The Great Spare Tire Saga

The Great Spare Tire Saga started the day we replaced the truck tires on September 8, 2018. We decided to share this post nearly a year later as it seemed pretty epic in retrospect! Hopefully others will learn from our experiences. Thank you, Steve for putting all of the details together!

Buying truck tires was a new experience for us. The tires on the truck were nearing the end of their useful life, and with our planned travels we decided to replace all four. Since the truck, while still new to us, was now eight years old, we decided to err on the side of caution and replace the spare as well.

In the waiting room of Big O Tires, the tire technician came in and asked us for the spare tire key. I’m sure we looked confused as we confessed (an expression we have perfected as we continue our “learning experiences” with trucks, trailers, and diesel engines) the only key we had was the truck ignition key. 

This is the truck’s old spare tire that couldn’t be removed due to not having a spare tire key.

This is how we found out that most trucks and some cars have special locks to keep the spare tires safe from theft. The Ford documentation states to keep the spare tire key in the glove compartment. I wish we would have known that when we bought the truck! FYI, if you are not familiar with the Ford F250 spare tire lock, it is not visible from the outside of the truck. The key is attached to the end of the jack bars and inserted into a plastic guide tube. The lock is 20” or so down the tube.  And, the spare tire resides beneath the truck bed, not an easy place to necessarily access. Plus the spare is relatively heavy.

Since Big O Tires did not want to hold the spare tire replacement, we had to take the tire with us. (But first, there’s a caveat to the story. Just three days after the truck tires were purchased, we had to return our new truck topper to the topper dealer due to a manufacturing fault. The topper had to be freighted round-trip to California, taking nearly a month to be repaired. Therefore, we had to empty the truck bed since we didn’t have a topper.)

Back to storage we go to unload the truck bed so the topper can be returned for repairs.

To store the new, unmounted, spare tire, this is where it went, tucked in the front of the truck bed:

The truck’s new spare tire went into the truck bed sans the topper.

Research on the internet confirmed the need for the spare tire key. It also exposed much frustration with the spare tire lock and key system. There were many discussion threads on how to remove the lock and make the spare tire removal easier (and more prone to theft I suppose).

Rather than hacking the spare tire system, we pursued a solution that would restore Bessie (Yes, we name our vehicles!) to wholeness. Off to a nearby Ford dealer. By now we knew that there were a limited set of keys and we were hopeful that our Ford dealer could tell us which key we needed. They could not. Evidently, only a handful of dealers carry a full set of keys. Since there are less than two dozen keys, and given the amount of frustration I found on the internet regarding the spare tire key, I find it peculiar that every Ford dealer does not have a set of keys. 

O’Meara Ford in Bloomington, outside of Denver, had a full set of keys. We drove up there and they quickly matched the key to the lock and told us which key we needed to order. The keys are only available online from McGard. O’Meara Ford and McGard were both very helpful during this ordeal, but our saga is not yet finished.

Based on the key number from O’Meara, and that our truck is a 2011 Ford F250, we ordered a replacement key. 

Confident that we would soon have a solution, we continued our travels to several locations in the Colorado mountains. When we came back to the Denver area and picked up the spare tire key from our daughter where we had McGard send it, the key did not fit our spare tire lock! Back to O’Meara Ford to compare keys. Oddly, the key we ordered did not match the O’Meara Ford key. Since our solution did not work, we had O’Meara Ford lower the spare tire.

O’Meara Ford removed the truck’s spare tire for us

This time we took pictures of the keys to highlight the differences and sent the pictures to McGard. McGard responded quickly. We found out that they keys were changed between the 2010 and 2011 model years, but some “older” 2011 models still had the older version of the key. 

McGard sent out a new key to our daughter. In the meantime, we had more traveling to do, so with the old spare removed, we had Big O Tires mount the new spare tire.

Off to Mesa Verde National Park we went with the spare cabled and locked to the side of the truck. What a wonderful trip and we will return! When leaving Mesa Verde, we decided to stop in Mancos for breakfast. Walking to the restaurant, Diane looked down at our trailer tires and found part of a screw sticking out from the tread on one of the tires!

Diane notices a screw in the driver's rear tire of the trailer.
Diane noticed a screw in the driver’s rear tire of the trailer.

Rather than take chances and at the encouragement of Diane’s brother, Chuck, who she called for some feedback, we changed the trailer tire with the spare. Would you believe, the spare tire storage on the Nash does not fit the wheels that come with the trailer? The spare tire rim is different than the rest of the tires.

In Mancos, Colorado, Steve changed out the trailer tire for the spare.

Interestingly, we now had two tires in the bed of our truck in  a new spare tire configuration:

Our truck bed now carried two tires!
Our truck bed now carried two tires!

Meanwhile, in the wonderful world of the US Postal Service, our spare tire key replacement took a side trip and wandered around Zionville, Indiana, presumably waiting for an address resolution. A call to McGard confirmed the correct mailing address and McGard promptly sent out a replacement package to our daughter’s address.

The replacement spare tire key arrived soon after we were back in Denver. The trailer tire with the screw in the tread did not leak any air. So, the truck spare tire is now under the bed of the truck. I changed the trailer tire again and put the spare back on the bumper. All was well.

On October 13, 2018, with all tires in place we left for Utah, escaping a winter storm in Denver just in time.

All tires were on the truck and trailer as intended plus the topper.


From start to finish, our spare tire saga took nearly four weeks. We are thankful that there were no emergencies during this time frame. We were very impressed with the service at O’Meara Ford. There were helpful over two separate visits and never considered charging us for their help. We are also very impressed with customer service at McGard. While we did not get the correct key the first time, which was not necessarily their fault, they were very responsive in sending out the new key, and when that was lost in Indiana, they were super responsive in sending out another replacement. The key that was wandering around Zionville, Indiana eventually showed up. Not a great showing by the USPS, but, hey, mistakes happen. Ford, in general, why did you make this spare tire key thing so complicated?

And then, there is the Ford dealer where we bought the truck. It seems like a functioning spare tire system is something that should have been on their checklist, However, I cannot discount our naivety in buying the truck. Lessons learned! Now if Northwood Manufacturing would consider designing spare tire storage and a spare tire wheel that would accomodate any of the trailer wheels, that would be helpful!

Happy Trails at Life at the Speed of Sanity!



2 Replies to “The Great Spare Tire Saga”

  1. What an ordeal for you both. However, we are glad you had the spare tire in case of trouble, as an insurance policy. All of your helpful info has been so informative. We are really looking forward to getting our 5th wheel back on the road! With love from Hoosier land, Linda & Steve

    1. Thank you, Linda. We sure didn’t want to take a chance of being without a spare. The good news that Steve didn’t mention is that we had purchased a better tire wrench a couple of days before we left for Mesa Verde. God was watching over us!


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