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How Long Can You Really Drive On A Spare Tire?

The short answer is... It depends.

By Ahmed A.Published 3 years ago Updated 2 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - January 2021
Photo by Robert Laursoo on Unsplash

It’s incredibly frustrating to get an unexpected flat tire while driving your car. You could be on your normal commute, taking a road trip, or in a hurry to get somewhere.. And baam. You have a flat tire.

Luckily, all cars should have a working spare tire stored somewhere (usually in the truck). It’s incredibly helpful in such situations, and you should absolutely never take it out of your car.

So, you go ahead and switch into the spare tire on the side of the road. Problem fixed… right?

Well.. not yet.

Now is the point where you need to think about how to safely get your vehicle into the nearest tire repair shop. And the golden question that arises at this point of time is how long can I really drive on a spare tire?

The short answer is: It depends. That’s because there are a few different types of spare tires that car manufacturers use in their vehicles. How long you can drive on them would largely depend on the type of spare tire your car carries.

The Different Types of Spare Tires

Car manufacturers around the world use different types of tires in their vehicles. The type of tire used in the vehicle would dictate how long it could be safely used.

Older vehicles would almost always have a spare tire that is identical to the working set of tires on the car. While this is a great solution, car companies realized over the years how spare tires weren’t being used so frequently and that they were adding unnecessary weight to the vehicles.

So, car manufacturers began to test out different types of tires that are lighter and easier to install leading to the widely known “donut” tire being frequently used.

Additionally, luxury car manufacturers found ways to produce tires that won’t get flat. They are appropriately named: run-flat tires. While these tires cost significantly more, they allow you the option to drive a lot longer on them before they need to be fixed.

Full Size Spare Tire

As mentioned above, a full size spare tire can be treated just like the other tires on the car, giving you a far higher range to drive to your favorite car repair shop.

There is, however, one issue with full size tires. Since the spare full size tire has barely been used compared to the other 3 tires on the car, the wheels will handle slightly differently and may create an unsafe driving experience.

That’s why we advise you to visit a repair shop, have a professional look at your tires, and purchase a replacement as soon as you can.

Donut Spare Tire

Appropriately named, donut spare tires are narrow, compact spare tires that were specifically designed and engineered to save weight and space in the vehicle. As a result, car manufacturers are able to build a smaller, lighter car. However, this also meant that the spare tires are not built to last. Most manufacturers note that donut tires should not be used for more than 50 miles and at speeds no faster than 50 miles per hour to not jeopardize the safety of people riding in the vehicle.

Since donut spare tires have little to no thread and spin faster to keep up with the other 3 larger tires, important vehicle functions such as ABS, traction control, handling, and speed are likely to be compromised.

Make sure you always check your vehicle owner’s manual for the best guidance on how to use your spare tires if you have to.

Run-Flat Spare Tire

With luxury vehicles gaining more momentum year by year, many car manufacturers are opting for the more expensive run-flat spare tires option. Companies like Mercedes Benz or BMW currently use run-flat tires in almost all of their models.

Contrary to the case with regular or donut spare tires, run-flat tires are built to withstand most road hazards without going flat or getting punctured. Typically, these tires would drive for about 50 miles before needing to be replaced.

Why it is Important to Get Your Tire Fixed Immediately

The idea behind having a spare wheel and tire is that you have something to help you keep going till you are able to reach an auto shop and fix your tires. While a full sized spare tire would allow you more time before a replacement is needed, smaller donut spare tires should not be driven on for more than 70 miles. You should be cautious with those numbers as any failure in your tires could cause a serious car accident.

In addition to the 70 mile limit, you should drive with extra precautions and with a heightened awareness of your surroundings, as safety features such as ABS, electronic stability control, and traction control systems will be severely affected by the smaller wheel.

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About the Creator

Ahmed A.

Ahmed spends parts of his day writing about safety, cars, health, and fitness. The rest of his time is spent juggling between working out and cooking Michelin-star dishes!

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