How Far Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

How Far Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

A spare tire is a helpful safety net, but most are not meant to replace your flat tire indefinitely.

Not all spare tires are created equal, so check your vehicle owner’s manual to get a better understanding of what kind of substitute you have. Temporary spare tires usually don’t have nearly the lifespan of a regular tire. In comparison to a normal car tire they can have just one layer of polyester in the sidewall and two belts of steel with a layer of polyester in the tread, meaning they can’t take nearly as much road abuse as a normal tire.


These smaller spare tires are usually called space-savers, or donuts. They’re popular choices since they’re lightweight and don’t take up a lot of room in the cargo space of a vehicle. Since they’re lighter, they’re also easier for the average person to lift and install.

However, since they’re smaller and more compact, they’re missing out on two key aspects of a regular tire: durability and stability. Most of these spare tires have a limited top speed of 55 mph. You can expect to get about 50 miles on a spare tire like this, and some are rated up to 70 miles. That should be enough for you to find a mechanic who can patch up your flat, or a tire shop where you can replace the punctured tire.


spare-tire-vs-full-sizeSome automakers also provide a full-size spare tire, although these are heavier and take up more space, they’re robust and durable. These should be able to last you much longer than the donut, or space-saver types of tires. However, they may use a different tread make-up or a different kind of rubber compound than the rest of your tires. This can affect overall handling and safety on the road. While they are more durable, these kind of spare tires are designed to help you get to your destination before you have to deal with your flat tire.


If you don’t have a spare, your car may be equipped with run-flat tires. BMW and MINI tend to equip vehicles with these kinds of tires right from the factory. These kinds of tires are tougher than most kinds of tires, and can withstand a puncture and keep on going. However, they’re not designed to go on forever.

SEE ALSO: Run Flat Tires: Why You Should, or Shouldn’t, Buy Them

Most run-flat tires recommend that you replace them shortly after noticing a puncture. They’re usually only rated to run up to 50 miles after being punctured before needing a replacement.

Some shops can patch up a run-flat tire, but OEMs don’t always recommend that path. Compared to regular tires, replacement run-flats are quite expensive. Other automakers have resorted to just providing a flat tire repair kit in the car, in order to save weight and costs. Instructions for this job can be found in the owners manual.

The bottom line is that if you have a flat tire, you should get it replaced. Spares are temporary replacements, and while full-size spares may be the same size as your regular tire, they may not be the same kind of tire, which can result in some problems.

Remember, your car’s tires are the only thing connecting you and your family to the road, so don’t gamble on safety.

  • ASchippers

    Is it possible to replaced the compact collapsible spare tire of an Audi? (i.e. dismounting the tire from the wheel and mounting a new one if the compact needs to be replaced after running it too long)

  • G R West

    Can you specify a full size spare tyre instead of the run flat for the Audi A3 Sportback when buying new in the UK?

  • danwat1234

    50 miles until my spare tires goes bald!!?? That seems kind of low.. I have a new tire shipping to me and I need to use the spare for about 5 days.

  • danwat1234

    I drove about 80 miles on the original spare tire that came with my ’99 Civic a few weeks ago. It wasn’t used before, it had the nipples on the tread. After driving 80 miles with it on the rear I really couldn’t tell if the tread was worn down at all, besides the nipples being gone Hundreds of miles is possible for sure.
    The statement of 50-70 miles is wrong in the article.

  • Dave

    Most of the 50 mph and 70 mile limits actually concern spare tires placed on the front axle. When this is done the diameter difference causes the transmission differential to work constantly which generates heat and an unusual amount of wear. The front is also the heaviest part of the car. I always play safe by putting the spare on the rear of the car and then put the good regular tire on the front of the car so this problem is avoided.

    Other problem is to make sure the spare is inflated to 60 PSI. I carry a hand pump always and you need a bicycle or truck tire pressure gauge to measure up to 60 psi.

    The spare is speed rated if you want to look it up.

  • Michael Marin

    I drove about 5000 km’s on mine!