Spare Tire: Out Of Sight But (Hopefully) Not Out Of Mind
Does your spare tire show signs of age–lack of air cracks and thin tread? Take a look before your next road trip.
A spare tire, also known as a “temporary tire,” is out of sight and easy to forget. Yet, all of the problems and precautions needed for your regular tires also apply to spare tires.
Consider: Your spare tire has one job to do; that is, it allows you to get to a service station when you’ve had a tire problem.
According to a AAA study, almost one-third of vehicles no longer come with a spare tire. That presents problems for families planning a road trip.
“The relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside has turned into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility,” says John Nielsen, managing director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair.
Lacking a spare can put families in aggravating situations, Nielsen says.
Further, some automakers are including tire-inflator kits that can temporarily repair small punctures in flat tires. A study conducted by AAA discovered tire-inflator kits cannot provide a temporary fix for tire-related problems such as sidewall damage or blowouts.
Spare tires also get neglected, according to the US Tire Manufacturers Association. Most drivers never check their spare tires for proper inflation.
Exposure to elements also creates potential problems for spare tires. They are sometimes stored under vehicles, in the trunk or somewhere else exposed to the elements.
As a result, they need to be properly maintained so they are ready when you need them. Drivers should check pressure on all tires--including the spare--about once a month, tire experts say.
Consider: Temporary tires aren’t built as ruggedly as the standard tires. They aren’t steel-belted, and they don’t have the same durability and speed capability of a regular tire.
The places spare tires are stored—such as trunks, outside and under the vehicle—expose them to heat and weather. Yet, using temporary tires properly and keeping them pressurized ensure that they can be kept for years.
Spare tire replacement is recommended whenever they show signs of wear such as cracking, sidewall damage (bubbles), and worn tread.
What should drivers know about maintaining temporary tires? Spare tire guidelines:
- Do not assume your vehicle includes a spare tire. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, ask whether it comes with a spare tire or, if not, whether you can purchase a spare suited to your vehicle.
- Limit vehicle speed to 50 miles per hour when using the spare. The smaller size of some spare tires makes driving at faster speeds hazardous.
- Avoid quick maneuvers and cornering too fast wherever possible. Spare tires simply do not handle as well as full-sized tires. Temporary tires are usually a basic tread pattern and can be used in wet surfaces, but the pattern and size is not built for speed or maneuvering.
- Check your temporary tire for information on mileage. In general, temporary tires should not be driven for more than 50 to 100 miles.
- Do not use temporary tires as a replacement for full-sized standard tires designed for your specific vehicle. They are intended for emergency use only.
- Replace spare tires whenever they show signs of wear or damage (tread wear, bubbles on sidewall, cracks in the rubber).
- Ask your service advisor if it’s time to replace your spare tire. Spare tire lifespan varies between six to 10 years.
- Inspect spare tire inflation every time your vehicle’s tires are rotated (about every 5,000 - 8,000 miles).
- Check the sidewall of your spare tire for required air pressure. Compact spare tires typically hold more air than traditional full-size spares (as much as 60 PSI). According to tire experts, underinflated or overinflated spare tires may cause tire failure.
- Find out before your next adventure whether your vehicle actually has a spare. Some 30% of new vehicles do not, and your family should put together a backup plan in case of a tire accident.
“Make it a priority to check vehicle’s equipment and know what to do if faced with a flat tire,” Nielsen says.