Sometimes a flat tire can’t be avoided. Even so, with the right preparation and a good understanding of the type of spare tire you have, you can rest assured that if this happens to you, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Given that a flat tire is often a tense situation, one piece of information that you’ll need to know is how fast you can drive on a spare tire.
The owner’s manual will inform you how fast you can travel on a spare tire. Yet, general guidelines state that a full-size matching tire can operate at regular speed limits without a maximum distance limit. For a donut tire, you shouldn’t exceed 50 mph or a distance of 50-70 miles, and for a run-flat tire, don’t exceed 50 mph or a distance of approximately 50 miles.
The type of spare tire
There are different types of spare tires fitted in vehicles, each with unique traits that can alter car performance, and have different speed and travel distance limits.
Let’s take a look at these tires and state the general guidelines for each.
Full-size matching tires
Some vehicles, especially older ones, or larger vehicles such as SUVs or trucks, often carry a spare full-size tire. There are two types of full-size tires: matching and non-matching.
Matching full-size tires will be the same brand, weight, and tread as the original vehicle tires and are your best option.
You can also use this type of spare tire to rotate between your other tires, thus keeping a consistent tread between them. Once properly fitted, there aren’t specific limits for how fast or far you can drive.
However, you’ll still need to replace the spare tire that is now missing. Also, if you’re adding a tire to a car with three other tires that have a worn-down tread, this isn’t a good match and can cause damage to your vehicle, and decreased driver control.
In this case, the best option is to consult a mechanic and replace all four tires.
Full-size non-matching tires
Non-matching full-size spare tires aren’t identical to the other three tires on your vehicle, as they are lighter in weight and have less tread than matching tires.
This makes them simpler to change, but they aren’t an option for long-term use. As with every spare tire type, you should consult the user manual for additional info, but in general, the recommended speed limit for these tires is between 50 mph to 70 mph, and a distance of 100 miles.
Whether you have a matching or non-matching full-size tire, these are going to be safer to use than a donut tire, as they’re sturdier, carry weight more effectively, and have a thicker tread.
A donut tire (space saver spare)
A donut tire is an additional tire that’s kept in a motor vehicle for emergency use. As these tires are designed to save space, weight, and money, they are smaller than regular tires and are for temporary use only.
Donut tires will often have a small sticker on them with a speed limit, or the speed limit will be engraved on the tire itself.
Also, they will come with a roadside emergency document with a description that will tell you what speed not to exceed, which is often 50 mph, with a maximum driving distance of 50-70 miles.
As donut tires don’t run in harmony with the rest of your vehicle, you should carefully adhere to the rules below because if you drive for too long on a donut tire, you’re running the risk of permanently damaging your vehicle.
Rules for donut tires
- Donut tires are smaller and lighter than your regular tires and aren’t designed to carry the weight of your vehicle for long periods of time, and may blow out if overused.
- They are designed with a lighter tread than a regular tire and may not work as effectively on various terrain, and are more susceptible to small objects and road bumps, causing punctures.
- Excessive use may cause strain on other parts of your vehicle, including the transmission, suspension, and steering, and as a result, affect your driving.
- The handling of your vehicle will not be as balanced as when using your original tire.
- Driving on interstate highways with a minimum speed of 40 mph might cause you problems when trying to keep within the 50 mph speed limit.
For all these reasons, donut tires aren’t a permanent alternative to a tire correctly matching your vehicle and shouldn’t be used to drive in excess of 70 miles. If you exceed this distance, you risk the tire blowing out.
Run-flat tires are more expensive than regular tires; and are typically found in car models such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz some SUVs.
Otherwise known as zero-pressure tires, the run-flat tire is a popular modern alternative as a spare tire, and instead of having to change the tire after a puncture, they allow you to continue to drive before needing to be replaced.
So, in a punctured tire situation, they are more stable than conventional tires and give peace of mind to the driver.
Speed limit-wise, don’t exceed 50 mph while driving on a punctured run-flat tire, or a distance of 50 miles, although there have been reports of people traveling in excess of 100 miles.
Additionally, depending on the distance you’re traveling on the tire, it’s good practice to pull over and inspect the tire every 10 miles or so to make sure it’s still inflated and viable for driving.
Tips for using a spare tire
- Whenever you service your car, make sure to get the pressure of your spare tire checked.
- Keep a spare tire toolkit with you at all times.
- Make it a priority to replace your flat tire, as driving with your spare tire means you don’t have a usable spare, so it’s best to replace it as soon as possible so that you can put it back in the correct storage place.
There are various types of spare tires that can be fitted in vehicles, with speed and travel distance limits varying for each. Regardless of this, it’s important to understand that spare tires are for limited use only, and serve the purpose of driving to the mechanic and getting a new full-sized tire professionally fitted ASAP.