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How Far Can You Safely Drive on a Spare Tire?

By Mia Bevacqua, July 13, 2018

Getting a flat tire is a real bummer — and driving around on that little doughnut spare isn’t much fun either. When road hazard strikes and you’re stuck riding around on your spare, how far can you go? And how fast? 

spare tire

Spare tire / Image source

How far and how fast a spare tire can travel depends on its design. There are two basic types of spares: doughnut and full-size. Many newer luxury cars are equipped with run-flat tires instead of a spare. Plus, for the resourceful individual, there’s always the option of trying a can of fix-a-flat.

Let’s go over how well each approach will perform.

Doughnut spare tires

Also known as a space-saver tire, these little guys typically fit under the floorboard in the trunk. They’re often made of a different type of rubber than regular tires, plus they have a different tread pattern. These traits — paired with their diminutive size — mean you can only safely drive up to about 55 mph. When it comes to distance, doughnuts are usually good for 50 to 70 miles. That should be far enough for most people to get to a repair shop for a fix or replacement.

Full-size spare tires

Most full-size spare tires are identical to the vehicle’s regular tires. This means they’ll last as long and perform just as well. There are some full-sizes spares, though, that are made from a different compound. Their tread pattern may be different, too. In these cases, you should check the owner’s manual to find the recommended driving distance and speed.

» LEARN MORE: Here's the right way to change a tire

Run-flat tires

The latest and greatest tire on the scene is the run-flat. The design first appeared in the 1980s, but has just recently started to gain popularity. This type of tire can sustain a puncture and keep going for about 50 miles at speeds up to 50 mph. The main benefit of run-flats is there’s no need for a spare, which means, in an emergency situation, you don’t have to wrestle with a jack on the side of the road.

Fix-a-flat

Fix-a-flat is a product used to inflate and seal a punctured tire. It typically comes in an aerosol can, and you insert it through the valve stem. It works great on bicycle tires. But car tires? The jury is out. According to the manufacturer, the product will keep your rubber sealed for three days or 100 miles, whichever comes first. But, as they say, your results may vary. 

Get your car repaired by a professional
 

Above all, get a new tire as soon as possible

No matter what you have, in the case of a flat, it’s critical that you get your regular tire repaired or replaced as quickly as possible and replace your spare tire as needed. 

With a doughnut tire, especially, a quick trip to the tire shop is important. These temporary spares don’t handle the road as well, don’t brake as effectively, and are hard on the other wheel parts since they have to spin faster, due to their small size. Also, because they’re only good for about 50 miles, doughnut spares are often single-use items. 

Your tires are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road. It’s essential that all of them — including the spare — be kept in good condition. Check their pressures regularly and keep an eye out for bulges, cracks and worn tread.

 

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