Donut tires, the newest evolution of spare tires, are becoming increasingly common in new vehicles as manufacturers have shifted from including a full-sized spare tire for a compact-lightweight one to save up space and reduce cost.
The question is, can these compact tires fit in any car? The short answer is NO. There is no “One-Tire-Fits-All” when it comes to spare tires. Every donut tire is specific to the car model it comes with.
What is a donut spare tire?
A donut spare tire, also commonly known as temporary used spare tires (TUSTs) or space-saver tires are small, compact, and lightweight tires designed for temporary use in case you get a flat tire.
The tire of the vehicle can flat out due to many unexpected reasons, a puncture being the most common one.
A donut tire prevents you from being stranded on the road or in a remote area where help is not readily available.
A donut tire can also be your savior if fixing a puncture is out of your expertise.
It is meant to be used as a temporary tire that lasts for a short ride to get you to your home or to a mechanic nearby.
Not all spares are created equal!
Can you use a donut tire on any car?
There is NO universal donut tire. The size and weight of each donut tire is designed as such that it is only specific to the make of the model it comes with.
This means you cannot interchange donut tires between vehicles even if the tire comes with the same amount of lug nuts and have a similar look, shape, or pattern as spares are not all created equally.
Every donut tire has its own specifications (material, height, tread width, size) and can differ from other donuts in terms of quality, longevity and speed, and distance ratings that are stamped on its rim or sidewall.
How to Identify a Donut Tire?
The space-saver tires are recognized by their brightly colored yellow- or orange-colored rims that serve as a constant reminder for the driver that these tires should be replaced as soon as possible by regular tires.
They are also much lighter and smaller in size, save space in your boot and have shallower tread depth as compared to a regular tire.
Why Donut Tire is used?
A donut tire is a compact and lightweight tire that does not take a load of space and can easily fit into the trunk of your car.
As opposed to a donut tire, a full-size spare tire requires more storage space and adds additional load to your car that can hinder the fuel economy by increasing exhaust emissions as it is an additional load for the engine to pull.
For these reasons, most car manufacturers have nowadays opted to replace full-sized spare tires with space-saver or ‘donut’ tires in their new models due to their low profile.
How To Use A Donut Spare Tire?
Suppose one of the tires of your vehicle flat out and you want to use your donut spare tire. The question is should you just replace the flat tire with a donut one? Well, the answer depends on the tire that flats out and the type of vehicle you’re driving.
- If one of the front tires flat out and you’re driving an FWD (Front-wheel drive) car, then replace the front tire with the functioning rear one and mount the donut tire in its position. The reason is that the front tires are responsible for steering and transmitting power to the road in an FWD car, so you want the best possible traction on the front.
- For a RWD (Rear-wheel drive) car with a limited slip differential, the donut tire must be used at the front instead of the rear for preventing any damage to the Limited-Slip Differential (LSD). Otherwise, if you have an RWD Car without an LSD, the donut should be mounted at the front.
Other Types of Spare Tires
i) Full-Size Matching Spare Tire:
Identical to the current set of tires that is integrated into the vehicle’s tire rotation pattern from the get-go.
ii) Full-Size Non-Matching Spare Tire
A full-size tire that matches the original tire dimensions but is not completely identical to the current set of tires. It may differ in its tread depth, construction, and overall aesthetics and is not integrated into the tire rotation pattern.
iii) Folding Temporary spares
The inflatable spare tire is rarely used due to its non-convenient and complex installation procedure but provides a maximum amount of space-saving.
Can You Drive 200 miles on a donut?
Donut tires are not made from the same material as regular tires. They are not as durable and long-lasting because they are usually made from inferior quality of rubber and have fewer plies of steel in the tire belt resulting in overall less strength and grip of the tire. Donut tires are rated for small distances (in the range of 60-100 miles) after which they need to be replaced. Hence, you must not travel 200 miles on a donut spare tire!
How fast can you drive on a donut spare tire?
Donut spare tires are also speed limited to around 50 mph (or 80 kmph) as due to their small size they significantly compromise handling and turning at high speeds and increase the braking distance.
The exact speed and distance rating of your specific spare tire will be stamped on the tire’s sidewall.
Never attempt to repair the donut tires and instead replace them with a new spare in case they get damaged as they are meant for temporary use and made of inferior material, so they won’t last even if repaired.
How much does a donut tire cost?
Donut tires are much cheaper than regular-sized spare tires. The price can vary subject to the manufacturer and quality of the tire. The typical price range for a donut tire is as low as $50 for the cheapest ones up to $300(USD) for the premium brands that provide superior quality, performance, and durability.
Donut tires are not the ideal solution for a flat tire, but they do the job temporarily and can prove to be a lifesaver if you’re in a remote area with no help nearby. They shouldn’t be driven any more than they need to and be replaced with a regular tire as soon as possible. They can compromise your and others’ safety on the road if the speed and distance ratings associated with the spares are not adhered to. Remember to regularly check the pressure in your spare donut tire as well when you take your car to check the pressure in regular tires.