The Donut Spare Tire-Everything You Need to Know




Donut Spare Tire

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At one point or another in your driving life, you will have the unfortunate experience of having to change a flat tire. Now, you can try to fix the tire yourself or you can replace the flat with a spare tire.  Most people think of the funny looking wheel when you think of a spare tire.  These are called donut spare tires or compact spare tires, and they have their advantages and disadvantages; which we will look at here.

What Is A Donut Spare Tire?

When most people think of a spare tire they think of the little donut spare tire, that looks funny on your car.  What is a donut spare tire? Also known as a temporary spare tire, a donut tire is a smaller tire designed to save space and weight in your vehicle.  A donut tire is not meant for long distances or high speeds.

A donut spare tire is meant for short term use in case you get a flat tire. The advantages of a donut spare are that they are small and fit compactly in the trunk of your car.  The disadvantages are that they compromise the speed and handling of your vehicle. Also, they are not as durable, a donut spare can not take the abuse of the driving as well as a regular tire.  That is why you want to have them replaced as soon as possible.

How Long Can I Drive on a Donut Spare Tire?

Everyone wants to know the answer to this question, so I would be remiss to leave it off the list. A donut spare tire is only a temporary solution to a flat tire.  A good rule of thumb is a donut spare should not be driven more than 70 miles and no faster than 50 mph.  

A donut spare should be replaced as soon as possible.  The donut spare is there to get you to the repair shop so you can have your regular tire fixed or replaced.

Where Can I Buy A Donut Spare Tire and How Much Does It Cost?


The cost of a temporary spare varies greatly.  Two of the biggest factors are the size of the spare tire and where you purchase your spare at.  
Donut spare tires can range in price from as low as $50 (U.S.) to over $300 (U.S.).  Your cheapest place to find a donut spare would be a local tire shop. This, however, will take some leg work and you still may not find anything that will fit your vehicle. offers a large selection of donut spare tires.  You can enter your vehicle make, model, and year and you will be matched up with appropriate tire sizes for your vehicle, if available. The least expensive tire offered on TireRack, at the time of this publication goes for a little over $60. That is for a 14” rim and about a 1,100-pound load.  

Most of the tires offered here range from $100-$250 (U.S).  If there is a donut spare available for your vehicle you will most likely find it here.

Amazon also offers a limited supply of donut spare tires.  Click here to follow this link to Amazon; then enter your vehicle make, model, and year.  If there is a compatible tire Amazon will display it. The price range is from $90 to $380 for a whole kit.  

Again, check the product description, there may not be a tire available for your particular car. This leads us to our next question.

Will a Donut or Compact Spare Tire Fit Any Car?

Air Pressure in Spare Tire

The short answer is ‘NO’.  A donut spare tire can not be safely interchanged between vehicles.  Tire Rack only recommends interchanging donut spare tires with the exact same make and model of car.
Donut or compact spare tires are specifically designed for the vehicles that they are paired with.  They are not designed to work with other vehicles.

Even if there are the same number of lug nut holes and a similar pattern.  There are other factors, such as the size of the tire and the weight that the tire is rated to hold.

We are shooting for safety here. So if you want to continue on your journey don’t try to take a shortcut (pun not intended).  If you don’t have a proper donut spare tire, then call a tow truck to help you out. It may be more expensive but it will pay off in the long run.

Can A Donut Spare Tire be Repaired?

Again the answer is ‘NO’. Don’t try to fix the temporary spare tire, no one will do it for you.  It’s called temporary for a reason. Car Talk addressed this issue with a listener.

The reasons they gave were that the rubber is of inferior quality compared to a regular tire.  The tread isn’t as deep and the rubber isn’t as thick. So even if you managed to plug the tire, most likely, it wouldn’t hold.

You need to purchase a new tire or for a more permanent option upgrade to a full-size spare if you have the room.

Read: Is Fix-A-Flat Bad For Your Tires?

How Long Does An Unused Spare Tire Last?

So you have been fortunate enough to go without a flat tire for many years and you have never needed to use your spare.  Good for you! One day you are dutifully having your tires rotated and the tire shop recommends buying a new spare. Do you need one? 
Whether your spare is a full-size spare or a donut spare tire, the good people over at mechanic.stakeexchange recommends replacing a spare tire after 10 years. Mind you, this is an unused spare tire.  

A natural breakdown of the rubber occurs over time due to chemical reactions.  So even though the tire may look fine, the structural integrity of the tire may be compromised.

How Do You Know How Old Your Tires Are?

Whether you have a full-size spare or a donut spare, how can you tell how old your tires are?  This video does a nice job of answering that question:

Full-Size Spare vs Donut Spare, What’s the Difference?

Do you know what type of spare tire you are using? Are you using a full-size spare or a donut spare, can you tell the difference?  Typically when people think of a spare; they think of the little temporary spare tire. However, spare tires do come in a full-size version as well.

Full-size spares often come with vehicles that carry more weight.  I have a minivan and my trusty Tacoma pickup. Both of them have a full-size spare.  While all of the sedans that I have had came with a temporary spare. What is the difference and what are the advantages and disadvantages? 

Full-Size Spare
Able to be used as regular tire More Expensive
Can support the normal weight of the vehicle and load Heavier 
Rotated in as part of the tire rotation Harder to store
Longer life
Better Quality
Temporary (Donut) Spare
Small Compromises Vehicle Handling!
LightweightAdditional wear and tear on vehicle components due to size
Easily Stored Inferior rubber
Less Expensive to ReplaceShort Term use only
Quick FixUnable to take a lot of abuse
Limited range and speed

Clearly, a full-size spare is preferable to a donut spare, but most times it’s just not practical.  However, if you are ever in a pinch you will be thankful that you have the donut spare.

Can You Put Air In A Donut Spare Tire?

Donut spare tires need to be maintained like any other tire. Therefore, that means maintaining the air pressure of the tire.  So ‘YES’, you can put air in a donut spare tire.
Typically the recommended air pressure is 60 psi.  However, please check the manufacturer’s recommendation for your specific tire.

Final Thoughts…

Spare tires seem to be such a simple thing.  We see them all the time, but we really don’t start to ask questions until you actually need to use one.  We will continue to add questions to this list. However, if there is a question that you don’t see here now ask away. I will try to find an answer for you.

More Recommended Articles…

Looking for more information on tires? Check out these articles. Thanks for reading.

How Do Car Tires Become Unbalanced – 5 Reasons Why and What To Look For
3 Reasons Why Car Tires Go Flat When Not Used?
What Should My Tire Pressure Be In Cold Weather?
The Donut Spare Tire-Everything You Need to Know
What To Do When You Have a Flat Tire-4 Things to Remember
What Should The Air Pressure of My Spare Tire Be?
Tire Traction Mats-Which is Best For You
No Spare Tire, What to do When You Have A Flat Tire
What Does PSI in Tires Mean?
Is Fix-A-Flat Bad for Tires?
Do Winter Tires Use More Gas? 2 Reasons Why This May Be the Case
Are Winter Tires Good in Rain? YES! Find Out Why

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