Donut Spare Tires (Sizing, Where To Buy, and Cost)

When you get a flat tire from a screw or nail on your vehicle, it can be mildly infuriating. But if you don’t have a spare tire to put on it, the problem quickly goes from mildly infuriating to severely infuriating.

The donut spare tire saves you this extra frustration, but why do some cars have one instead of a full size spare? How fast and far can you drive on it? And where can you buy one? We’ll answer these questions and more.

changing tire with spare

What Is a Donut Spare Tire?

A donut spare tire (aka: space saver tire) is a type of spare tire that many vehicles use. These tires are only for when you get a flat while you’re driving down the road.

Donut spare tires are smaller than regular tires, and because of this they look noticeably different. Not only do they look different, but they also have completely different technical specifications. But because of their smaller size, it’s easier for them to fit in the trunk of vehicles.

Read Also: How to Do Proper Donuts With Your Car

Why Not a Full-Size Spare?

donut spare in trunk

There are two primary reasons why many manufacturers use a donut spare tire instead of a full-sized spare. First, donut tires are significantly smaller than full-sized spare tires. This makes it easier to fit underneath the trunk without taking up a ton of cargo space.

The second reason is the price. Donut tires will typically cost between $75 and $200, and this includes the rim for easy mounting. Meanwhile, a full-sized spare tire will cost between $100 and $250 for just the tire, and the wheel will cost another $100 to $400. That brings the total cost to somewhere between $200 and $650 for a full-sized spare.

However, if you notice your vehicle doesn’t have a donut tire or a full-sized spare tire, it’s for one of three reasons.

#1 – Spare Tire Not Replaced

First, someone might’ve used the spare tire and never put it back in there! If this is the case you just need to get a new spare tire for your vehicle.

#2 – Run-Flat Tires

However, if your vehicle doesn’t even have a spot for a spare donut tire or a full-sized spare, there’s a good chance the manufacturer wants you to use run-flat tires with your vehicle. These tires can go up to 50 miles after they go flat without causing any damage.

That said, they can only go this far without damaging your vehicle if you don’t let it sit. If your vehicle uses run-flat tires and gets a puncture, you need to drive straight to a tire shop where they can replace the tire for you. Rarely can a run-flat tire be repaired.

#3 – Spare Tire Not Offered By Manufacturer

According to AAA, about 30 percent of new vehicles sold do not come with a spare tire. Instead, they come with an inflator kit or can of tire sealant.

The main reason for the lack of a spare is the regulatory pressure to increase fuel efficiency. By eliminating the 40-50 pounds that a spare tire and jack typically add to a car’s weight, automakers can claim a slightly higher fuel economy rating which allows them to better meet the strict government gas mileage standards.

Donut Spare Tire Sizes vs Regular Tires

driving on donut

Donut spare tires are smaller and lighter than regular tires. While regular tires are designed for long-term use and better handling, donut spare tires serve as a temporary solution in case of a flat tire or other tire emergencies.

The size difference between donut spare tires and regular tires is quite noticeable, as donut spare tires are typically narrower and have a smaller diameter than their full-sized counterparts. See a vehicle on the highway with a donut spare installed is almost comical depending on the vehicle.

Which Vehicles Are Suitable for Donut Spare Tires?

These space saver tires are generally designed for smaller vehicles, like sedans and hatchbacks. They are not intended for use in larger vehicles like SUVs, pickup trucks, or vans.

Furthermore, they may not be suitable for all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) systems, as these systems require all tires to have consistent sizing to prevent damage to the drivetrain.

Unless your vehicle came with a donut tire from the factory, it’s best not to use one unless you can confirm through the manufacturer that it is safe to do so.

See Also: What is Death Wobble?

How Fast Can You Drive on a Donut Tire?

Most spare tires will state that you shouldn’t exceed speeds of 50 miles per hour. Donut tires don’t have the same specifications as regular tires, so if you exceed these speeds they can start to fall apart.

If that happens, you’re already using your spare tire, so you’re stuck waiting for a tow.

How Long Can You Drive on a Donut Tire?

Most donut tire manufacturers claim you can drive up to 70 miles on a single donut tire. However, some people find it easier to stick with the 50/50 rule, which states no more than 50 miles and no more than 50 miles per hour.

These short distances are because these temporary spare tires typically have less tread depth than regular tires. It is vital to monitor the wear on the donut spare tire and replace it with a full-size tire as soon as possible.

Remember that even after you change the tire the miles you put on it still count for the next time you need to use it!

How Long Will a Donut Tire Last Unused?

If you don’t use your donut tire, you should inspect it at least once a year to ensure it’s still in good working order. This means checking the tire pressure and for signs of dry rot or other damage.

However, even if the tire continues to pass this visual inspection, you still need to replace it after ten years from the date of manufacture. That’s because the rubber compounds in the tire start to break down as soon as they meet the oxygen in the air.

To check the date of manufacture on the donut tire simply look for a four-digit number surrounded by a box. The first two numbers in the box tell you the week of the year the manufacturer made the tire, while the last two numbers tell you the year.

For instance, a tire with the number 2220 means the manufacturer made the tire in the 22nd week of 2020.

Are Donut Spares All the Same?

donut (space-saver) tire

While all donut tires work the same way, they are not universal. This means you can’t just grab a donut tire from one vehicle and put it on another one. You need to match the size of the donut tire and lug pattern, and you need to ensure it’s rated for the same type of vehicle.

It’s not overly complicated, but you’ll want to ensure you get it right otherwise you won’t be able to put it on your vehicle when you need it!

How Much Does a Donut Spare Tire Cost?

It depends on the quality, size, and type of donut tire you need, but you can usually expect to spend between $50 and $200 for your vehicle’s new donut spare tire.

Just remember that when it comes to spare tires cheaper isn’t always better, you need to be able to trust what you’re putting on your vehicle.

compact spareWhere Can I Buy a Donut Spare Tire?

You can usually buy a donut spare tire anywhere that sells tires. This includes places like Tire Rack, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Goodyear, and others. Just ensure that if you’re ordering your tire online, you verify it fits your vehicle before purchasing it.

The good news is that many sites will offer a feature that confirms the fitment for your vehicle at the top of each product page.

Can Donut Tires Be Repaired?

No. While you can repair typical tires, you cannot repair donut spare tires. They use a different type of rubberized material that holds higher tire pressures, and because of this typical tire repair kits can’t hold up.

Not only are the higher tire pressures an issue, but you also need to worry about the thinner rubber and the thin tread on donut spare tires. In short, if you attempt to repair a donut spare tire you’re just going to end up with another flat tire, and you won’t have a spare to replace it with!

Why Do Donut Tires Require a Higher PSI Than Full-Size Tires?

Donut spare tires have a higher PSI than full-sized spare tires because they still need to be able to support the weight of your vehicle despite their smaller size. The higher tire pressure raises the load capacity of the tire, allowing it to handle more weight than it could at a lower tire pressure.

It’s also why it’s so important to check your spare tire’s air pressure whenever you’re checking the air pressure on your regular tires. If the air pressure gets too low in the spare and you put it on your vehicle, it could fail when you put the vehicle’s weight on it.

Adam Mann


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