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If you ever get a flat tire while driving, you might be relieved to have a spare tire in your trunk. But how long can you drive on a spare tire safely? And what are the risks and limitations of using a spare tire? This article will answer these questions and provide some tips on maintaining and driving on a spare tire.
An extra tire: what is it?
A spare tire is an additional tire that you can use to replace a flat or damaged tire on your vehicle. There are two major types of spare tires: full-size and compact.
A full-size spare tire is the same size and type as the other tires on your vehicle. It has no driving restrictions and can be used as a regular tire until you get a new one. However, a full-size spare tire is heavy and bulky, and it may not fit in your trunk or under your car.
A compact spare tire, commonly known as a donut tire, is a smaller, thinner alternative intended for temporary use until you obtain a replacement tire. You store it in a dedicated compartment within your trunk or beneath your vehicle. A compact spare tire has several limitations and disadvantages, such as:
- It has a lower air pressure than a regular tire, usually 60 psi. You need to check the tire pressure regularly and inflate it as required.
- It has a lower speed limit than a regular tire, usually 50 mph. You must drive slowly and carefully using a compact spare tire and avoid highways and fast lanes.
- It has a shorter lifespan than a regular tire, usually 50 to 70 miles. It would help if you replaced it as soon as possible, as driving on a compact spare tire for too long can hurt your car’s equipment, such as the differential, the brakes, and the suspension.
- It has a different size and shape than a regular tire, affecting your car’s performance, handling, and stability. You need to be aware of the changes in your car’s behavior and response when using a compact spare tire and adjust your driving accordingly.
How do you safely drive on a spare tire?
When driving on a spare tire, you must follow some protection tips to prevent accidents and further damage to your car. Here are some of them:
- Consult your owner’s manual and adhere to the guidelines and recommendations for using a spare tire. Different cars may have other specifications and requirements for spare tires.
- Install the spare tire correctly and securely. Make sure you tighten the lug nuts and align the tire perfectly. If you need help with how to do it, seek professional help or call a roadside assistance service.
- Check the spare tire condition and pressure before driving. Look for any signs of wear, damage, or leakage. Inflate the tire to the recommended pressure, which the tire or the manual should indicate.
- Drive cautiously and defensively. Avoid sudden braking, accelerating, or turning. Maintain a safe space from other vehicles and obstacles. When driving on a spare tire, let other drivers know by using your hazard lights or four signal.
- Limit your driving distance and speed. Do not drive over 50 to 70 miles or faster than 50 mph on a compact spare tire. Find the nearest tire shop or mechanic and get a new tire immediately.
- Do not use cruise or traction control when driving on a spare tire. These features may not work correctly or interfere with your car’s performance when using a spare tire.
- Refrain from towing anything or carrying heavy loads when driving on a spare tire, which can stress and strain your spare tire and your car’s equipment.
A full-size spare tire matches the size and type of the other tires on your vehicle. You can use it as a regular tire with no driving restrictions. A compact spare tire, designed to save space and weight, has some limitations and should be used until you can get a new tire or repair the flat one.
According to car experts, the average lifespan of a compact spare tire is usually between 50 and 70 miles, or the distance outlined in your owner’s manual. It would help if you did not drive on a compact spare tire for longer than that because it can cause damage to your vehicle and compromise your safety.
You should restrict your speed to 50 mph or less when driving on a compact spare tire. If going on a highway, you should stay in the right lane and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. It would help to avoid sudden acceleration, braking, or turning, as these can cause your tire to lose grip or stability.
You can use a tire pressure gauge to measure the air pressure in your tire and compare it with the recommended level in your owner’s manual or on the tire sidewall. The recommended pressure for a spare tire is 60 psi, while a full-size spare tire should match the pressure of the other tires on your vehicle.
Driving on a spare tire is not ideal, but it can be a lifesaver in an emergency. However, you need to know how long you can go on a spare tire safely and the risks and limitations of using a spare tire. You must also follow some safety tips and adequately maintain your spare tire. Doing so can prevent accidents, protect your car, and confidently get back on the road.