How Long Can You Drive On A Spare Tire? (Really)

| Last Updated: March 13, 2021

One of the most unpleasant events a driver can experience is having to change a tire. Just thinking about how much time you will lose, how your clothes are going to get dirty, and the physical effort you will have to put in is to make anyone annoyed.

However, there is another concern (surely much more relevant) that soon takes shape in your mind, how long can you drive on a spare tire?

In this article, we address this important topic of vital importance to avoid putting yourself at risk.

The Recommended & Actual Distances

Are you curious about how long you can (really) drive on a spare tire? In this section, we'll explore the answer, both from manufacturers’ and documented perspectives.

Spare Tire Distance & Speed (Recommended)

You should not drive more than 50 miles at 50 mph with a spare tire. That is the opinion of the vast majority of tire manufacturers. And for a good reason. To reduce both space and weight, spare tires (even full-size spare tires) use a thinner tread and more modest specifications for both allowable weight and speed.

What Happens if I Drive this Long?

If you follow the recommendations stamped on the side of the tire, then it is almost guaranteed that your spare tire will not suffer any damage.

Spare Tire Distance & Speed (Realistically)

Under no circumstances should you drive more than 300 miles on a spare tire, even if you adhere to the 50 mph limit. You must understand that spare tires were not designed to withstand long distances, even at low speeds, so exceeding the 50 miles recommended by the manufacturer already constitutes a risk.

What Happens if I Drive this Long?

If you drive with your spare tire for more than 50 miles, you will most likely have to replace it. The compact temporary spare tires (aka “donuts”) and the non-matching full-size spare wheel/tires are only designed to allow you to reach the nearest service station. As you might have suspected, this can be 'stretched' to about 300 miles if you're cautious

Safety Checks Before Driving on a Spare Tire/Donut

After realizing that you have to change a flat tire, the first reaction is to try to finish the task as soon as possible. That's fine, but only after doing the necessary safety checks before driving on a spare tire.

Safety Check 1: Verify that the Tire Pressure is Adequate

Before performing any other task, check that the tire pressure corresponds to that recommended by the manufacturer. Usually, this information is stamped on the spare tire’s sidewall or in your car's owner's manual. You mustn’t skip this step as spare tires (especially "donut" types) require a pressure of 60 psi to support the vehicle’s weight.

Therefore, driving with a spare tire with low pressure can leave you stranded again within a few miles. You will need a tire pressure gauge for this step, but it would be even better if you can afford to have a tire inflator as it can save the day in case your tire needs more air pressure.

Safety Check 2: Check for Cracks on the Tire Surface

Typically, over time the spare tire begins to rot. This is due to the little use it has and the closed environment where it is located. For this reason, you should do a careful visual inspection of both the tread and the sidewalls of the tire. If you notice cracks on the surface, your best option is to wait for help, as driving under these conditions represents a serious safety risk.

As mentioned in the previous point, spare tires rely on high air pressure, and the presence of cracks is a clear indication that they will not withstand the weight of the vehicle. We recommend doing this inspection with the help of an LED flashlight, as it can greatly facilitate the detection of cracks in the tire surface.

Safety Check 3: Check for Deformations on the Tire

Do a thorough visual inspection of the tire's condition looking for deformations in its surface. These deformations are caused by the rubber’s degradation and can manifest themselves in the form of lumps that could be present in both the tread and the tire’s sidewalls. Driving under these conditions represents a safety risk, so you must consider the possible consequences of ignoring these deformations. As in the previous point, we recommend using an LED flashlight while running your hand over the tire’s surface, searching for irregularities.

How to Plug a Tire

In the previous section, we discussed the safety risks involved in driving with a spare tire in poor condition and that the best thing to do in these circumstances was to wait for help. However, there are situations where waiting for help is not an option. If you feel that you are in a dangerous situation, then the most advisable thing is to do everything possible to continue on your way, but how to do it without putting yourself at risk?

For these situations where you have a damaged spare (or simply no spare tire at all), there are tricks to get out of the way, at least temporarily. To learn more about what to do in these circumstances, we invite you to read our article How To Plug A Tire, where we discuss this topic in depth.

How to Change a Tire

Let's assume that your spare tire is in perfect condition; what is the next logical step? Change the flat tire. But what if you don't know how to change a tire? That would be the equivalent of having a damaged spare tire since you couldn't use it anyway.

For this reason, we have prepared an article dedicated exclusively to such an important topic, How To Change A Tire, which we invite you to read, even if you have already done this task multiple times, as it includes many interesting suggestions and tips.


Throughout this article, we have discussed various aspects of how long you can drive on a spare tire. On one hand, we have talked about the specific distances recommended by the manufacturer.

On the other, we have reviewed vital safety aspects to consider before even thinking about using your spare tire. We hope this information will help you stay safe if you ever have to use your spare.

People Also Ask

Still curious about how long you can drive on a spare tire? In this section, we answer the most common questions regarding this topic.

Where Can I Buy a Donut Spare Tire?

You can buy a Donut Spare Tire at Walmart, Amazon, and just about any tire shop near you. In fact, both traditional tire specialty stores and online stores can offer you a wide variety of donut spare tires to choose from.

How Long Does Fix-a-flat Last in a Tire?

According to Fix-a-Flat itself, once in the tire, the compound must be removed "within 3 days or 100 miles, whichever one comes first". On the other hand, you can safely store Fix-a-Flat in your car for up to 2 years without problems.

How Long Can You Drive on a Full-Size Spare Tire?

How long you can drive on a full-size spare tire depends on many factors, including but not limited to vehicle gross weight, vehicle weight distribution, type of tire tread, weather, ambient temperature, speed, and many more. That's why to get an approximate idea of how many miles you can drive on a full-size spare tire, we suggest reading either the physical copy or the online version of your vehicle owner's manual.

Damaso has been in the automotive world since he was 14 years old and his father decided to bought an auto repair shop. Years later, his passion for electronics, computers, and automotive mechanics motivated him to graduate in Mechanical Engineering and venture into the sales of automotive equipment. For years Damaso worked as a technical advisor assisting car dealerships, tire shops, and even the plants of Toyota and Mitsubishi that operate in his country. He has over 25 years of experience reporting on topics ranging from DIY jobs, technological analysis, automotive news, and more. He is a wealth of information and a valued member of our team.