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How Long Can You Drive On a Spare Tire?

how long can you drive on a spare tire

How Long Can You Drive On a Spare Tire?

So how long can you drive with a spare tire? In the majority of cases the answer is that you should do everything possible to minimize both speeds and drive time with a spare fitted.

Just how restricted you are depends on your vehicle and the quality of your spare.

The exception to the rule is vehicles with a fifth/spare wheel that is equal in size and tire specification (make and model) to the full-size OE tires and wheels. If you’re lucky enough to be in this camp, then standard spare tire and wheel guidance doesn’t really apply. However, you should still get AAMCO of Keller or a local tire shop or dealer as soon as possible to get the damaged tire repaired, and maintain a functional spare. (Also, don’t forget to make that fifth tire a part of your tire rotation protocol.)

For everyone else, you’re most likely either working with a compact temporary spare, aka a “donut” tire, or what’s referred to as a “dissimilar/non-matching” spare wheel and tire, which is becoming increasingly common. Dissimilar/non-matching spare wheels and tires are often full-size, or close to it, but the wheel and/or tire is of a different specification than the four OE wheels and tires.

Compact temporary spare/“donut”

These spare tires and wheels are designed to mobilize the vehicle just long enough to get to the nearest service station. With a compact temporary spare fitted, important vehicle functions like traction control, ABS, and proper speedometer operation are likely to be impaired.

The handling dynamics, braking capability, and overall traction of your vehicle will be significantly compromised. When driving, reduce your speed substantially, and don’t plan to use it long-term or over a significant distance. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for specific guidance on speed and distance limitations.

Once the old tire is off your car and safely stowed in the trunk, you’re left with a spare tire to get your vehicle safely to the nearest auto repair shop. If you’re lucky, the mechanics can easily fix your flat tire for $10-$15. If the tire was damaged beyond repair, you’ll need to buy a new one.

For some, spending hundreds of dollars on a new tire just isn’t in the cards. That leaves the question, “How long can you really drive on a spare tire?”

In older cars, every model came with a spare tire that matched the tires already on the vehicle. Over the years, car manufacturers have realized the spare tire is used so infrequently, it doesn’t make much sense to equip every vehicle with a full-sized spare. For this reason, manufacturers began leaving a space-saver spare (otherwise known as a “donut”) in place of a full-size spare.

For years, cars were built with spare tire wells capable of carrying a full-size spare. On many older cars (and a few newer models), this is still the case. If you bought a truck, SUV or another larger vehicle, your car may have been equipped with a full-size spare. While a full-size spare is heavier and requires space for storage, these tires are more durable and can handle a drive similar to a normal tire.

Once you’ve taken your vehicle to an auto repair shop and learned your original tire cannot be repaired, you can request the spare tire be put on the original tire’s rim – just make sure to check the spare tire’s air pressure. This process is quick and cheap, and will allow you to drive on the spare tire for a longer period of time.

However, the spare has not been used to the same extent as the other 3 tires (and may be a different type of tire altogether). For this reason, the wheel will handle differently than the other tires and can create an unsafe drive. We suggest buying a new tire as soon as you can afford to.

Safe-Saver/Donut Spare Tire
These narrow, compact spares were designed to save space and weight in the vehicle. This allows the manufacturers to build a smaller car, but the tire itself is not built to last. Your owner’s manual will give the recommendations for driving time and speed. A general rule of thumb is to drive no more than 70 miles and no faster than 50 miles per hour before replacing your donut with a new tire.

The biggest reason to use these space savers for a short period of time is because they have little to no tread. This makes the spare vulnerable to road hazards and projectiles. It is also much smaller than the other 3 tires, making it spin faster to keep up with the moving car.

Over those 70 miles, the lubricating grease will break down, causing unnecessary wear on the gears and clutch plates.

A Run-Flat Tire
Run-flat tires are becoming more common as manufacturers are realizing they cost less to maintain than traditional tires. If you drive a recent model Lexus or Mercedes, your car likely came with run-flat tires. These tires are tougher than most tires, but are not designed to last forever.

Rather than including a spare tire, these run-flat tires are built to withstand most road hazards, including punctures. Rather than going flat or blowing out (as traditional tires do), a run-flat tire can continue to drive after a puncture for about 50 miles before needing to be replaced. However, these tires cost more to replace than a traditional tire.

Regardless of the type of tire, your spare needs to be replaced sooner rather than later
If driving on a full-sized spare, a rim replacement will allow for more time before you absolutely need a new tire. However, a space-saver tire should be driven on for no more than 70 miles.

It’s important to remember your tires are the only thing standing between the road and yourself. Getting a flat tire adequately taken care of isn’t a matter of convenience; it’s essential to your safety.

Tread-ware can be on of the leading causes of a flat tire under common road conditions. When the tire wears it becomes more susceptible to road hazards and harsh driving conditions.

Why is a wheel alignment important for my vehicle?

  • Proper wheel alignments can help improve your driver safety, create a smoother ride, and help increase fuel efficiency
  • Alignments could save you hundreds of dollars on replacing tires due to premature tread wear

Have a flat tire in the Keller Area? Wondering why your tires are wearing quicker than expected? Contact AAMCO Of Keller today to schedule a wheel alignment and tire inspection. Call Us Today at (817) 431-0009

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