What Is the Speed Limit for a Spare Tire and How Long Should You Drive on It?

A flat tire usually occurs at the most inconvenient time. Having a properly inflated spare tire will make all the difference in getting you back on the road quickly and safely. However, it is essential to understand that a spare tire cannot withstand everyday use. It is strictly a temporary fix until you can get the damaged tire repaired or replaced with proper maintenance. Additionally, most donut-style tires have speed limit restrictions and a short lifespan. Safe driving includes knowing these guidelines so that you can prepare for the unexpected.

Know if you have a donut-style tire before hitting the road

A full-size spare tire stowed in the trunk of a car
A spare tire stowed in the trunk of a car | Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For many drivers, the spare tire discreetly covered in the trunk is out of sight, out of mind. They are blissfully unaware of the condition of the spare tire. However, it is crucial to make sure the spare tire for your vehicle is in good working order and filled with air. Getting in the practice of checking the condition of your spare every time you get an oil change will prevent unwanted surprises.

All cars have specific wheel sizes, typically 17 or 18 inches. A donut tire will be considerably smaller, and you can tell from its appearance that it is not a full-sized tire. These compact tires are a temporary solution and are designed to save space and limit the amount of weight of the vehicle. Roadway Ready notes, “a donut tire is not meant for long distances or high speeds.” Therefore, driving on a donut tire for too long can result in extensive damage to your vehicle and unnecessary costly repairs.

How long is too long on a spare tire?

AAA recommends having a donut-type spare tire replaced as soon as possible. They explain, “The spare tire enables you to drive to the nearest repair shop to have the flat tire inspected.”

You should never drive more than 50 miles on a spare. A compact tire cannot handle the abuse of the road or handle the weight of the car. The Drive explains that donut tires “are nowhere near as durable or safe as a standard tire and wheel.” Driving extended distances on a spare can cause significant damage to the suspension, brakes, and even transmission.

If a front tire goes flat and your only option is to use a donut-style replacement, proceed with caution. The front wheels bear most of the vehicle’s weight due to engine placement. Most braking and turning also come from the front wheels, making it difficult to control the car when using a spare.

Is it okay to drive on the highway with a donut-type spare tire?

Your Mechanic advises drivers to stay off the highway when utilizing a spare tire. Driving slower is recommended to ensure the safety of all vehicle occupants. They explain “the electronic stability control and traction control systems will not work properly” when driving on a spare.

Goodyear explains how different spare tires, like a full-size matching spare tire, would be able to go longer distances. The downside is that your vehicle may not have enough storage space to accommodate a larger spare.

While having a full-size spare makes it easier when experiencing an unexpected flat, sometimes a compact temporary spare tire is the only option. Goodyear says to take caution since “when small spares are in use, they might impair certain vehicle features like ABS, traction control, and even speedometer operation.”

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