Ultimate Guide to Spare Tire: Safety, Selection, and Maintenance

Spare tire, a term familiar to almost every individual in the US. Some drivers prefer having it as a safety feature, while others, like myself, don’t like it very much and depend on alternative solutions when dealing with flat tires. 

A spare tire is just like my brother; it lays in its place uselessly with no help at all in any work of everyday life. However, when in trouble, just like my brother, the spare tire is the only saving grace that gets you out of trouble without demanding much. 

Before the invention of spare tires, the life of a driver was tough. They have to uninstall the wheels, dismount the tire, change or repair the tube, mount the tire on a rim, and then, lastly, install the wheel back on the axles. They have to do all this. Otherwise, they can not move their vehicle any further. 

Then, in 1904, spare tires were invented. Although it was a good innovation, the drivers became more careless. The accident becomes more common due to the spare wheels, as they are not as reliable as normal sized tires. 

So, we decided to write this article to ignite the importance of spare tires, guide on sizes, compatibility, and types of spare tires, and make drivers realise to drive with proper care. Otherwise, this smaller-sized rubber could put you in bigger trouble. 

So, without further ado, let’s start by defining how many types of spare tires are available for you to choose for your compatible vehicle. 

Types of Spare Tires

Compact Temporary (Donut) Spare Tire

donut spare tire with stock tire

The most common type of spare tire is a donut or temporary spare tire. It is a smaller rounder-shaped tire that supports a car for a shorter period. Unlike same-sized spare tires, there are certain limitations with donut spare tires. 

First, there is a speed limit when driving with this spare tire. As they are smaller and have different treads and rubber, you won’t be able to match the performance with other tires. 

Also, it is risky to drive with them for more than 50 miles; they are just for supporting your car so you can fix a flat tire. So, with a donut-shaped tire, quickly repair your stock tire and install it as soon as possible to avoid any damage. 

Full-Size Matching Spare Tire

Instead of going with a donut spare tire, you can buy an extra tire of the same size as a spare tire. This will help you exceed the tread life of all tires, as you can include your spare tire when rotating tires. 

Another advantage of using full-size spare tires is that you can achieve a similar performance, and there is no hurry to repair the flat tire. Drivers usually don’t choose this option because they are more expensive and require more space. 

Full-Size Non-Matching Spare Tire

What drivers usually do is when their old tires are close to the end of life, they replace all tires. And out of these older tires, the one with the most tread depth and is in good condition, they put it in their car as a spare tire. Which is not a bad thing at all unless the tire is in poor condition. 

However, the performance and urgency will be different from those with the same-sized tires. You have to repair it quickly to replace this tire; nonetheless, this option is more reliable than a donut spare tire. 

Folding Temporary Spare Tire

This type of spare tire is weight and size-friendly. Driver goes with these tires because they lower the car’s total weight and save too much space. Usually, sports cars and EV cars come with this type of spare tire. 

It is quite harder to use than other spare tires; you have to inflate every time you use this spare tire and then deflate to store it back in your trunk. However, they are more reliable than donut-shaped spare tires and improve fuel efficiency due to their lower weight. 

Run-Flat Tires

Using a run-flat tire as a spare tire is the best option, especially if they are the same size. Because it could save you from a lot of trouble. Just think about it: you are on the road, and you have got a flat tire, and after driving for a few miles, you also get a flat tire on a spare tire; it will be a very devastating situation.

However, with run-flat tires, you can demolish the risk of getting a flat on a spare tire, as run-flat tires are driveable for more than 50 miles, even after a big flat. Although they are more expensive and more space requiring, they become so helpful in case you get into unstable or damaged terrains. 

Selecting the Right Spare Tire

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Spare Tire

If you are buying a new spare tire, consider the size, specification, and compatibility with your vehicle. For assistance, take a look at your car manual to make the right choice. 

With that, take a test drive if they allow it to, and see if the tire is working properly and in balance with other tires. Also, consider the space and weight of the tire if you care about cargo space and fuel consumption of your vehicle. 

