On average, drivers have at least one puncture in five years. Moreover, up to 30% of roadside emergencies are related to punctured or flat tires. Fortunately, most modern vehicles have a spare tire of some kind, usually placed in a separate space under the trunk.
Which begs the question – how long can you drive on a spare tire? Well, to answer that question, I’ll revisit all spare tire types, and also tire repair kits. Not every solution is treated equally, though, so it’s best to check first. Let’s dig in!
Full-Size Spare Tires
In terms of functionality, safety, and ease of mind, there is no better option than having a full-size spare tire. Sadly, though, this solution is rarely used in modern vehicles, even though it was very popular before.
To put it simply, a full-size spare tire with a wheel weighs a lot, which hurts performance, efficiency, and exhaust emissions. For those reasons, most manufacturers today opt either for a space-saver “donut” tire, or a tire repair kit.
And, having a full-size spare tire certainly has its positives. First of all, it’s much safer to drive with a regular air-filled tire. In theory, you can hit highway speeds and not worry about safety, especially if the tire is in good shape.
Besides, you can use this tire for much longer than any other solution. If the spare tire is in good condition, you can probably use it for thousands of miles before you replace it with a new one.
That said, there are some things that you should know about. First of all, if the full-size spare tire isn’t the same as the tires you have on your car, there will be a difference in traction, which might result in unstable handling.
Moreover, you will need to find a solution for your damaged tire quickly. If not, you risk being left stranded if another tire is punctured, simply because you won’t have a spare one. So, even if your car is safe to drive down the road, it’s recommended that you repair it asap.
Space-Saver Spare Tires
The first solution for making lighter and more fuel-efficient cars was putting space-saver or so-called donut tires. These tires are much smaller than the ones you have on your car, and especially the tread width is comically narrow.
The donut tires can be used up to velocities of 50 mph (80 km/h), and not more than 70 miles (110 km) traveled distance. These numbers might vary according to your car, so it’s best to check on the tire itself, or inside the owner’s manual.
That said, while donut tires have some advantages, like making your car lighter and your trunk larger, they also have some glaring disadvantages.
Above all, space-saver tires aren’t very safe, primarily due to the narrow tread width. Simply put, donuts don’t have enough traction and grip for carefree driving.
Moreover, donut tires don’t have a sufficient tread depth, which limits drivability on wet roads but also makes the rubber more prone to new punctures.
For all these reasons, you should always drive carefully when a donut tire is attached to your car. Also, you should immediately find a solution for your damaged tire and put it back on the road. Your space-saver tire should spend the majority of its lifetime in the trunk and not on the road.
Run-flat tires are the newest trick inside the manufacturers’ playbook for improving overall efficiency and performance, but also safety. These tires have much stiffer sidewalls, which can carry the weight of the car even when depleted of air.
Because of that, you can continue to drive even after the tire is punctured. Of course, you might need to check the tire for other cracks visually. Modern run-flat tires can be used for up to 50 miles (80 km), at speeds not higher than 50 mph (80 km/h).
Eventually, you will need to take care of that puncture – run-flat tires can’t carry the weight of your vehicle infinitely. Just be prepared for larger repair bills – run-flat tires aren’t that easy to patch.
Run-flat tires do have some positives, like being much safer in the case of a blowout. While a normal tire can make your vehicle completely unstable, if a larger puncture happens, you can steer your car safely if a blowout happens on run-flat tires.
Nonetheless, run-flat tires are heavier than normal tires, which increases the unsprung weight and makes the steering less responsive. Also, due to the stiffer sidewalls, run-flat tires have a worse ride quality than regular tires.
Tire Repair Kits
Some modern vehicles don’t have a spare tire at all. Instead, they have tire repair kits, which can be used to seal the puncture of the tire. The only problem? Tire repair kits can’t be used for larger punctures.
Now, tire repair kits make your vehicle even lighter, which can have a great effect on performance and fuel efficiency. Moreover, the volume of trunks in modern cars increased significantly as a result of the use of tire repair kits.
These kits can repair a puncture that’s up to 4 mm in diameter. However, similarly to donut tires and run-flat tires, the same rules apply here – you can drive at speeds no higher than 50 mph (80 km/h), and you need to seal the puncture asap properly.
Furthermore, it would be best if you replenished the sealant in your tire repair kit after each use. Otherwise, you won’t be able to seal the next puncture when it happens.
Regardless of the spare-tire solution, you have in your car, never use your spare tire for prolonged periods. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages, but all of them have one thing in common – they should only be used in an emergency.
With that said, if you have other questions or suggestions regarding spare tires, share your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, if you found this article useful, share it with the world – it will help us create more amazing articles in the future.