Realising that you have a flat tyre is incredibly frustrating, but changing the flat and driving on a spare tyre is just the beginning. Initially published in 2014 and updated in 2019 to reflect changes in the auto industry and maintenance recommendations, our auto experts explain how long you can drive a spare tyre before you need to buy a new one.
Once the old tyre is off your car and packed safely in the trunk, you’re left with a spare tyre to get your vehicle safely to the nearest auto repair shop. If you’re lucky, the mechanics can fix your flat tyre but, if the tyre has been damaged beyond repair, you’ll need to buy a new one.
For some, investing hundreds of pounds on a new tyre just isn’t on the cards. That leaves the question, “How long can you drive on a spare tyre? Our answer to this is ‘It depends.’
In older cars, each model came with a spare tyre that matched the tyres already on the vehicle. Over the years, car manufacturers have realised that spare tyres are being used so rarely that it makes little sense to equip every vehicle with a full-size spare. For this reason, manufacturers have started to leave puncture repair kits. These repair kits are not always adequate, so it’s a good idea to buy yourself a space saver like those available on our site.
How long you can drive on a spare wheel depends on what kind of spare your vehicle has, but generally you should only drive on a spare to a garage where you can get your tyre fixed.
Full-Size Spare Tyres
For years, cars have been equipped with spare tyre wells capable of holding full-size spare wheels. This is still the case with many older cars (and a few newer ones). When you purchased a bus, an SUV or a larger vehicle, your car could have been fitted with a full-size spare. Although a full-size spare is heavier and requires storage space, these tyres are more durable and can handle a drive similar to a regular tyre.
When you’ve taken your car to the tyre shop and heard that your original tyre can not be replaced, you can request that the spare tyre be put on the original tyre rim – just make sure to test the air pressure of the spare tyre. This process is fast and cheap and will allow you to drive a spare tyre for a longer period of time.
These narrow, compact spare wheels were designed to save space and weight in the vehicle. The tyre itself isn’t built to last and should be used to get you to a garage so you can get your worn-out tyre replaced. Your owner’s manual will provide advice on driving time and velocity. The general rule of thumb is to drive no more than 70 miles and no more than 50 miles an hour before replacing your space saver with a new tyre.
The main reason to use such space-savers for a limited period of time is that they have little to no footprint. It makes the space saver vulnerable to road hazards and projectiles. It’s also much narrower than the other three tyres, meaning it rotates faster to keep up with the moving vehicle.
Over those 70 miles, the lubrication grease would break down, causing excessive damage on the gears and the clutch plates.
Run-flat tires are becoming more popular as manufacturers understand that they cost less to maintain than conventional tyres. If you’re driving a new BMW or MINI model, your car is likely to have run-flat tires. These tyres are more robust than most tyres, but they are not made to last forever.
Instead of having a spare tyre, these run-flat tyres are designed to withstand most road hazards, including punctures.