How Long Can You Really Drive On A Spare Tire?

Every driver is afraid of having a flat tire, mostly because of the unknown consequences when the unfortunate incident happens. In addition to this, flat tires occur when you least expect. What will you do when you have a flat tire? My best bet is that you will pull your car over on the roadside and replace the flat tire with your spare tire.

Even though most drivers go for the spare tire in times of need, not many know how long they should drive with this tire on their car. By spare tire, we mean the extra tire that comes with your car when you purchase it.

Types of Spare Tires

To answer the amount of time you should drive with your spare tire, you have to understand the kind of spare tire you have. There are two types of spare tires, and understanding the difference of each tire is crucial in answering this question.

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Some cars have full-size spare tires that match all the other four tires that your vehicle is running on. This is especially true in 4 runners and older cars, which have a full-size, regulation tires. If you are one of the proud owners of a four runner or a car with this type of spare tire, you should not be worried about the amount of time you drive using the spare tire. But check the tire to ensure it matches your car’s other tires, both in shape and size. If it does, this tire should last the duration of a regular tire.

However, you should prioritize fixing the flat tire as soon as possible to be used as your new spare tire. It is wise to replace the spare tire with the fixed flat tire when you get it from the repair shop so that all your tires can have uniform wear. A car that drives on tires with a similar amount of tear is safe.

Most cars produced within the last twenty years have a temporary spare tire, which is the second type of spare tire. This type of tire comes to mind when you hear or think about a spare tire. It is also known as a donut or a compact.

The donut tire is used by most cars today for more than one reason. For starters, the donut tire helps maintain a lower overall car weight, thus improving your fuel cost. The donut tire is also cheaper than the regular car tire. However, no driver should drive for an extended period on the donut tire. This is also the reason why it is used as a spare tire.

Compact Temporary Spare

These spare tires are by design meant to mobilize the car to cover long enough distance to arrive at the closest service station. When you drive with a donut spare tire, your car’s crucial control functions, such as the good speedometer operation, ABS, and traction control will most likely be affected. The donut tire also compromises your car’s braking capabilities, handling dynamics, and general traction. When you are using the donut spare tire, you need to keep your vehicle’s speed low. You should also not use the tire for a very long period or drive using it on a long distance. Read your owner’s manual to learn everything you need to know about distance and speed limitations when driving on the donut spare tire.

Apart from the two types of spare tires, there is a third variation of spare tire commonly known as the dissimilar or non-matching tire. This is a full-size tire that does not match with all the other tires in your car. These spare tires are used because they have more capabilities, they are not as restricted as the donut spare tire, and lastly, they do not compromise the car as the compact spare tires do.

As a driver, you should not be comfortable driving around in a non-matching full-size spare tire because of its visual similarities to your car’s other three wheels. These tires do not have the same specifications as your other tires, despite their visual similarities.

The non-matching, full-size spare tire may be of a different model and make. It may also have a different tire width from all your other tires. Even though these differences are unnoticeable, they have a lot of impact on your driving experience.

Some non-matching full-size spare tires are marked as temporary to mean that their tread depth is less than all the other tires of your car, despite their age. This will affect the general capabilities and operation of your vehicle. You should reduce your speed and distance traveled.

Understanding the Dangers of Driving on a Spare Tire for Long

Leaving your compact spare tire on your car longer than manufacturers recommend is bad because it may lead to numerous problems and complications in your car. These problems include:

The temporary compact spare tire does not last long, like the regular tire. A donut spare tire obtains its strength from plies layers of polyester and steel under the rubber band. Unlike regular tires, compact wheels do not have a lot of plies. An ideal compact spare tire only has a single layer of polyester on its sidewall. It also has two belts of steel with some polyester layers in its tread, which are almost half as many plies as can be found in a normal tire. These tire features limit the cornering ability and puncture resistance of the car.

