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How Far Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

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In this article, we’ll navigate the crucial questions you might have about spare tires, including how far and how fast you can safely drive on one. We’ll also delve into different types of spare tires, safety precautions, the special case of run-flat tires, and the reusability of spares to ensure you’re well-equipped for any roadside emergency.

On a full-size spare, you can usually drive as far as on a regular tire, but check your manual for guidelines. With a ‘donut’ spare tire, you are limited to driving 50 miles. Both types are meant for temporary use, and you should not drive at speeds above 50 mph. Always consult your vehicle’s manual for specific recommendations.

Let’s answer some other important questions you might have in the rest of this article.

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How Fast Can You Drive On A Spare Tire?

For a full-size spare, you can typically drive at normal speeds but always consult your vehicle’s manual. With a “donut” spare, it’s advisable to not exceed 50 mph. Both types of spares are temporary solutions, meant for limited distances. Avoid highways and allow extra braking room. Going over the speed limit on a spare risks blowouts, more so in hot conditions.

Types of Spare Tires

Full-Size Spare

  • What It Is: A tire identical to your vehicle’s regular tires.
  • Longevity: Similar to regular tires, but check manual.
  • Speed Limitations: Usually none, but consult the manual.

Donut (Compact) Spare

  • What It Is: A smaller, lighter tire designed for temporary use.
  • Longevity: Limited to 50-70 miles.
  • Speed Limitations: Not to exceed 50 mph

Run-Flat Tires

  • What It Is: Tires designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured.
  • Longevity: Up to 100 miles after puncture.
  • Speed Limitations: Generally limited to 50 mph post-puncture.

How Do I Safely Drive On A Spare Tire?

When driving on a spare tire, it’s important to remember that it’s not meant to be a permanent replacement for your regular tire.

So, how do you safely drive on a spare tire? Here are a few road safety tips to keep in mind when driving on a spare tire:

  • Check the tire pressure regularly
    It is essential to check the tire pressure of your spare tire regularly, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. You can find the recommended tire pressure for your spare tire in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or on the tire itself. Driving on an underinflated spare tire can be dangerous and can further damage your vehicle.
  • Give yourself extra space and time to brake:
    Spare tires are not designed to handle the same stress as regular tires. Therefore, give yourself extra space and time to brake when driving on a spare tire. This is especially true if you are driving at night.
  • Avoid high speeds and long distances
    Spare tires are not meant to be driven on for long periods or at high speeds. As we mentioned earlier, most manufacturers recommend not exceeding 50 miles per hour when driving on a spare tire.
  • Replace your regular tire as soon as possible
    Remember, a spare tire is not a permanent replacement for your regular tire. Replace your spare tire with a new one as soon as possible. Driving on a spare tire for too long can cause damage to your vehicle and compromise your safety on the road.

Is It Safe To Drive On The Highway With A Spare Tire?

Driving on the highway with a full-size spare is generally safe if you adhere to speed limits. However, using a “donut” spare at high speeds is risky and not recommended due to its limitations. Always check your manual for guidelines and, if possible, avoid highway driving with a donut spare.

If you must use the highway, aim to exit as soon as it’s safe to do so, particularly when driving on a donut spare.

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What Happens If You Drive On A Spare Tire Too Long?

Driving too long on a spare, especially a “donut,” can lead to tire failure and reduced vehicle handling. The limited tread depth and reinforced construction are not designed for extended use, increasing the risk of accidents. Extended driving on a spare can also lead to increased strain on the remaining tires and the car’s suspension system.

How To Recognize If the Spare or Run-Flat Tire Itself Is Failing

  • Unusual Vibrations: If you feel unusual vibrations coming from the car while driving, it could be a sign that the spare tire is failing.
  • Visual Damage: Check the tire for visible signs like cracks, bulges, or excessive wear. Any of these can be indicators of a failing spare tire.
  • Low Tire Pressure: If your tire pressure warning light comes on, or if you manually check and find the tire’s pressure is low, it may be failing.
  • Poor Handling: Difficulty steering, swaying, or pulling to one side could mean that the spare tire is not in good condition.
  • Audible Issues: Listen for unusual noises like thumping, whining, or squealing, as these sounds may indicate a problem with the spare or run-flat tire.

What Factors Affect Driving Distance?

A few factors can affect the distance you can safely travel on a spare. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

  • Tire Condition: The condition of your spare tire is one of the most important factors to consider when determining how far you can safely drive on it. If your spare tire is old, damaged, or has low tread depth, it may be unsafe to drive on for long. 
  • Vehicle Load: Your vehicle’s weight can also affect how far you can safely drive on a spare tire. If your car is heavily loaded, it can put more stress on your spare tire and make it more likely to fail.
  • Driving Conditions: The driving conditions you encounter can also affect how far you can safely drive on a spare tire. If you drive on rough or uneven roads or experience extreme weather conditions like heavy rain or snow, it can put more stress on your spare tire, making it more likely to fail. 

Can a Spare Tire Be Used More Than Once?

A full-size spare can often be used more than once but should be inspected for tread depth, cracks, or other visible damage before reuse. “Donut” spares are generally not recommended for multiple uses due to their limited durability. When inspecting, look for uneven wear, punctures, and ensure the tire pressure is adequate. Always refer to your vehicle’s manual for specific advice.

If you’ve used your full-size spare as a regular tire in the past, ensure it’s rotated back to “spare” status after being professionally inspected.

When Should You Replace A Spare Tire?

A full-size spare should be replaced based on tread depth, age, or visible damage, similar to regular tires. A “donut” spare, due to its limited durability, should ideally be replaced after its first use or after 6-10 years regardless of use. Always inspect a spare before and after using it, and consult your vehicle’s manual for manufacturer-specific guidelines on replacement.

What Are The Risks Of Driving On A Spare Tire?

Driving on a spare tire for too long can be risky for your vehicle and safety. Here are a few risks you should be aware of:

  • Increased wear and tear on other vehicle components: Temporary spare tires are not designed to handle the day-to-day driving rigors of a regular, full-size tire. As such, driving on a spare for an extended period can increase wear and tear on various components of your vehicle, including the steering, wheel alignment, and more.
  • Reduced handling and stability: Temporary spare tires are smaller and narrower than regular tires and have less traction and stability on the road. This can make your vehicle more difficult to handle, especially in wet or slippery conditions.
  • Reduced speed and distance: Most spare tires are designed to be used only temporarily in emergencies. As a rule, most spare tire mileage is around 50 miles. Driving on a spare tire for longer than this can increase the risk of a blowout or other tire failure.
  • Increased risk of accidents: Driving on a spare tire can affect your vehicle’s handling and stability, increasing the risk of accidents.

You should always replace a spare tire with a regular one as soon as possible, ideally within 50 to 200 miles of driving, depending on your owner’s manual recommendation.

Driving On A Spare Tire: Top Takeaways

Experiencing a flat tire can be daunting, and understanding the limitations of your spare tire is crucial. Generally, it’s best not to exceed 50 miles on a temporary spare, often called a “donut,” and to avoid speeds over 50 mph. 

These spares aren’t built for prolonged use and can affect your car’s overall performance, even potentially damaging parts like the transmission. Always ensure your spare is in good shape before use, and prioritize getting your primary tire repaired or replaced ASAP.

Image of Iain The Founder Of The Road Trip Expert

Iain Salter

Founder & Editor of The Road Trip Expert

Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He first developed a passion for backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries.