DETROIT (WWJ) – Changing a flat tire on the side of a busy freeway can be a dirty and dangerous job. The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze offers a safer option: an on-board tire inflator kit that also helps improve fuel efficiency by shedding 26 pounds of spare tire and jacking hardware.

The inflator kit is among 42 changes to the Cruze Eco that help it to an EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway, the best highway mileage of any non-hybrid, gasoline-fueled, compact available in the U.S. market.

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“Getting rid of something as important as the spare tire wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” Terry Connolly, GM director of Tire and Wheel Systems said in a release. “The universal implementation of tire pressure monitoring systems over the past five years has significantly reduced the likelihood that a flat tire will leave you stranded by the side of the road.”

A Tire Pressure Monitoring System provides a warning on the instrument cluster allowing a driver to act before tire damage occurs.

The trunk-mounted inflator can be plugged into the 12-volt accessory socket inside the car and be used to re-pressurize the tire with no additional equipment.

If the tire has been punctured by a screw, nail or other object, the inflator can inject a sealant capable of plugging holes of up one-quarter-inch in diameter in the tread area.

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The process takes just minutes with much less risk than a tire change. Reinflated tires should always be inspected at a repair facility as soon as possible after the car gets get back on the road.

If a tire is too severely damaged to be repaired with the inflator kit, drivers can press the blue OnStar button on the rearview mirror to request emergency roadside assistance.

Cruze and all new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models are equipped with the embedded OnStar telematics system that can provide roadside assistance, automatic crash response, turn-by-turn directions and other safety and security features.

The combination of the pressure monitor and inflator helps improve real world fuel economy because operating a vehicle with under-pressurized tires increases the rolling resistance and burns more fuel, Connolly said.

“The Cruze engineering team equipped the Eco with industry-leading low rolling-resistance tires.  Ensuring that they stay properly inflated will help drivers get the full benefit of this lower fuel consumption,” Connolly said in a statement. “Tire pressure actually changes about one pound per square inch for every 10 degrees of ambient temperature change. Keeping your tires at the recommended pressure year round means drivers won’t have to fill the fuel tank quite as often.”

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