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How Long do Spare Tires Last?

I have been known to get a puncture in almost every tire of every car I have driven (knock on wood that it doesn’t happen to me anytime soon). Which means that I am familiar with riding on a spare until I can get myself to a mechanic. Today, on my way into work, I saw someone on the side of the road putting their spare tire on their car. Naturally that got me thinking, “how long can you really drive on a spare tire?” Working for a car accident lawyer, I want to go over some research I have found about driving on a spare, as well as some tips on changing your tire. If you are suffering from injuries due to the negligent actions of another, contact an auto accident attorney at Silverthorne Attorneys. Consultations are free.

Car Accident Lawyer | The Life of a Spare Tire

Most full-sized spare tires are designed to last anywhere from 7 to 10 years. That being said, you should never use a tire with visible damage. This means that any visible cracks in the sidewall, punctures, impact bulges, or irregular tread-wear are very dangerous to drive on. One thing I have noticed is that some drivers will often rotate their spare with the other tires on their vehicle. From the research I have done, this is advised against.

If your spare tire is in the trunk for too long, it can lose air pressure. Thus making it more dangerous to drive for a substantial amount of time on the spare.

Below, I have listed the different types of spares and how long it is recommend to use them.

Safe-Saver/Donut Spares

These spares are ones that are narrow and more compact. And they are designed to save space and weight in a vehicle. A general rule of thumb on these spares is that you should not drive more than 70 miles and no faster than 50mph before replacing the donut spare.

The reason to use these spares for a short period of time is because they have little to no tread on them. This means that the spare will be vulnerable to hazards on the road. It is also much smaller than the other tires on the car, which makes it spin faster in order to keep up with the moving car.

Over those 70 miles, the lubricating grease will break down. Which inevitably will cause unnecessary wear on the gears and clutch plates. 

Full-Size Spares

How long do full size spare tires last? Well, that all depends on the quality of the spare. As stated previously, you never want to drive around on spare tires for long. Most full-size spare tires are for SUV’s and any other larger vehicle. So there is no need to worry about the size of the spare being too small for a larger than compact vehicle. While a full-size spares heavier and requires more space for storage, these are quite a bit more durable and can handle a drive similar to a normal tire. In that manner, it is much safer to driver for longer periods of time and greater speeds when you have a full-size spare on your care.

However, you must remember that the spare has not been used to the same extent as the other 3 tires. Which means that your wheel will handle a bit differently which can make it unsafe to drive on it for the long haul. As a car accident lawyer, we always urge people to purchase a new tire as soon as they can. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Run-Flat Tires

Now, this is something new to me. And from the research I have done, run-flat tires are becoming more and more common. Manufacturers are realizing that they cost less to maintain than traditional tires. For example, if you drive a recent model BMW or MINI, your care will most likely came with run-flat tires. These tires are tougher than most tires. However, they are not designed to last forever.

Rather than including a spare tire, these run-flat tires are built to withstand most, if not all, road hazards. Rather than going flat or experiencing a blow-out, a run-flat tire can continue to drive for about 50 miles after a puncture before it needs to be replaced. Note: these tires are more expensive to replace than traditional tires are.

Regardless of the type of spare tire you have, it is in your best interest, for safety purposes, to replace your tire as soon as you can.

Auto Accident Attorney | How to Safely Change a Tire

Below are some helpful tips on how to safely change a flat tire.

Find a Safe Surface

You should always make sure that wherever you change your tire, you are safe. You should have a solid, level surface that will prevent the car from rolling. If you are near a road, park as far from traffic as possible and turn your emergency lights on. If at all possible, avoid soft grounds and hills.

Make sure that you always apply the parking break. If you have a standard transmission, put your car in first or reverse.

Place a heavy object (rock, concrete, spare wheel, etc.) in front of the front and back tires. This will prevent any rolling.


Removing the Hubcap

You want to remove the hubcap and loosen the nuts by turning counterclockwise. However, you do not want to take them all the way off; just break the resistance. By keeping the wheel on the ground when you loosen the nuts, you make sure that you are turning the nuts and not the wheel.

  • Make sure that you have the exact socket size for your lug nuts as well as a breaker bar in your trunk just in case.
  • It can take a bit of force to break your lug nuts free, so just be patient. If all else fails, you can use your body weight to help. Be careful not to strip the lug nuts.

After this, make sure you pump or crank the jack to lift the tire off the ground. You should lift it high enough so that you can remove the flat tire and replace it with a spare. As you lift, make sure that the car is stable.

Remove the lug nuts the rest of the way by turning them counterclockwise until they are loose.

Remove the Tire

Place the flat tire under the vehicle so in an event of a jack failure, the vehicle will fall on the old wheel. If the jack is placed on a flat, solid base, you shouldn’t have any problems.

  • If the tire sticks due to rust, try hitting the inside half of the tire with a rubber mallet to loosen the tire. Or you can use the spare tire to hit the outside half.
  • Place the spare tire on the hub. Make sure that you align the rim of the spare tire with the the wheel bolts, the put the lug nuts back on.
    • Be sure to install the tire the correct way and not backwards. The valve stem of a doughnut tire should face outwards, away from the vehicle.
    • If your vehicle uses acorn-style lug nuts, it is easy to put those on backwards. Be sure the tapered part of the nut faces the wheel when tightening.

Tighten the Lug Nuts & Lower the Car

The lug nuts should turn easily at first. You will want to use the wrench to tighten the nuts as much as possible using a star pattern. To ensure that the tire is balanced, don’t completely tighten the nuts on at a time. Going in a star pattern will make sure that each nut is equally tightened.

After this, you want to lower the car without applying full weight on the tire. Lower the car completely to the ground and remove the jack. Finish tightening the nuts and replace the hubcap.

Put the old tire back in the trunk and take it to the mechanic. Get an estimate for the cost of the repair. Small punctures can usually be repaired for less that $15. If the tire is not repairable, they can dispose of it properly and will sell you a replacement.

If you are suffering from injuries due to an accident, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case. Consultations are free.

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