• Apr 16th 2010 at 12:00AM
  • 209
How long can you drive on that donut spare tire? (Weemb... How long can you drive on that donut spare tire? (Weembles, Flickr)

Dear Tom,

I own a 2004 Chevy Aveo. The other day I got a flat tire and I had the spare installed. It’s a fake tire (one of those “donut” spares). I haven’t had a chance to buy a new tire yet, and I want to know how long can I drive before I replace it with a real tire. Funds are tight right now.

Sarah from Burlington, VT


Check your owner’s manual for an exact recommended mileage for the spare tire. Seventy miles is the rule of thumb. These tires are not designed for long-range service. They are made to get you to a garage to have your tire either repaired or replaced. Driving on it for an extended period of time under regular driving conditions will result in a blowout in short order, so get a safe tire on your car immediately. Maybe you can find a reasonably priced used tire if it has to be replaced.


Wow, Sarah asks the kind of question that seems to crop up more and more these days. I guess the slow economy has everyone strapped for extra cash to meet unexpected events. Let’s take a look at Sarah’s concern in detail.

How Long Can I Drive With A “Donut” Spare?

Donut spare tires are not made for extended service. They have no tread to speak of; the carcass or body of the tire is not reinforced and there is no tread belt to protect it from projectiles and road imperfections. The tire is designed simply to get you to a repair facility. Most of these tires offer a maximum life of 70 miles.

Do Donut Spares Affect The Braking Or Suspension System?

You may notice poor cornering, handling, and braking characteristics. The donut spare has a smaller footprint than a conventional tire, which translates into diminished braking and handling. With the donut spare in place, you may find that, when braking, the vehicle dips to the side where the donut was mounted. Also, you may notice the vehicle pulling to that side.

Why Do Carmakers Put These Spare Tires In Cars?

The use of donut spares is a cost and space cutting measure. Typically the donut spare takes up much less space and is cheaper to manufacture than full size tires and wheels, which translates into more profit for the car makers. It’s quite a compromise and a loss for the consumer.

Can I Put A Full Size Spare On My Car?

Yes, but the question is: where do you carry and stow it? Years ago, cars had spare tire wells to fit the full size spare so that it was out of the way. This space has been eliminated in order to produce smaller cars (and increased profits for the carmakers). Looks like we’re stuck with donut spares. What's worse is that many new cars are doing away with spare tires altogether, opting for run-flat tires. But that's a topic for another day.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      I drove 38,000 miles over 2 years on a Saturn donut- drove it Chicago, Boston, DC several times (I live in NYC). It gave out gracefully as I pulled into my parking spot at work. Honest. Just saying... in case I set a record or something. Not recommending. I'm a moron.
      • 8 Months Ago
      On a front wheel drive car switch the donut to the rear if possible for longer trips or a time frame when you know you won't get to your shop. Example you you blow a tire on a saturday your regular mechanic is not open until monday morning and you need to run errands rest of day and sunday. OR when your on a road trip. One more thing about donuts and full sizes. I DO keep a full size tire around for my cars. I DO NOT keep it with me in my car. Thats what the donut is for. I keep it in the garage and switch it out if i wake up in the morning and find a flat. or return home and switch to my spare wheel and tire. This allows me to put my usable spare back in the trunk so i once again have another backup.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I own a 2009 Audi A8 with run-flats which I had on my prevoius car. Run-flats drive a bit more rough but the peace of mind you get in exchange is worth it.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I have seen cars with 2 and sometimes 4 donut spares driving around, and even on the highway at full speed, idiots
      • 8 Months Ago
      Did you ever think about the cost of the donut spare compared to a full size and if the manufacter is keeping the money why are they going broke? Also have you compared the weight of the two? It is much easier for a old person or small woman to cahnge than a 70 pound tire.
      • 8 Months Ago
      As others have said, a lightly used tire works as well. It may even work better, due to it being a full size tire and not a donut.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I know for one thing that is why my daughter has only driven VW's. All three os the cars that she has had have had full size spares, even on her bug. Right now she has the same exact tire on the spare rim as on the normal rims, my questions would be how long that rim would last...
      • 8 Months Ago
      "Doughnut of Death", anyone??
      • 8 Months Ago
      I would not drive on a donut spair 5 miles much less 50 to 100 miles. use it just to get your car to a shop and have the full tire replaced. if your flat is on the drive wheel per-say the front wheel of a front drive car you would be better off takeing the time to move one rear tire to the front and put the donut on the rear. and don't ever mount a full size tire on a donut rim if it is not illegal in most states it should be. if you are at a tire shop and they offer to mount a full size tire on a donut rim I would leave and go back.
      • 8 Months Ago
      picchillin.....your GM should ahve a 19mm lug nuts, and that OEM jack is 19mm as well on the end. Purchasing a batter operated or 12volt lighter mini impact you can raise the car with the car's factory jack...and use it on the pinch welds. This is faster than your extra jack. Use the cars L wrench to crack the nuts free before raising and then to tighten when installing. Keeping tire plugs in the car is also a good idea. Keep a pair of basic work gloves in car too.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I have driven on a donut tire for 11,000+ miles on a 1999 Chevy Blazer. Only around town miles...no highway.
      • 8 Months Ago
      from Maryland to southern Florida
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