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Don’t Trust Your Safety to Your Spare Tire

You’re driving down the highway for a long overdue vacation and your destination is 350 miles away. Then — BLAM!  You just ran over something and now you’ve got a flat tire. Thankfully, you’re able to safely pull over to the side of the road to put on your spare tire. Having a spare tire in good condition provides peace of mind – like good car insurance.

Once your spare tire is installed, you’re back on your way, and you can get the flat tire fixed whenever you get around to it, right? Wrong – most spare tires are not meant to replace your flat tire indefinitely. You can conservatively drive about 50 miles on a temporary spare tire. The bottom line, driving extended distances is putting your safety at risk. Keep on reading to see how characteristics of spare tires can affect vehicle safety.

Types of Spare Tires

There are different types of spare tires; check your vehicle owner’s manual to see what kind of spare you have. Temporary spare tires aren’t designed to last nearly as long as regular tires. In comparison to a normal car tire, they may have a single layer of polyester in the sidewall and two belts of steel with a layer of polyester in the tread – they just can’t handle road abuse as well as a normal tire.


•    Smaller, lightweight spare tires
•    Less durability and stability than a regular tire
•    Most have a limited top speed of 55 mph
•    Less layers of steel and polyester underneath the rubber
•    Greatly limited puncture resistance and cornering ability.
•    Reduced amount of traction
•    Longer stopping distances
•    Unpredictable handling in emergency maneuvers
•    Long-term use can cause a serious mechanical issue with your differential

o    The spare is smaller than the other wheels, forcing it to turn faster to keep up with car’s speed, making the differential work harder
o    The lubricating grease will start to break down, increasing wear between the gears

Full-Size Non-Matching Spare

•    More durable
•    Wheel may also be different than the wheels on which the other tires are mounted
•    May use a different tread make-up or a different kind of rubber compound than the rest of your tires

o    Can affect overall handling and safety

•    Should not be a part of your vehicle’s tire rotation pattern

Full-Size Matching Spare

•    More durable
•    Matches current set of tires on your vehicle
•    Should be part of your vehicle’s tire rotation pattern

If either the tire or the wheel of a compact spare is ever damaged, be sure to replace the entire spare – do not have it repaired.

Run-flat tires are another option and these kinds of tires are tougher than most other types of tires – they can handle a puncture and still maintain air pressure for a limited distance – and safely keep you going. But, the pros and cons of run-flat tires are a whole other topic.

Be ready for the unexpected — keep your spare tire in good condition and proper pressure at all times and, of course, keep your car insurance up to date.

Have you noticed your car handled differently while using a spare tire? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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