How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire? Limits & Safety

Have you ever been cruising down the highway, music up, windows down, feeling the breeze on your face, when suddenly, thump, thump, thump—a flat tire halts your good vibes? If you’ve found yourself in this predicament, you’re not alone. Many of us have faced the daunting task of replacing a … Read more

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Written by: Mohammad Sameer

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Have you ever been cruising down the highway, music up, windows down, feeling the breeze on your face, when suddenly, thump, thump, thump—a flat tire halts your good vibes? If you’ve found yourself in this predicament, you’re not alone.

Many of us have faced the daunting task of replacing a flat tire with a spare and wondered, “How long can I drive on this thing?”

Well, I’ve dug deep into the wisdom shared by AAA Automotive, Tires Plus, Reader’s Digest (, and SimpleTire to bring you the ins and outs of driving on a spare tire.

key takeaway

  • Don’t exceed 50 mph: When driving on a spare tire, keep your speed under 50 mph for safety​​​​​​​​.
  • Limit distance to 50 miles: Aim to replace the spare tire within 50 miles to avoid damage to your vehicle​​​​​​​​.
  • Know your spare tire type: Understand whether you have a full-size or a donut spare tire, as usage and limitations differ​​​​.
  • Regular maintenance: Check your spare tire’s air pressure regularly and inspect it for any damage​​.
  • Consult professionals for help: Reach out to experts at AAA Automotive and Tires Plus for any spare tire needs or questions​​​​.

Understanding the Basics of Spare Tires

Types of Spare Tires

Not all spare tires are created equal. You might generally find two types in your vehicle: the full-size spare and the compact or donut spare.

SimpleTire tells us that while a full-size spare is exactly like your regular tires, a donut spare is smaller and only meant for short-term use.

This distinction is crucial because it directly impacts how you should use them and for how long.

The Role of Spare Tires in Emergency Situations

According to AAA Automotive, the primary role of a spare tire is to get you safely to a repair shop; it’s not a permanent replacement for your flat tire.

This brings us to the main question: “How long can you drive on a spare tire?” Let’s dive into the specifics.

How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

A safety infographic about using a temporary spare tire. It includes four tips: don't drive faster than 50 mph, seek professional help if needed, limit your driving distance to 50 miles, and know what type of spare tire you have.

Speed Limitations

First things first, speed. Whether it’s a full-size or a donut spare, the consensus among experts, including Tires Plus and Reader’s Digest, is not to exceed 50 mph.

This speed limit ensures that you don’t put too much stress on the spare, which isn’t designed to handle the high speeds your regular tires can.

Distance Limitations

Now, let’s talk distance. How far can you drive on a spare before it’s either unsafe or potentially damaging to your vehicle?

AAA Automotive and Reader’s Digest both advise that you shouldn’t push your luck beyond 50 miles.

It’s a short-term fix to a problem that requires a more permanent solution, and driving further could lead to more issues down the line.

The Impact of Spare Tires on Vehicle Performance

image of The Impact of Spare Tires on Vehicle Performance

Let’s get into how a spare tire, especially the donut variety, changes the way your car behaves on the road.

I want you to imagine driving with a pair of running shoes on one foot and a flip-flop on the other.

Sounds awkward, right? That’s akin to what your car goes through when it’s running on a spare tire.

Handling and Safety Considerations

A diagram of a donut spare tire, labeled with the following text: "Donut spare tire, Speed limit 50 mph, Safe driving, Weight, Grip."

When you’re driving on a donut spare tire, it’s not just about sticking to the 50 mph speed limit or keeping under 50 miles; it’s about understanding that your car won’t handle the way it usually does.

Tires Plus points out that these spares are lighter, which can significantly affect braking and cornering.

Imagine you’re on a slick road; that spare tire is going to have less grip, making it trickier to control your vehicle.

  • Braking: With a spare, your car’s braking dynamics change. You might find it takes longer to come to a stop, or the car pulls to one side.
  • Cornering: A donut spare doesn’t provide the same level of support during turns. It’s important to take corners slower and with more caution.

Maintenance Tips for Spare Tires

A diagram with instructions on how to check the pressure of a donut spare tire. The text says: "Ideally, do this every time you check your regular tires." It also says: "Inspect for damage. Look for any cuts, bulges, or other signs of wear that could affect its performance." And "For donut spares, this is usually around 60 PSI."

You might not think about your spare tire until you need it, but giving it some TLC can ensure it’s ready when you do.

SimpleTire suggests regularly checking your spare’s air pressure; an underinflated spare is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

They also recommend inspecting it for any signs of wear or damage.

After all, there’s nothing worse than finding out your backup plan has a flaw in the heat of the moment.

  • Check the Pressure: Ideally, do this every time you check your regular tires. For donut spares, this is usually around 60 PSI.
  • Inspect for Damage: Look for any cuts, bulges, or other signs of wear that could affect its performance.