Compatibility with Vehicle Models

To check the compatible sizes of your vehicle, you should check the car manual, check on the internet or ask the assistance of a professional to identify the best fit for your car. Compatibility is not only about size. It needs to be the tire type, weight adjustments, and other factors that would make your driving more reliable. 

Can a Spare Tire Be a Different Size Than Regular Tires?

Yes, it can, and it is usually the case. If it is a donut-shaped spare tire, which is the most common one, it will always be a different size. So, if you are worried about smaller spare tire sizes, there is nothing to worry about. 

However, if the size is relevant to other tires of your car, you will be able to achieve better and more reliable performance. In the case of smaller-sized tires, you have to repair the spare tire as soon as possible to avoid any danger, which is not the case with same-sized soare tires. 

Ensuring Proper Fit and Functionality

As spare tires are equipped inside the wheels and not separate tires, so if you buy a new tire, ensure the tire is seated properly, and the bead is attached correctly to the wheels. Also, make sure when you install the spare wheel on your vehicle, the alignment and balancing of the tire are properly attached. 

Which spare tire to pick

As we discussed, there are several types of spare tires; it is your choice to buy the tire that makes more sense to you based on your personality and driving style. 

So, if you don’t care about the space and weight of the spare tires, you should consider using same-sized spare tires. They are more reliable and time-saving when it comes to spare tires. 

However, the main factor in picking a spare tire is the weight and size of the spare tire, which is usually the case with EVs and sports car drivers. In this case, a folding or collapsable tire will make more sense; even a donut will be a better option. 

All these types of spare tires take up less space and weigh far less than full-sized spare tires. You can achieve greater mileage and better performance with foldable spare tires.

Mounting and Storing Spare Tires

How to Mount a Spare Tire

Mounting a spare tire typically involves following the specific instructions outlined in the vehicle’s manual. This may include using a jack to lift the vehicle, removing the lug nuts, replacing the flat tire with the spare, and then tightening the lug nuts in a star pattern to ensure proper alignment and security.

Safe Storage Options for Spare Tires

Tires mounted on rims are best stored vertically to prevent deformities. If vertical storage is not possible, rotating the tire’s position periodically is recommended. Unmounted tires can be stacked on top of each other or stored vertically, but they should not be stored on tire hooks, as this can cause the tires to sag.

It’s also important to keep tires in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and environmental humidity to prevent damage.

Innovations in Spare Tire Storage

Innovations in spare tire storage include under-car solutions and alternatives such as wall-mounted tire storage racks, overhead racks, and freestanding industrial shelving racks. These storage systems help keep tires organized and off the ground, maximising space and maintaining tire condition.

Using a Spare Tire: Safety and Limitations

How to Safely Drive on a Spare Tire

When driving on small-sized spare tires, consider speed and brake properties carefully. It is always recommended to drive slowly with donuts or small-sized spare wheels. Also, keep a good distance from other cars to avoid accidents because brakes with smaller tires are not similar to normal stick tires. 

Avoid sharp turns and reduce speed on cornering, especially if it’s a small-size tire. The smaller tire with less contact area, reduces the handling stability and response, which could cause trouble on turns, which is why drive at a slower speed on turns. 

Fix a flat tire as quickly as possible. The spare tires are not a permanent solution to flat tires. Find the nearest tire repair shop and fix a tire to drive safely on the road. 

Distance and Speed Limitations

Compact tires or donut tires have a speed limit of 50mph and are recommended to drive only for 50 miles. With these spare tires and brakes, the handling and comfort of a car totally change. That is why extra care is required while driving with smaller-sized spare tires. 

Unlikely to that, same sizes spare tires have no speed requirements, or performance variations. They are just like stock tires and deliver similar performance. There is no urgency in fixing a flat tire if the spare has the same specification, size, and speed range. So overall, same-sized spare wheels are better to drive 

Can Spare Tires Be Used on Highways

it is crucial to adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding speed and distance limitations. Exceeding these limitations can compromise safety and lead to further damage.

