If you’ve recently experienced a flat tire, you may be wondering how long you can drive on the spare.
The answer to this question depends on the type of spare you have in your vehicle. There is the full-size spare, and there is the space-saver, or “donut,” spare. Let’s take a look at how long you can safely use these two tire types.
Full-Size Spare Tires
A full-size spare is just that: a tire that is the same as the four regular tires you have on your vehicle already. It will be the same type and mounted on the same kind of rim. If you have a flat and replace it with a full-size spare, assuming that spare is well-maintained and properly inflated, you can resume normal driving at posted speed limits.
There are, however, concerns with putting a full-size spare onto your vehicle after a flat. Your tires, for however long they have been on your vehicle, have worn together at the same rate. Your spare will have little to no wear. If it has wear, it will be at a different level from the others. This will somewhat affect vehicle performance and fuel efficiency.
As a result, it’s recommended that you get a flat fixed at your dealer or local installer as soon as possible. If the tire is damaged beyond repair, it should be replaced with a new one—and you’ll want to put your spare back, too, so you aren’t driving around without a backup.
Space-Saver Spare Tires
Since spare tires are used infrequently, auto manufacturers long ago created narrower, lighter tires to place in vehicles for use as spares. These tires are commonly called “donuts” or “space-savers”. Once they are installed on your vehicle, they are designed to get you to a repair shop so they can be repaired or replaced. Your vehicle’s manufacturer will recommend specifically how long and at what speed you can use your tire. You can find this information on the spare itself and in your owner’s manual.
The rule of thumb is that you should not exceed 50 miles per hour and only drive on it for a very short amount of time.
Why? A space-saver spare is narrower and lighter than a regular tire; it is also not as durable. This means the longer you drive on this type of spare, the more vulnerable you are to the normal and not-so- normal hazards of driving. You shouldn’t keep this type of spare on your vehicle for longer than necessary as braking, cornering and handling will be greatly affected. It is likely also that safety systems such as electronic stability control and traction control systems will be disabled while driving on the smaller temporary spare. Plus it just won’t last, because it isn’t designed to.
So, the answer about how long you can ride on a space-saver tire is: as short a time as possible.
Additional Notes about Spare Tires
Now that you know how long you should drive on your spare tire, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when using a spare:
One issue with all spares, regardless of size, is the longer they sit unused in your vehicle, the more air they tend to lose. If that happens, you might find yourself driving with a less than optimum tire. Check the air pressure in your spare regularly, and especially before you embark on a lengthy road trip.
In the event that you have to use your donut spare for more than a few minutes—for instance, if you’re 60 miles from a mechanic when you get a flat tire—you should replace the spare after you get a full-size tire back on. A donut is not designed to have a long life, so replacing it with a new one after use will ensure it’s safe to use should you need it again in the future.