Donut tires, also known as space-saver or temporary tires, are the latest evolution of spare tires. Sure, they look funny, especially on modern cars with larger wheels, but if used properly, they can be a viable solution when you have a flat tire.
Today, most modern cars come with a donut spare tire in the trunk. However, you can also purchase a spare tire yourself and free precious space in the trunk. But how will you find the perfect donut tire for your car? Let’s dig into more detail and find the best solution for you.
What is a Donut Spare Tire?
Donut tire is a designation used for the combination of narrow tire and smaller steel wheel. In North America, the term temporary tire also applies to the same product, while in Europe, you can find it as a space-saver tire.
These tires are designed to be used only as a spare tire, and only in case of emergencies. You shouldn’t use these tires for everyday driving, and especially if you drive on the highway. In other words, use them until you repair the damaged tire.
The Reason Car Manufacturers Employ Donut Tires
There are many reasons why car manufacturers utilize these tires, and it all starts with the cost. A full-size spare tire will cost much more than a donut spare tire, which can reflect on the vehicle’s sticker price. More accurately, cars with a donut spare tire will be more competitive thanks to the lower prices.
Furthermore, spare tires also free up cargo space. The difference is not significant, especially in larger cars. Nevertheless, car manufacturers can brag about a few more cubic inches of cargo space if they opt for a donut spare tire, which, again, makes them more competitive on the market.
Crucially, though, the temporary spare tire is much lighter than a regular tire and wheel combo. This means that the whole car will be lighter, which positively affects performance and fuel economy. Moreover, it lets car manufacturers keep exhaust emissions at check.
With that said, donut tires also have disadvantages. Primarily they are much worse in terms of performance and have limited traction and braking capabilities.
Why Would You Need a New Donut Tire?
Donut tires last for a long time, especially if you don’t experience flat tires that often. However, if you are among the unlucky people that experience that more often, you might need to replace your donut tire after a few driving stints.
Tire manufacturers recommend driving up to 70 miles before replacing the donut tire, so it’s best not to use that distance at once. I’ve seen some people use these tires for longer, but that’s not advisable because it’s not safe.
Meanwhile, some people opt for donut tires to save space inside the trunk, or when they don’t have a viable full-size spare tire. Also, in some countries that drive on CNG or LPG, the tank for these fuels is usually installed into the spare-tire well, and a narrower donut tire is the only option.
What to Look Out for When Purchasing Donut Tires
Like regular tires, the donut models are also not created equally. Many brands offer temporary tires at various price points, which makes the purchase decision harder. Here is what you need to look out for when purchasing donut spare tires.
Similar Diameter to Your Existing Tires
You should always purchase donut tires that have a similar diameter to your existing tires. And, by diameter, I mean the whole wheel – not just the rim. Otherwise, you risk damaging the stability of your car.
Fortunately, you can find many spare tire sizing charts, where you can compare the diameter of temporary spare tires with the diameter of your tire and wheel combo. Some websites will also show you only donut spare tires that fir your car, provided you enter the dimensions of your existing tires.
Or, you can also do the math on the diameter of your tires by following this detailed guide on Tire Rack.
Speed and Range Limitations
Due to the narrower tread, but also the lower-quality tread compounds, temporary spare tires shouldn’t be used like normal tires. Simply put, these tires lack enough traction for normal driving, and they also don’t last very long, especially if used at higher speeds.
Each donut spare tire should only be driven at speeds up to 50 mph. Also, it would help if you were more careful in the corners, especially when it rains. Moreover, space-saver spare tires don’t last very long – they can only be used up to 70 miles.
Cheap and Premium Donut Tires
Like with most things, there is a large price difference between various donut spare tires. Every large tire manufacturer produces temporary tires, including Bridgestone, Continental, and Pirelli. However, you can also find some budget alternatives from no-name brands.
Even though the premium and cheap donut spare tires adhere to the same limits (50mph and 70 miles), premium brands offer superior tires in terms of performance and durability. However, they are also much more expensive – temporary spare tires cost from $50 to $300. In the end, it’s your choice.
Online Retailers That Sell Donut Tires
You can find donut spare tires in every single place that sells normal tires, including your nearest tire shop, but also a well-equipped gas station.
For lower prices, though, I recommend purchasing these products online. Places like Tire Rack, Discount Tire, Auto Zone offer a wide range of donut spare tires, including products from respected tire manufacturers. You can also find low-cost options on Amazon and Walmart.
I hope that this article helped you find the right donut spare tire for your car. Regardless of the brand you choose, always adhere to the limits set by the manufacturer – 50 mph and 70 miles of range.
Also, if you found this article useful, share it with your friends – it might help them the next time they purchase donut spare tires. Or, if you still scratch your head about something, please do not hesitate to ask your question in the comment section below – we’ll be happy to help!