How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

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A spare tire, also known as a “donut” or “temporary” tire, is meant to be used as a temporary solution until a full-size replacement tire can be obtained. The length of time that you can drive on a spare tire depends on several factors, including the type of spare tire, the vehicle, and the driving conditions.

Donut tire

In general, you should use a spare tire for a limited time, usually between 50 to 70 miles, and at a reduced speed, usually around 50 mph. You should avoid driving at high speeds or for long distances, as spare tires are not meant to be used for extended periods of time and are not designed to handle the same load or speed as a full-size tire.

It’s always recommended to replace the spare tire with a full-size tire as soon as possible. Spare tires are not designed for extended use and may not provide the same level of performance and safety as a full-size tire.

Why you should not drive on a donut spare tire for too long?

A donut, also called a “compact spare,” is a smaller, lightweight replacement to the the full sized tire. Though its quite safe to drive this tire for up to 50 miles per hour, as mentioned (with lower speeds), it’s not recommended that you use them further.

Reduced load-carrying capacity

These tires are not built strong enough internally. So they are not designed to carry the heavier weight of the tire for the extended period of time.

Doing so, can simply over-heat the tire, and can cause blowout, or other unwanted scenario.

Reduced speed rating

Like the limited load index (carrying capacity), speed ratings are also limited on donut tires, which means they generate more heat even at lower speeds.

That’s why its not recommended that you go above 50 mph on these things.

For emergencies, 50 mph is okay, (depending on the condition of your donut tire), though its still safe to keep it under 30 mph.

Though keep in mind, this is for straight paths, if you are about to corner, really slow down, which brings me to the next.

Learn more on speed ratings:

Reduced traction

These spare tires don’t have the same type of tread as your other tires, and having a smaller section width, and with it, contact patch with the road, you can expect a little bit of slippage on roads (especially on wet ones), at higher speeds.

And since they also have smaller diameters because of their “compact size”, the overall steering response is also slowed down.

Moreover, these tires are also not so capable of hydroplaning resistance. So be extra careful in the rain with them. And make sure your TAC (traction control) is ON at all times.

Reduced fuel and tread efficiency

All these things I discussed above also contribute to the reduced fuel and tread life (of your other tires).

As donut tires are not rated with similar load index/speed ratings, as your other tires, they create more heat with the road, which makes these tires harder to drag, increasing fuel usage.

Moreover, with smaller diameter, these tires put an un-even pressure on the rest of the tires, and would cause them to wear differently.

And so this contributes to various types of wear patterns.

When Should You Replace Your Spare Tire?

Though like all tires, your spare tire would also have a built-in “born-on” date, representing the week and year the tire was produced, so looking at that, considering replacing your tire after 5 years, even the tire wasn’t used at all. That’s because it can deteriorate with time and lose its properties, making it not safe to drive on.

Moreover, also check if your tire has any sign of visible damage. See if there’s tread wear or any signs of sidewalls bulging out, if that’s case, considering replacing.

Also if your spare is every repaired or patched, it best you consider getting a newer one, as these tires are needed for emergencies.

Interesting Read: Can you replace just 1 tire?

Look into Run-Flat tires

Run-flat, also known as self-supporting tires, basically allow you to continue driving for a limited distance and time after a puncture.

These tires basically have a reinforced sidewall structure that allows for supporting the load of the vehicle after the air pressure leaves out.

So for your convenience, you can check out these tires, though keep in mind, they are slightly more expensive, especially when it comes to all-season tires, and are not as comfortable as other ordinary tires.

To Sum Up

So basically there are two types of “spare” options, full-sized spare tires, and donut tires (which are compact).

With full sized spare tire you can actually just finish off your journey without worrying (depending on the tire’s condition of course). And replace the tire back with the patched one as soon as its conveniently possible.

Though with the donut tire, its not recommended that run them for more than 70 miles, and run them above 50 mph. That’s because these tires are not the same as the others.

They have a smaller diameter, lower speed and load ratings, and less section width.

All these things basically generate more heat, which can result in a blowout on your spare, lower your fuel economy and decrease the overall tread life.

And since you also get limited traction with these tires, its best to change them as soon as possible.

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