How to Drive on a Compact Spare Tire

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A few decades ago, a car's spare tire would often be virtually the same as its regular tires. But nearly all new cars are manufactured with space-saver spares, small and lightweight tires that can be installed easily and take up less space in the trunk. The advantages of these spares are clear, but they come at the expense of driving ability. When you're driving a car on one of these spares, follow the guidelines below to make sure that your trips are safe and smart.

Things You'll Need

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Keep the car's speed under 50 mph at all times, even on the highway. If you're traveling on a crowded highway, stay in the right lane and consider putting on your hazard lights so that people will notice that you're traveling at a slower pace. Higher rates of speed will cause the tire to heat up significantly, perhaps to an unsafe level.

  • Stay on paved roads. Do not take a car fitted with a space-saver spare on to dirt or gravel roads or in any off-road situations. The treads aren't designed for it, and your ground clearance will probably be lower than usual with the spare in place.

  • Limit your total mileage on a small spare to 50 miles unless absolutely necessary. Driving on a spare hurts your gas mileage, wears out your other tires at an accelerated rate and can even send your car out of alignment with extended use.

  • Check the tire pressure on the spare and keep it inflated to the PSI indicated on the sidewall of the tire. If you put the spare on at the roadside and find it to be low on air, stop at the first gas station with an air pump and top it off.

  • Stop to get your real tire fixed or replaced as soon as possible. Space-saver spares are basically designed to get your car from the scene of the flat tire to a tire repair shop--50 miles max. It's not a regular tire, so don't treat it like one.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you get a flat or blown tire as a result of a rough driving surface, avoid switching to the spare and driving on the same surface. If the road can blow a full-sized, healthy tire, it can do the same to a spare in an even shorter period of time.
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