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How far can you drive on a spare tire?

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    If you’ve ever experienced a flat tire as a driver, you may already be familiar with using a spare tire (sometimes called a “donut”) as a temporary solution before snagging a replacement. While it may be tempting to delay going to the mechanic to pay for a fix, there are limits as to how far, and how long, your spare tire can go before it becomes unsafe to drive with. So, let’s learn more about spare tires.

    How long can you drive on a spare tire?

    Generally, using a spare tire is safe for short distances at lower speeds. That said, spare tires aren’t designed for long-term use and are intended as a temporary solution. Sticking to a lower speed, avoiding long-distance driving and replacing it with a standard tire sooner rather than later is the safest way to navigate the spare-tire conundrum.

    How many miles can you drive on a spare tire?

    While mileage specifications may depend between tire manufacturers, it’s generally going to restrict you to a double-digit figure. For specific guidelines, you may refer to your owner’s manual that most drivers store in their glove compartment.

    Why are there limitations? Typically, spare tires aren’t as durable as your traditional tires and have less traction on the road. So, not only will your spare tire likely wear down quicker the longer you drive on it, but it may also not be safe since it could start to lose traction too, resulting in a ‘bobbing’ effect which is often a telltale sign that you should replace your spare tire as soon as possible.

    How fast can you drive on a spare tire?

    How fast you’re safely able to drive on a spare tire can also vary between tire manufacturers. This information is generally outlined in the manufacturer’s guidelines and it’s likely going to suggest you operate your car slower than ‘highway speed.’ Pushing the speed limits on a spare tire is dangerous for many of the same reasons as a spare tire’s mileage limitations, namely that they’re less durable and carry less traction.

    How do I know when to replace a spare tire?

    If you’re using your spare tire, it may be best to replace it with a traditional tire as soon as possible for your safety. Spare tires that aren’t in use may also need to be routinely replaced (even if they were never used at all) as the lifespan of a car tire, spare or otherwise, can vary. Generally, it's recommended to replace tires that are 6 to 10 years old, regardless of treadwear.

    Additional car tire tips

    Your car’s tires may play an important role in keeping you safe as a driver. Maintaining your car tires may also help prolong their health which may keep you from dealing with a pesky spare (for now, at least). To try and preserve your tires and promote your safety, you may want to:

    • Keep an eye on your tire pressure: Your tire pressure can affect the overall lifespan of the tire and can change depending on factors such as environmental conditions. Preventing your tires from under- or overinflating may lower the risk of a blowout.
    • Keep your tires aligned: When tires are misaligned, they tend to wear unevenly, which could put undue stress on your car’s suspension and may lead to breakdown. Scheduling a tire alignment based on your manufacturer’s recommendation may help promote your car’s performance and lengthen the lifespan of your wheels.
    • Keep your tires in rotation: Rotating your tires may help your tires wear down evenly to maintain your car’s handling performance. If you’ve recently changed out of a spare tire, you may want to have the tires rotated sooner as uneven tread wear tends to be more pronounced on fresh tires.

    In summary

    Spare tires may be a lifesaver after experiencing a flat tire, but there are limitations on how many miles you can drive on your spare tire, and how fast you can go. Typically, it’s recommended not to drive a spare tire too far or too fast, as they aren’t designed to be as durable or have the same traction as your standard tires. While you’ll want to replace your spare tire as soon as you can, it’s generally safe to drive on one as long as you adhere to your manufacturer’s recommendations.

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