Spare tires can be lifesavers when you have a flat. However, they are only designed to last as long as it takes to drive to a shop that can replace the spare with a real tire.
While some newer models are doing away with spares all together, older models often come equipped with a much smaller tire, often referred to as a “donut.” Car manufacturers purposefully make most spare tires to be compact and narrow to save room in your car. After all, they’re only needed in an emergency. The adaptations that make spares fit conveniently in your car also greatly affect their durability.
But we get it – tires can be expensive. So you might be asking, “Does a spare tire really need to be changed immediately?”
The simple answer, absolutely. Here’s why:
A real tire has a far higher number of plies – the layers of steel and polyester underneath a tire’s rubber. An average spare has just a single polyester layer in its side wall, and two belts of steel with a single polyester layer in the tire tread. This is only half the number of plies that you’ll find in a true tire. Therefore, resistance to puncture risks is very limited in a spare.
Apart from being rather flimsy in its construction, a spare tire’s narrow width causes other dangers. It has less contact with the ground, giving the spare reduced traction and increasing your vehicle’s required stopping distance. A spare also has narrower treads and reduced tread depths. In emergency situations, safety maneuvers with a spare on your car will be unpredictable. For these reasons, a spare should never be driven at speeds over 50 miles per hour. What’s more, most spares’ recommended driving mileage is only 50 to 70 miles total.
By driving excessively on a spare, not only can you cause further damage to your car, it is dangerous for you and your passengers. Get to a service center or tire store as soon as possible. Depending on the damage to your tire, it may be able to be repaired. If not, the professional can make sure that your new tire is properly fitted and balanced so you can once again hit the road safely.
Before purchasing a vehicle, you should be aware of whether or not it comes equipped with a spare, as well as a jack, a lug nut wrench and a key to the lug nuts (if applicable). If your vehicle does not come with a spare, we recommend you consider purchasing one if you plan on taking a long road trip. There are always roadside assistance services, but depending on where you are, it may take hours for them to reach you. Changing a tire can take as little as 10 minutes and keep you from getting stuck in an unsafe situation. And don’t forget that the spare tire and wheel that comes with a vehicle is meant to equip only that make and model, and should not be used on any other vehicle.
If you’d like more information on how to change your tire, you can read more our service center