft shoulder and I wasn't able to (or it wouldn't be safe to) lift the entire side of the car to swap the back wheel to the front so I could put the spare on the back. I know if I needed to I could just put the spare on the front and drive several miles if needed to more safely and easily swap the front and back wheels.
 
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