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How Long Can You Drive on a Donut?

How Long Can You Drive on a Donut

Having a flat tire can certainly ruin a driver’s day. Luckily, if the spare in the back is in good operating order, there’s a little salvation – a way to make it to the tire shop for something new. Only drive on the tire for about fifty miles, maximum. Tire replacement will run you at least $150, if not $200.

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Many people think it’s chill to drive around town on nothing more than a spare tire, also called a donut. That couldn’t be farther than the truth reports AAA.

The spare tire is supposed to get you to the nearest garage, nothing more. In fact, it might be helpful to remember 50/50 rule. Don’t drive more than fifty miles. Don’t drive more than fifty MPH (miles per hour).

Driving too fast or too long on a donut can cause long-lasting damage to the wheels, axels, and even the transmission. It’s not recommended. In fact, in some cases, you may be better off calling a tow truck or tire service as soon as the flat occurs.

Changing a Flat Tire

When driving around town on a donut comes up in conversation, perhaps the real topic of conversation is dealing with a flat tire.

Changing a flat tire is a sort of lost art. Back in the day, everybody’s parents made them change the tires to practice. Schools taught lessons how to fix a flat. Nowadays, the lesson seems to be to charge your cell phone and call for roadside assistance.

The first step is to find a parking spot that is safe. Don’t do roadwork on the shoulder with oncoming traffic, for example. You can set out cones, wear bright clothes, lift the hood, and use the hazard lights.

You need to stop the tires from rolling. If you can find wood, bricks, or very large stones (the size of a brick or bigger), set them in front and behind of the tire(s) not raised.

Look in your trunk or rear spare tire holding space. Is there a jack and a spare with enough air in it? You’re on the right track! Then, set up the jack correctly. If you don’t know how to do it, look at the car’s owner manual for instructions.

The next step is raising the car with the jack. Then, get those hub caps off. If you have specialty locks on the hubcaps, you’re going to have to unlock them for this job.

Get the tire off. Throw the spare on. Be sure to correctly install the lug nuts afterward. Tighten the lug nuts and do so in a star pattern to keep even pressure. Don’t tighten them too much or use excessive force. 

The tools you’ll need for the job: the owner’s manual, spare tire (properly inflated), jack, a wrench for lug nuts, material to brace the car.


The Importance of Not Driving on a Donut too Long

How long can you drive on a donut? About 50-70 miles maximum.

You can’t drive around on a spare tire too long.

The tire could be flat or blow for many reasons. It could be punctured by something sharp. It could have a slow leak. Whatever the reason, flat tire repair services are in order to repair the tread, prevent additional problems, and keep the proper air pressure in all tires.

Sometimes the tire can’t be repaired or patched, though. In such cases, it must be replaced. Beware that you may have to replace two tires, if not all four.

Signs You Need a New Tire

When it comes to determining if the tire can be repaired or not, only a certified professional knows best. To give yourself some sense of understanding, however, you can look for the following signs to know the tire is done:

  • Bulge on side of tire
  • Blister on side of tire
  • Lacerations or cuts on the tire
  • Nails in the tire

If you think the tire has a hole, there are some old tricks to find out where it’s occurring.

The first thing you should do is run your hand around the tire in question. You might find the air rushing out. You could also try using a leak detection solution. This involves filling a bottle with soap and water. Spray the bottle’s liquid on the tire. Look for bubbles that show the rushing air.

This is most likely a waste of time. If your tire is bad, just get a new one. Patching a tire is usually a temporary solution anyway.

Remember, if you’re driving on a donut, you shouldn’t push past 50 miles, 70 max. Additionally, you shouldn’t drive more than 50 MPH. These tires don’t have that much tread. They are an emergency solution. 

This means that expressway driving may not be a great idea.

What Happens if You Drive on a Donut?

Driving on a donut isn’t fun. You have more limitations. You cannot drive more than 50-70 miles. You also can’t go that fast, no more than 50 MPH.

If you push this limit, something bad is bound to happen, but what?

You might cause tire failure. The donut will burst or go flat itself. Call a tow truck and wait. There’s nothing else you’ll be able to do.

You could also cause differential damage or hurt other parts of the car. It generally isn’t worth it! If you can, forgo the donut and call a tow truck or tire service for help.


Going faster could cause tire failure, differential damage, or both.

No driver wants to have a flat tire, but calling for help when it does happen is generally the best option nonetheless.

