How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

person grabs spare tire out of trunk of car

If you find yourself changing a flat tire on the side of the road, you might be asking yourself: how long can you drive on a spare tire? Well, the answer to that question depends on a few different factors.

The most important variable when it comes to how long you can drive on a spare tire is what kind of spare tire you’re using. Is it a full-size spare or a “donut”? Depending on the answer, your mileage may vary.

Space Saver (“Donut”) Spare

Most cars come with what is referred to as a space saver or “donut” spare tire. These are narrow, compact tires designed to fit in smaller spaces and not weigh down the vehicle. The donut spare tire is meant to be used as such: sparingly. These tires are not built to nearly the same standards of durability as a regular tire. They have little to no tread and much thinner walls, making them significantly more vulnerable to wear and tear than standard tires. These tires are also significantly smaller than standard tires, meaning they have to spin faster to keep up with the other three wheels, accelerating their wear.

For the specific use recommendations for your car’s spare, you can reference your owner’s manual. Otherwise, generally speaking, you should not drive on a donut spare for more than 70 miles and at speeds no faster than 50 MPH. Basically, long enough to drive yourself, at a reasonable speed, to the nearest tire shop.

Full-size Spare

Because they’re heavier and larger, not many cars carry a full size spare, but a few older model (and some newer model) trucks, SUVs and other large vehicles are sometimes equipped with a well that can carry a full-size spare tire.

Whether you’re using a full-size spare because your car carries one, or you happen to otherwise have one you can use, a full-size spare tire is the next best thing to a new tire. They’re more durable and sturdy, but still not a perfect replacement for a new tire. While you can likely get more miles and a better driving experience out of a full-size spare, you should still plan to replace the spare with a new tire.

How far can you drive on a spare tire?

As mentioned above, how far you can drive on a spare tire has to do with what kind of spare tire you drive on. A donut spare will get you a limited distance, and a full-size spare will get you a little farther.

While it might be tempting to push your spare to its limits and postpone the hefty cost of a new tire, keep in mind that the total lifespan for your spare is short, and could be even shorter than the generalizations made above, especially if you’ve used the tire before. Running down your spare, whether it’s a donut or a full-size, just means you’ll eventually be replacing two tires instead of one. It’s better to keep your use of the spare brief and infrequent so you that you can have it for additional emergencies.

How fast can you drive on a spare tire?

Again, how fast you can drive on a spare tire depends on what kind of spare tire you’re driving on. As with distance, it’s a good rule of thumb to limit your speed when driving on a spare tire, just so that you don’t cause additional wear and tear on the spare.

Regardless of what kind of spare tire you’re using, and how previously used (or unused) the spare is, if you’re asking yourself how long you can drive on a spare tire, it’s probably best not to speculate and focus instead on switching the spare out with a tire as soon as possible.