Driving on a spare tire is an inevitable situation that many drivers may encounter after experiencing a flat tire on the road. Spare tires may be very helpful, but they’re intended to be temporary solutions, providing a limited range of functionality until the original tire can be repaired or replaced.
While spare tires offer a quick fix, it is essential for drivers to understand their limitations and the potential risks associated with extended use. For example, they can damage your breaks and increase your chances of getting into an accident.
This guide explores the different types of spare tires and how long and fast can you drive with a spare tire — in case you have a flat tire.
Common Types of Spare Tires
Spare tires come in various types, each designed to provide a temporary solution when a regular tire becomes flat or damaged. The most common types of spare tires are the compact and full-size spare tire, which differ in their construction and performance.
Let’s take a look at their differences:
- Compact spare tire: Also known as donut spares, compact spare tires are the most prevalent type of spare tires found in many vehicles. They are smaller and lighter than regular tires, which makes them appealing for those who want to save space in the trunk. Moreover, they’re less expensive. Donut spares are intended for temporary use only and have limitations in speed and distance. They are typically used for short distances and lower speeds to get you to a nearby tire repair shop.
- Full-size spare tire: Full-size spare tires are less common but still found in certain vehicles, especially larger ones like SUVs, trucks, and some higher-end cars. Unlike compact spares, full-size spare tires are identical to the regular tires on your vehicle in terms of size, tread pattern, and performance. This means they provide the same handling and traction capabilities as your standard tires and can be driven at normal speeds for an extended period. However, just because they perform like your normal tires, doesn’t mean you can skip checking them regulary.
How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?
Most manufacturers recommend driving on a compact spare tire for distances ranging from 50 to 70 miles (80 to 113 kilometers). In general, it’s best to avoid driving no more than 50 miles for donut or compact spare tires.
Regardless, check your vehicle’s manual or the sidewall of the spare tire for the specific distance limitations, as they can vary depending on the tire’s design and the vehicle.
When it comes to durability and capability, a full-sized spare tire can offer more than compact spare tires. While the exact distance may vary depending on the tire’s specifications and the manufacturer’s recommendations, in general, you can drive on a full-sized spare tire for longer distances.
At the end of the day, both spare tires are only a temporary solution, and their primary goal is to get you to a safe location or a tire repair shop, where you can address the issue with your regular tire.
As soon as possible, replace the spare tire with a regular tire.
How Fast Can You Go on a Spare Tire?
As a general rule of thumb, you should drive on a spare tire at a maximum speed of 50 mph (80 km/h). Driving more than 50 miles per hour on a donut tire can be dangerous. Some spare tires may have even lower speed limits, so it’s crucial to check your vehicle’s manual or the sidewall of the spare tire for the specific speed restrictions.
Higher speeds can be unsafe since they cause additional stress on the tire, potentially leading to further damage or failure.
Safety Tips When Driving with a Spare Tire
When driving on a spare tire, it’s essential to follow safety precautions, such as observing the recommended speed limit and checking the spare tire’s pressure. These tips will ensure a safe and smooth journey:
- Observe speed limit: Stick to the recommended speed limit for the spare tire, which is typically 50 mph (80 km/h). Driving at higher speeds can be dangerous and may lead to additional stress on the spare tire, increasing the risk of failure.
- Avoid long distances: Use the spare tire to cover the shortest distance possible. Spare tires are temporary solutions, and extended use can compromise their performance and safety. Get to a tire repair shop or your destination promptly to replace or repair the original tire.
- Maintain proper tire pressure: Regularly check the spare tire’s pressure and ensure it is inflated to the recommended level. Driving on an underinflated spare tire can affect its performance and handling.
- Avoid overloading: Spare tires have weight limits, which means you need to avoid overloading your vehicle to prevent unnecessary strain. Check the vehicle’s manual or the spare tire sidewall for weight restrictions.
- Limit off-road driving: Spare tires, especially compact spares, are not designed for off-road use. Avoid driving on rough or uneven terrain to prevent damage to the tire.
- Avoid high-speed maneuvers: Spare tires may not offer the same level of traction and stability as regular tires. Avoid sudden maneuvers, especially at high speeds. Aggressive driving, in general, is discouraged.
- Keep a safe following distance: Allow for more braking distance when driving on a spare tire, as they may have reduced braking performance compared to regular tires.
- Check tire condition: Regularly inspect the spare tire for any signs of damage or wear. Examples include cracks in the rubber and worn tread. If the spare tire is in poor condition, do not use it, and seek assistance from a professional.
Driving cautiously and being aware of your spare tire’s limitations can ensure a safe drive until you visit a tire shop or reach your destination.
Driving on a spare tire should be viewed as a temporary solution to address a flat or damaged tire. Regardless of the spare tire type you have, make it a priority to replace the original tire. Guidelines such as these can make a difference in your safety and peace of mind on the road.