How many miles can you put on a donut tire?
In the holiday favorite A Christmas Story, a young Ralphie goes out to help the “old man” fix a flat tire. And it was a tire in only the strictest sense according to the narrator: “They were round. They had once been made of rubber.” Things don’t go as planned and our young hero ends up sucking on a bar of Lifebuoy soap.
We’re sure many of you can identify with this snippet of Americana even today. You experience a flat tire, get out the spare and the jack, and go about replacing the bum wheel. Even supposed “run-flat tires” will eventually deflate at some point.
It’s becoming more common to see full-sized spares included with a new car purchase nowadays. But many older vehicles on the road still rely on the little, spindly looking spare. Otherwise known as a donut spare tire because they’re round, have a hole in the middle, but just aren’t made for heavy-duty use.
There are a couple of reasons the spares are so much smaller than the regular tires. Known as space-saver spares, the smaller tires allow for more room in the trunk. Using less material than the full-size tires, they’re also cheaper to manufacture.
Called “Spare” For A Reason
It would seem to be pretty obvious, but these spares are not to be used as a replacement tire. These donuts are designed as an emergency solution for a flat tire. As such, they aren’t manufactured to the same specs as the regular tires.
That doesn’t mean they’ll fall apart after a mile or two, but there are definitely limitations. Most donuts are rated for 50 miles of use, or up to 70 miles in some cases. That doesn’t mean per use, either – that’s an overall usage mark. These tires should also not be driven faster than 50 miles per hour.
So stay off the highways, stick to city roads, and keep it under 50 mph. You’ll be able to make it safely to a repair shop or a tire store to get your tire inspected, fixed, or replaced in one piece. Consult the owners manual for the exact usage rates of your donut.
Disadvantages of Overuse
Just by looking at them, it should become readily apparent why donut spares are rated for such little use. For starters, they aren’t very wide so the vehicle won’t handle as well as it does with a normal tire. The tread usually isn’t as robust as the other tires, which could lead to some hydro-planing as well.
The most obvious reason is the donut just isn’t built for continual use. They’re made to make sure you can get your car off the roadway safely and to the nearest mechanic or tire store. When you put it to the test, you might find yourself needing a spare for your spare.
If you drive on the spare for too long, it can also cause a lot of damage to other parts of the car as well. Because they aren’t the same size as the regular tires, it will affect the balance of the car. This will put unnecessary stress on the other tires. Tires that don’t match can also be problematic to the differential of your vehicle.
Depending on the vehicle, getting a new tire can be a spendy proposition. So while you may be tempted to get every last mile out of the spare donut, it could end up costing you much more in the long run.
If you do find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire and not sure what to do, contact Chappelle’s Towing. We’ve been helping stranded Clark County Motorists for nearly 40. No matter if it’s a flat tire, dead battery, or some kind of fender bender, Chappelle’s Towing will get you up and running again or take your car to a safe place.