Being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tyre can be an inconvenient and stressful experience. A spare tyre is designed to be strong enough for a short drive. But how long can you drive on a spare tyre? Can you make it home, or do you need to go directly to the nearest auto shop?
Let’s dive into the facts so you can get back on the road safely.
How long can you drive on a spare tyre?
A good rule of thumb is to limit the maximum distance travelled on a spare tyre to under 80 Kms. This assumes your car carries a compact “donut” spare that’s stored in the cargo area or underneath the vehicle. Spare tyres are shorter and narrower than factory-equipped tyres. This means they spin faster than the other tyres on your vehicle, and the contact area (where the rubber meets the road) is considerably smaller than a standard tyre. That puts more weight on a smaller contact area, which not only compromises handling capability but wears the tyre out faster. In addition, there isn’t much tread on a spare tyre, and as a result they are not particularly durable over longer distances.
How fast can you drive on a spare tyre?
Keep vehicle speeds below 80 Kmph when travelling on a compact spare tyre. Standard vehicle tyres are rated to indicate the maximum speed they can travel. Spare tyres are not engineered to withstand sustained high-speed driving of any kind, and most manufacturers explicitly state that they are not to be driven at speeds over 80 Kmph.
What happens if I drive too long on a spare tyre?
The number one risk for driving too long on a spare tyre is another blowout or flat. Since spare tyres are not made to last, extended driving will wear down the tread quickly. Spare tyres are also not durable, and road hazards like potholes or debris can easily damage a spare tyre and lead to a dangerous blowout. In addition, unless you happen to have another spare handy, you’ll have no way to get moving again.
You must also keep in mind that prolonged driving on a spare tyre can put additional wear and tear on other components in your vehicle such as the transmission, differential, axles, brakes and suspension. Every part of your vehicle is designed to work together in sync and having a tyre that’s smaller than the rest causes some components to work harder than they should to balance out the workload.
How to care for a spare tyre
There’s nothing worse than having a flat tyre, only to realise your spare tyre is also flat! Caring for a spare tyre is relatively simple. Here are some easy tips to help keep your spare tyre in peak condition:
Check the air pressure every three months (or once every season).
Inspect the tread to ensure there are no cracks or splits.
Replace your spare every 4 years.
Rotate full-size spare tyres onto your vehicle whenever you perform a tyre rotation.
Nelson Xavier Ssenyange
Germax Auto Spares & Garage
Lukade Road, Naalya