Editor’s Note: This blog has been updated in 2021 to reflect current industry standards.
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 does not make much sense to equip every car 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.
Nowadays, spare tires should never be a permanent replacement, begging the question, how long can you really drive on a spare tire? The type of spare tire in your vehicle makes a difference in how long and how far you can drive before fixing your tire or buying a new tire.
How Long Can You Drive on a Space-Saver/Donut Spare Tire?
These narrow, compact spares are designed to save space and weight in the vehicle, allowing the manufacturers to build a smaller car. However, the tire itself is not built to last. Your owner’s manual will give 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 why you should avoid prolonged use of space-saver or donut tires is that they have little to no tread, making 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.
How long Can You Drive on a Run-Flat Tire
Run-flat tires are becoming more common as manufacturers realize they cost less to maintain than traditional tires. If you drive a recent model BMW or a MINI, your car likely came with run-flat tires. These tires are tougher than most tires but are not designed to last forever, such as a full-spare tire.
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 punctured for about 50 miles before needing to be replaced. However, these tires cost more to replace than traditional tires.
While you have a bit more room to travel on these types of tires, it is important to inspect your tire as soon as you are aware of any change in tire pressure. This gives you an idea of how long you have until you have no choice but to have your tire replaced.
How Long Can You Drive on a Full-Size Spare Tire?
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 large vehicle, your car probably is equipped with a full-size spare. While a full-size spare is heavier and requires a larger space for storage, these tires are more durable and can handle a drive similar to a regular tire.
Once you have taken your vehicle to an auto repair shop and learned that the punctured tire is irreparable, you can request the spare tire to be put on the original rim.It is important to note that a full-size spare tire is usually not produced by the same manufacturer as the rest of the tires on your vehicle, meaning it will handle differently than the other tires. We suggest buying a new tire as soon as you can afford to, but this can easily buy you some time.
About Christian Brothers Automotive
Christian Brothers Automotive was born out of the idea of not just being an auto repair shop, but also a neighbor. Our mission is simple: to take root in the local communities we serve and to create an uncommonly great experience for customers in need of auto service and repair. To have your tires inspected or to replace a spare tire, please do not hesitate to call or visit your local Christian Brothers Automotive shop. We have 240 plus locations nationwide that are locally owned and operated, providing complete auto care and repair solutions near you.
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