We may not like it, but there comes a time in most drivers’ lives when the spare tyre has to be pulled out. All we can do is hope it’s not raining at the time, we’re not on the way to the most important meeting of our life, and the passenger isn’t in the full throes of labour.
When we do hear a pop, or the soft flapping of a punctured tyre, and it is our time to pull out the back up, it’s important that we know its capabilities and how long it can be driven on. Given the range of spare tyres available today, there’s no all-encompassing rule. So let’s break it down.
How long can I drive on a…
Full size spare
The full size spare used to be the most common type of spare tyre. In fact, it used to be the only type. It’s since found its market dominance impinged upon by the space saver and the run flat, but a full-size spare is still preferred for 4WDs or any vehicle that may find itself somewhere remote.
The full size spare tyre is so called because it is exactly the same as the four tyres it acts as back-up for. When you get a flat, you simply swap it out for the spare and keep on driving without having to adjust your speed or distance.
However, we always advise that you get the punctured tyre repaired if possible and put back on its axle; it’s always safer to drive on tyres that have similar wear. And your spare can stay a spare, in good condition and always ready to be called upon.
Space saver spare tyres are the ones most drivers will find in their car these days. They’re popular among car manufacturers because they’re thinner and take up less space, and they are cheaper to make. But these attributes also make them inappropriate for regular and prolonged use.
Being thinner, space savers have less tread in contact with the road at any given moment, which means they have less grip (and are therefore limited to a speed of 80km/h). This difference in size compared to the other tyres also makes the vehicle unbalanced overall. So, when it comes down to it, a space saver should only be used to get you to a service centre, and not for regular driving.
Another thing to note: given their reduced grip, it’s particularly unsafe to have a space saver responsible for both steering and power. If you have a front-wheel drive car, and that’s where you get a flat, it would be wise to move a rear tyre to the front and put the space saver at the rear. More hassle, yes, but safer overall.
The motorist’s dream: a tyre that still works when punctured. First introduced by BMW, the run-flat tyre can do this due to its reinforced walls. In its early days, these reinforced walls meant a rough ride, but continued development has seen the modern run flat offer a similar performance to regular, oh-no-I-got-a-puncture-and-I-can’t-work-anymore tyres.
But (yes, there’s a but), when punctured, run flats must be driven on slowly and carefully. Like a space saver, the speed limit is 80km/h and you should really drive straight to a service centre and get it repaired or replaced. We also highly recommend you drive straight to a service station and pump it up first before driving somewhere to have it repaired; the less you drive on a flat run-flat tyre, the more likely it will be reparable.
The good thing is that you don’t have to get out of the car in the rain and replace it there and then. And that is truly a good thing.
So, which spare tyre is the one for me?
Given the range of spare tyres available, you’d think making a decision might be difficult. But, in reality, you are restricted by the type of car you have. Run-flats may sound like a great option, but they aren’t appropriate for all cars. The full size spare isn’t going to fit into that little nook in your boot made for a space saver. And space savers aren’t going to carry you 300km/h to the nearest service centre when you find yourself with a flat halfway between Kalgoorlie and Perth.
If you get a flat, no matter the type of spare you have, drop in to Eastern Tyre Centre as soon as you can and we’ll repair or replace, and run an eye over your spare tyre. If you need a new one, we’ll make sure you get the type most appropriate for you, and let you know exactly how long you can drive on your spare tyre.
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