Spare Tires Come in Different Shapes and Sizes

There are two spare tire types in the world. You should know which one you’re using if you’re considering driving on a donut.

The first type is a full-size tire that is the same as the rest. This is more common in old automobiles and big trucks. In this case, you can usually count on the tire for a lot longer if it’s in good condition and adequately filled with air.

The other type, a donut, is a small mini tire that really just gives you about fifty miles to get the car to the garage. It’s not for a road trip nor driving around all day, running errands. If you’re on the donut, the first errand on your list should be going for a new tire!

The new mini spare tire is more common in cars made in the past two decades. Unfortunately, a car from 2005 is bound to have a lot of problems sixteen years later, so that means the tire in the back could be defunct, too. 

Why the switch? One reason is physics. The small donut tire weighs less, so that the car is more efficient. 

The best bet for knowing the limitations of your car’s donut is to check the car’s owner’s manual. 

Here’s the truth: the donut isn’t usually the same size as your other tires. Imagine walking around with a foot that was two inches smaller than the rest of you. You would be uncoordinated and crooked in your step. The car is the same. The tires won’t be balanced, and that can lead to long-term, serious damage.

The Costs Associated with Flat Tires and Donuts

People are always looking to save a buck or two, and drivers dealing with a flat tire and driving on a donut are no different. 

In fact, 2/3 vehicle owners these days are going with off-brand tires to save money. For more money, they get better grip and control.

Many people negotiate their tire prices with the shop, too. Don’t be afraid to try. One reporter writes that up to 70% of people who try to negotiate tire prices are successful. On average, people could save up to $30 per tire by trying to barter, the same article says.

Most people do their homework on tire purchases, and it pays off. With many car repair problems, the price is strictly non-negotiable. You can’t save too much money on a head gasket repair or a new transmission. However, other areas of car maintenance are more competitive.

For example, oil changes and tire shops often promotions, discounts, and price matching campaigns. If you can shop around, you might save a few bucks.

In general, the average cost for tire replacement is $125-$200 per tire. Sometimes one single flat can be changed out for something new, but sometimes it requires two tires or even four tires. If you drove around on the donut for too long, expect to pay more to repair the damage you’ve caused.

Other Tips on Driving with a Donut or Spare Tire

How long can you drive on a donut? Those fifty to seventy miles will pass by quickly. Then, it’s time to get the problem resolved as soon as possible.

For example, you could forego the donut altogether. If it fits in your vehicle, consider buying an additional tire when you make your replacements. Then, if there’s a flat, you can drive on the extra tire a lot longer.

If you want a donut that matches the make, model, and year of your current vehicle, you might consider something else: heading to the junkyard. The junkyard could have the donut you need from a car that’s been sent to be recycled. Used parts cost less, too.

Driving on the Donut or Sending the Car to the Junkyard

Driving on a donut is clearly not a good option. You can only drive fifty to seventy miles on it, and you can’t drive more than 50 MPH, ruling out expressway driving.

If your car is already driving around on the donut, you might consider the cost of replacing that tire before making the choice to invest in tires and repairs.

If you found yourself in a tight spot and had to drive more than fifty miles on a donut, you might need to throw out the whole car! 

This isn’t to be wasteful; it’s a sense of economic problems. Your car has a numerical value, maybe $2000 or $20,000.

When the total cost of damages exceeds its value, in an accident, the insurance company declares the car “totaled.” In other words, the cost of repairs outweighs its value, so they will send a check (if covered). The same can be said about repairs, even for tire replacement.

If you’re sitting on a car that’s only worth $1200, and the mechanic recommends full tire replacement, you might say it isn’t worth it! When this happens, you can send the car to the junkyard.

The junkyard will send a tow truck to come get your car, paying you cash money in exchange. That sure beats shelling out $200 a tire.

Don’t Push the Donut Beyond It’s Limit

Driving around on a donut is bad news. You can only rely on it for fifty to seventy miles, if that.

If you’re not worried about it, take notes. You need to be able to ensure you’re not causing additional damage.

Yes, it’s frustrating to change a flat tire or to call for a tow truck. Nobody has time or extra cash for unexpected car repairs, but it’s not optional. You either act responsibly or pay the price later.

If that’s too much pressure, drivers should consider upgrading their roadside assistance program or sending their car to the junkyard where it won’t cause any more problems.

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