How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire? (and How Fast Can You Go?)

With enough years behind the wheel, one is almost guaranteed to eventually experience a flat tire. The occurrence of a flat is almost always accompanied by aggravation, as travels are delayed, and additional effort is expended to install the affected vehicle’s spare tire.

However, a flat tire often leaves motorists with another quandary of sorts. All too often, one is left to question the maximum distance that can be traveled on their spare tire. Further complicating this matter, is the fact that several different types of spare tires exist, making the answer to such a question multifaceted in nature.

Read on to learn more about the various types of spare tires, their top-rated speeds, and the maximum travel distance associated with each.

Related: Best Tire Brands (When Shopping for New Tires)

Full-Size Spare Tire

full size spare tire

As its name would suggest, a full-size spare is a spare tire of the same size as that which comes standard on a vehicle. Tires of this nature were quite common in days gone by, and are still considered standard fare for trucks and SUVs. 

In the majority of cases, a full-size spare is considered to be among the most durable of spare tire types. However, like any spare tire, a full-size spare has its limitations, which should be understood and respected.

How Far Can You Drive on a Full-Size Spare?

In most instances, a full-size spare’s longevity is dependent upon its overall condition. Since a full-size spare is normally of the same size as the rest of a vehicle’s tires, manufacturers do not typically assign such spares a maximum usage rating.

However, replacement or repair of a vehicle’s damaged tire in a prompt manner is still recommended.

When determining how far to travel on a full-size spare, it is also imperative to inspect the tire in question for age/condition-related defects, such as dry-rot. Many full-size spares are forgotten, until a flat necessitates their use, leaving their condition in question.

If a full-size spare is in less than ideal condition, use should be kept as brief as possible.

How Fast Can You Go on a Full-Size Spare?

Generally, a full-size spare is capable of operating at any safe-rate of speed, assuming that it is in good condition. However, it is also important to assess any discrepancies in the tread pattern, between a vehicle’s spare and standard-use tires.

If a full-size spare’s tread is significantly different from the tires found at each of a vehicle’s three remaining wheel positions, traction may be affected. In this case, a driver must adjust their speed of travel, to better accommodate the situation.

See Also: Common Causes of a Tire Pressure Light Coming On

Donut Spare Tire (Space-Saver)

space saver tire

Donut spares, also known as space-saver spares, are significantly smaller in size than the standard tires found on a given vehicle. Spares of this type are not designed for extended use. Instead, a donut spare is intended to be used for an extremely limited period of time.

Donut spares are most often found within the trunk of the vehicle to which they belong. Alternatively, space-saver spares can be found beneath the floorboards of many vans.

How Far Can You Drive on a Donut Spare?

Donut spares are in no way comparable to a vehicle’s standard tires. Spares of this nature are designed for the sole purpose of allowing a motorist to relocate to a safe location. Extended travel can result in a blowout or damage to a vehicle’s powertrain.

Most manufacturers rate their donut spares for a maximum travel distance of 50 miles, while some specify an alternative rating of 70 miles. No matter the case, a donut spare should not be driven on for any greater of a distance than absolutely necessary.

How Fast Can You Go on a Donut Spare?

When traveling on a donut spare, it is imperative to reduce your speed of travel. Travel at highway speed should be eliminated whenever possible. Under no circumstance, should speed when traveling on a donut spare exceed 70 MPH. Whenever possible one should travel well below the speed limit.

The reason behind this reduction of speed lies in the construction of a donut spare. Spares of this type are not rigid enough to support extended travel, as would is typical of full-size spares.

Run-Flat Tire

run flat tire puncture

Run-flat tires are designed to withstand a puncture and retain enough rigidity to maintain functionality for a set period of time. Tires of this type allow a motorist to commute to a safe location or tire shop, rather than installing a spare tire, should their travels go awry.

Run-flat tires come standard on many performance vehicles, such as BMWs and Corvettes. Alternatively, run-flat tires can be purchased on an aftermarket basis, for almost any model of vehicle.

How Far Can You Drive on a Punctured Run-Flat?

The effective operating distance of a run-flat tire, after withstanding a puncture, is dependent upon the tire in question. However, most run-flat tires continue to provide mobility for a distance of 50-200 miles. When in question, always consult the independent manufacturer of your individual make of run-flat tire.

Once the effective operating range of a run-flat tire has been exceeded, rapid breakdown begins to occur, much as is typical of a standard tire that has been punctured. When this occurs, a safety hazard is presented.

How Fast Can You Go on a Punctured Run-Flat?

When driving on a punctured run-flat tire, speeds should not exceed 50 MPH. Travel at speeds in excess of 50 MPH can cause an accelerated breakdown of a punctured run-flat tire’s internal structure, thereby limiting its effective travel range.

Can You Repair a Run-Flat Tire?

Most tire manufacturers do not recommend repairing a run-flat tire. After a tire of this nature has been run in absence of air pressure, it can be nearly impossible to determine the extent of internal tire damage that has taken place, thereby making replacement the safest option.

Does a Spare Tire Ever Need to Be Replaced?

how often to replace spare tire

The vast majority of tire manufacturers recommend replacing a vehicle’s spare tire every six-years. After ten years in service, a spare tire is deemed non-serviceable, and should not be relied upon, no matter the circumstance.

Additionally, a vehicle’s spare tire should be inspected periodically to ensure its integrity. It is advisable to remove a spare tire from its storage location every six-months and using an accurate tire pressure gauge, check to make sure its PSI is where it needs to be.

With full sized spares, many recommend putting it in your regular tire rotation schedule. Spare tires should also be regularly checked for signs of dry-rot, or any other form of external deterioration.


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