How Long Do Spare Tires Last? A Guide to Spare Tire Maintenance

Often tucked away in the trunk or underneath the chassis, spare tires can make a crucial difference in unexpected situations. From nail punctures to blowouts, having a functional extra tire can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major roadside headache. But have you ever wondered how long do spare tires last, or how to choose the right type for your needs?

Let’s explore.

Types of Spare Tires

spare tire lasting lifespan

1. Full-Size Spare Tires:

  • They offer a seamless driving experience, matching your vehicle’s existing tires in terms of size, tread pattern, and load capacity.
  • Perfect for long journeys, full-size spares can be driven at regular speeds and for extended distances.
  • While they offer the best performance, they take up more space and are usually heavier, affecting your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

2. Compact Temporary Tires (Donuts):

  • Donuts are compact spare tires designed for short-term use to get you to a repair shop or a safer location.
  • Donuts have limitations in terms of speed and distance, often recommended to be driven at reduced speeds (typically around 50 mph) and for a distance of no more than 50-70 miles.
  • They are lightweight and take up less space, making them a convenient option, but they sacrifice some performance capabilities.

3. Space-Saver Spare Tires:

  • A compromise between full-size and compact temporary tires, space-saver spares offer a balance of functionality and size.
  • They are slightly larger than donuts, providing better performance and a higher speed/distance threshold.
  • Space-saver spares are a suitable choice for moderate distances and speeds, making them more versatile than donuts.
  • While they offer better performance, they may still differ from your regular tires, affecting your vehicle’s handling and stability.

Each type of spare tire serves a specific purpose, and choosing the right one depends on your driving habits, the amount of storage space available, and your comfort level with the potential limitations each type presents. The type you opt for can significantly impact your driving experience during emergencies, so it’s essential to make an informed decision based on your individual needs.

Factors Affecting Spare Tire Longevity:

1. Age: Over time, the rubber compounds in the tire can deteriorate, leading to reduced performance and safety. Even if a tire has never been used, it can still be affected by exposure to sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and other environmental factors.

2. Usage: Temporary spare tires, commonly known as donuts, have limitations when it comes to mileage and speed. Driving on a donut for an extended period or at high speeds can cause excessive wear and heat buildup, reducing its overall lifespan.

3. Storage Conditions: They should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, and moisture. Storing a spare tire in the trunk or under the vehicle without proper protection can lead to premature deterioration.

Maintenance Tips for Prolonging Spare Tire Lifespan:

1. Regular Inspection: Perform visual inspections at least once a month. Check for signs of damage such as cuts, cracks, bulges, or punctures. Ensure that the tire’s sidewalls and tread are in good condition.

2. Tire Pressure: Maintain the correct inflation pressure, as specified in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Underinflation can lead to uneven wear and reduced performance, while overinflation can affect the tire’s handling and longevity.

3. Tire Rotation: Include the spare wheel in your regular tire rotation schedule. Rotating the spare tire with the other tires helps distribute wear more evenly, prolonging its lifespan.

4. Protection: Consider using a cover to shield the tire from UV rays, rain, and other environmental factors. This can prevent premature aging and deterioration of the rubber compounds.

5. Avoid Overloading: If you need to use an extra tire, ensure that it is not overloaded beyond its load-carrying capacity. Refer to the sidewall of the tire for information on the maximum load it can safely carry.

6. Proper Usage: Donuts are meant for short-term use to get you to a repair shop. Avoid driving on a donut for extended distances or at high speeds. Once you’ve replaced a regular tire with a spare, have the damaged tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

When to Replace a Spare Tire?

1. Tread Wear: If you notice that the tread on your donut has worn down significantly, it’s time for a replacement. The minimum legal tread depth is often around 2/32 of an inch (approximately 1.6 mm), but for safety reasons, replacing the tire before it reaches this limit is advisable.

2. Visible Damage: Inspect your extra tires regularly for any visible signs of damage, such as cuts, punctures, cracks, or bulges on the sidewalls or tread. Even if the damage appears minor, it’s crucial to replace the tire to avoid potential blowouts or other hazards.

3. Age: As a general guideline, experts recommend replacing tyres every six to ten years, even if they haven’t been used.

4. Irreparable Damage: If your spare tire has undergone a major puncture or has sustained irreparable damage, it’s time to replace it. Attempting to repair severe damage on a spare wheel may compromise its safety and effectiveness.

5. Excessive Wear on Compact Temporary Tires (Donuts): Temporary spare tires, commonly known as donuts, have limitations in terms of distance and speed. If you’ve used a donut for its intended purpose (short-term travel to a repair shop) and the mileage exceeds the recommended limit, it’s time to replace the donut.


Spare tires are invaluable safety assets that can provide a sense of security in times of emergencies. While their longevity depends on various factors, regular maintenance, and proper care can significantly extend their lifespan. Always adhere to manufacturer guidelines and recommendations to ensure your tire remains in optimal condition, ready to serve you when needed most. Remember, a well-maintained additional tire can be a reliable companion on the road for years to come.


Can I extend the lifespan of my spare tire beyond its recommended replacement period?

While proper maintenance can help prolong the life of your extra wheel, it’s important to note that the rubber compounds in tires naturally degrade over time due to factors like exposure to UV rays and temperature fluctuations. Even with excellent care, spare wheels should be replaced within the recommended timeframe to ensure safety.

Can I use a spare tire that is older but still appears to be in good condition?

It’s not recommended to use a tire that has exceeded its age limit, even if it appears visually intact. The internal structure and integrity of the tire may be compromised, posing a safety risk.

What if my spare tire has never been used? Does it still have an expiration date?

Yes, spare tires have an expiration date based on their age, regardless of whether they’ve been used or not. Exposure to the environment, even when stored, can cause the rubber to degrade over time.

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