When to Replace Your Spare Tire

Now, you might be thinking, “A spare tire is a spare tire. It’s fine as long as it’s there, right?” Well, not exactly.

Like any other part of your car, spare tires age and wear down, even if they’re rarely used.

Lifespan of Spare Tires

According to SimpleTire, the average lifespan of a spare tire is about 8 years. But this isn’t set in stone; factors like exposure to heat, cold, and sunlight can all shorten this timeframe. So, even if it looks okay, that old spare might not be as reliable as you think.

  • Age Matters: If your spare is older than eight years, it’s time to consider getting a replacement.
  • Visible Wear: Even if it’s rarely been used, check for signs of cracking or other wear that could compromise its integrity.

Upgrading from a Donut to a Full-Size Spare

Considering making the switch to a full-size spare? Tires Plus suggests it’s a smart move if you have the space.

Not only does it allow you to drive normally without the speed and distance limitations of a donut, but it also means you’re less likely to be caught off-guard by a flat tire in the future.

  • Storage Considerations: Yes, it takes up more room, but the peace of mind might be worth it.
  • Handling Benefits: A full-size spare won’t affect your car’s handling and safety the way a donut will.

Real-Life Stories of Spare Tire Use

Case Studies and Testimonials

Let me share a couple of stories that highlight the unexpected adventures and lessons learned from using spare tires, much like those engaging anecdotes you’d find in Reader’s Digest (

The Midnight Flat: Imagine you’re driving home late at night, and you hit a pothole. The tire goes flat.

You manage to put on the spare, feeling a bit like a hero. But here’s the twist: driving cautiously, you don’t exceed 50 mph, yet the car feels off-balance, reminding you that this is just a temporary fix.

This story ends with a safe arrival home and a visit to the tire shop first thing in the morning, but it underscores the importance of treating spare tires as a stopgap, not a solution.

The Long Road Trip Mishap: Picture this: You’re on a road trip, miles from the nearest town, when you get a flat.

Thankfully, you have a spare, but it’s a donut, and you’ve got over 100 miles to go. You decide to push your luck beyond the recommended 50 miles.

The car makes it, but the spare is worn down to its threads, serving as a stern reminder of why those guidelines exist.

These stories serve as real-world affirmations that while spare tires can save the day, they come with limitations and should be used wisely and cautiously.

Expert Advice on Spare Tires

Recommendations from AAA Automotive and Tires Plus

Now, let’s turn to some expert advice from AAA Automotive and Tires Plus, who offer valuable insights into the best practices for using spare tires.

  • AAA Automotive stresses the importance of regular inspections of your spare tire, even if it’s rarely used. They recommend checking the tire pressure monthly and before any long trip, ensuring it’s always ready when you need it. Remember, an underinflated spare is as good as no spare at all.
  • Tires Plus offers a golden piece of advice: always read your vehicle’s owner manual for specific recommendations on your spare tyre’s use. They also suggest practising changing your tire in a safe environment, so you’re prepared in an emergency. Knowing how to efficiently and safely install your spare tire can significantly reduce stress and risk when you’re on the side of the road.

Both entities emphasize that while driving on a spare tire, especially a compact or donut spare, you should:

  • Keep your speed below 50 mph.
  • Aim to replace the spare with a regular tire within 50 miles.
  • Avoid using the spare in adverse weather conditions due to reduced traction and stability.


As we wrap up our journey through the world of spare tires, let’s revisit the key points that can help you navigate the unexpected twists and turns of the road with confidence.

We’ve learned from AAA Automotive, Tires Plus, Reader’s Digest (, and SimpleTire that understanding how to properly use and maintain your spare tire is not just about convenience; it’s about safety.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you drive on a spare tire?

You should aim to drive no more than 50 miles on a spare tire. While it’s meant as a temporary solution, driving long distances on a spare can compromise your safety and the tire’s integrity.

What are the different types of spare tires?

There are full-size spares, space-saver spares, run-flat tires, and expandable/inflatable spares. Each type has its limitations and intended usage scenarios.

Are run-flat tires suitable for long-term use?

Run-flat tires have a unique design that allows them to be driven even after losing air pressure. However, it’s recommended to replace them as soon as possible for optimal safety and performance.

What should I do after replacing a tire with a spare?

After installing the spare tire, visit a professional mechanic or tire shop as soon as possible. They will assess the condition of your original tire and guide repair or replacement options.

Can I maintain regular driving practices with a spare tire?

Driving with caution is essential when using a spare tire. Avoid high speeds, sharp turns, and heavy loads to prevent compromising your safety and causing further damage to the spare.

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About Mohammad Sameer

My name is Mohammad Sameer and I have over 3 years of hands-on experience repairing cars, motorcycles, and trucks. Ever since I operated on my first engine in 2018, I’ve been passionate about all things automotive. In 2021, I launched my blog “Motoring Mastery” to share my knowledge with car enthusiasts and DIY mechanics.