Before hitting a highway journey with a spare tire, ensure that its pressure is within the recommended range. Low tire pressure can affect stability and fuel efficiency, increasing the risk of accidents.

Spare tires may not have the load-carrying capacity of regular tires. Avoid overloading the vehicle, as this can strain the spare tire and compromise its effectiveness.

Maintenance and Lifespan of Spare Tires

Regular Maintenance Tips for Spare Tires

Maintenance of spare tires is just as important as maintenance of installed stock tires. Without proper maintenance, spare tires could become useless when needed. These are some major points that you can follow to improve spare tire life. 

Air Pressure check

Cautiously check air pressure once every 2 weeks. It will help you identify if there is any problem or damage on spare wheels, which could happen because of low ventilation and UV rays. So whenever you need a spare tire, it will be properly inflated to utilize in a situation. 

Check for Visible Damages

Insect tire regularly for any visible damage. A speed bump or pothole could damage a tire even if sitting in a trunk. So, with air pressure, inspect the tire with soapy water to see any small leak or damage and fix it. 

Rotating tires

If you have the same-sized spare wheels, utilize them to rotate with your normal tires. Use the tire rotation method that includes spare tire rotation as well. It will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of all 5 of your tires. 

Tread depth life

If the tread depth of your spare wheel is below the recommended levels, you should replace it as fast as possible. Because flat tire could happen at any time, and if you are out of the spare tire, and fixing kit, you will waste a lot of time and money on towing and fixing a flat tire. 

Cleaning spare tires

Do all these things in harmony and clean the spare tire as well. Remove all dirt, debris, and any other form of particles, which also helps in improving the life of a tire. By following all these activities, you will ascertain that your spare tires will come in handy in case of a flat tire scenario. 

Signs That Indicate Your Spare Tire Needs Replacement


Keep a close look at the spare tire tread depth. If the depth is below 2/32 inches, make sure to replace them. Because these tires can do more damage than help. Spare tires are already less reliable to drive, and if they are below minimum tread levels, they become more dangerous and might cause an on-road accident. 


The tire manufacturing age is written on the tire’s sidewalls. If the tires are older than the given age by the manufacturer, it is more sensible to replace those tires, even if they have tread depth. Because internal compounds and rubber get weakened with time, and are not driveable after a certain time. 

Visible damage

If the tire is visibly damaged and even if the air is not leaking it is a better thing to not drive on these tires. These types of ineffective damages are the reason why tire blowouts happen. So, rather than taking a risk, drive on proper spare tires. 

Alternatives to Traditional Spare Tires

Flat Tire Repair Kits

The world is moving toward innovative technologies and advancement in every sector of life, and using spare tires is so old. So instead of spare tires, the modern car comes with a quick repair kit that is easy to use and fix a puncture and other damages. 

The simple process allows the driver to get to the nearest repair shop and fix a flat tire. So instead of wasting time on installing spare wheels, these tire repair kits turn out more effective, acquire less space, reduce car weight, and require less effort to utilize. 

The Rise of Run-Flat Tires

A run-flat tire is another innovation toward restraining the use of spare tires. Run flat tire is manufactured in a way that they can not get useless even after a heavy puncture. The run flat technology allows drivers to drive their vehicle for a minimum of 50 miles at a slower pace of below 50mph after a puncture. 

With run-flat tires, drivers are satisfied that they won’t have to stop and waste hours replacing tires. The reason why run-flat tires have not been totally swapped normal tires is that they are far more expensive and not so good in performance compared to non-run-flat tires. 


Spare tires can sometimes become the most important accessories of your vehicle, so taking good care of them is always beneficial. They might lack performance compared to your stock tires; however, whenever you face a flat tire on any tire, this spare tire will be the one that keeps your car moving till you reach a safe spot. 

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