When a car has a compact tire and is taking a turn, the inside wheel covers a short path compared to the outside wheel. In essence, the two wheels are traveling at different speeds. However, when your car is moving on a straight road, its differential is not in use, meaning that its bearings and gear undergo minimum wear and tear. However, considering that the donut wheel is smaller than the regular wheel, it has to spin faster or move faster than the regular wheel to compensate for the speed between the wheels. This causes the differential to work more than it should to compensate for the difference in speed. This creates a unique situation where the car appears to be in a constant turn. When you leave your compact spare wheel on the car, the grease lubricant ensuring the differential’s smooth running begins to break. In turn, the wear and tear process of your car’s clutch plates and gears accelerates, mainly if your car uses a limited-split differential.

These are why car manufacturers recommend you maintain low speeds (below 50 mph) when driving on a spare wheel and travel shorter distances on the spare wheel.

If the spare compact wheel ever gets damaged, either the wheel or the tire, you need to replace it. Do not try to repair it. You should also check your spare tire pressure each time you examine the pressure of all the other regular wheels.

Alternative to Spare Tires

Current car manufacturers are finding creative ways to go around spare tires. This new shift in thought is necessitated by the need to build fuel-efficient cars that also maximize space. This means doing away with spare tires that consume a lot of trunk space. What alternatives do car manufacturers offer in place of spare tires?

Run Flat Tires

A run-flat tire is a relatively new product in the market, made with reinforced sidewalls. Their unique design allows your car to continue moving despite having a puncture. Run-flat tires are suitable for your vehicle if you seek to maximize space and make the car lighter. However, they are more expensive than regular tires and have a significantly short tread life.

Self Sealing

Like the run-flat tires, the self-sealing tires have been designed to keep you going despite having a puncture. These tires have been made uniquely with a special sealant in the tire that allows it to maintain its air pressure even after you accidentally drive it through a sharp object.

Tire Repair Kit

A tire repair kit (view on Amazon) is a collection of essential tools needed to repair your tire in case of a puncture. However, the puncture has to be on the thread of the tire. This kit is a better alternative to the spare tire because it has less weight and occupies little space in your car. It has a sealant and an air compressor.

Spare Tire Maintenance

Due to their design, spare tires are more susceptible to damage than regular tires. You, therefore, need to find good ways of taking care and protecting them. One great way of protecting your spare tire is by using spare tire covers.

Importance of Using Spare Tire Covers

Spare tires come in various materials, including soft vinyl and hard shell. The hard shell covers are made using long-lasting ABS plastic. Here are the benefits of using spare tire covers.

Protection from UV Damage

Most car owners pack their vehicles in the same location every day. This means that the same part of your spare tire is exposed to sunlight every day. Even though the ultraviolet rays from the sun have little or no effect on your four wheels on your car, they may damage your spare wheels, especially the tailgate wheels that are static. The air reacts with the rubber in your car tires, thus drying and weakening them. This type of tire damage is commonly known as dry rot. Cracks that appear on your spare tire as a result of dry rot cannot be repaired. Sometimes car manufacturers blend wax into rubber to prevent dry rot. However, this only works well on tires that move. Therefore, to protect static tires from dry rot, you need to cover them with tire covers.

Protection from Theft

Covering up your spare tire discourages thieves from stealing the tire. According to law enforcement officers who specialize in auto theft and burglary, covering a valuable part of your car is as good as getting half the job of theft prevention done. Tailgate mounted spare tires are more vulnerable to auto theft. Covering it up with a good quality spare tire cover will discourage thieves from attempting to steal the tire.

Enhances the Look of Your Car

A good spare tire cover with the same color as your car gives the car a nice and clean finish. You can either paint it to contrast the color of your car or to match the color of your car. In both situations, your car will look very pleasing.

You should drive on a spare tire for a very short time, preferably until you get to the nearest service station and get your flat tire fixed. Always remember to observe all the safety measures when driving on a spare tire. You also need to protect the tailgate-mounted spare tire against dry rot.

You Need to Know This About Your Tires!

Most vehicle owners understand that a vehicle must be inspected and serviced from time to time, as referred to as routine maintenance. For those who don’t, the likelihood of problems that cause a damaged tire is extremely high. If the vehicle is not inspected routinely, small problems can escalate to major problems that are much more expensive to fix. This is also true for vehicles which sit for long periods of time.

If you want to avoid tire problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.