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Spare Tyre

Is your spare tyre safe to drive on?

Having a tyre puncture can be a really stressful experience. You have to deal with delays, you might miss appointments or work, and you have the unenviable task of changing a tyre in a ditch on the side of the road.

And then there are the worries that can come up in the back of your mind about spare tyres and how safe they are to drive on.

Obviously, a spare tyre is there so you can use it if needed, but in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember all the details. Is a spare tyre actually safe for regular use, or is it something you should never attempt to use unless you’re in an extremely desperate situation like getting stuck in the Outback? Here’s a quick refresher.

What type of spare tyre do you have?

There are two types of spare tyres – regular-size spares that are just like your four regular tyres, and space savers, which are smaller-than-average spares that are strictly for emergency use only and should never be used as a standard road tyre.

If you have a regular-size spare, then you can swap out your punctured tyre for your spare one and drive on. Just be sure to remember to do some essential checks on the tyre before you fit it (more on that in a moment), and also remember to replace the tyre soon, because if you sustain another puncture without a spare, it could be an expensive trip.

If you have a space saver or temporary tyre, it’s a different story.

Space saver tyres cannot be used as a permanent replacement for a regular tyre, and they have lots of limitations. For example, they can only travel approximately 450km maximum before needing to be changed. Space saver tyres should not be used at speeds of more than 80kph, and they don’t grip the road as well as a normal tyre. Your car’s stability, traction, and braking distance may all be affected. That’s why it’s important for this tyre to be swapped out for a regular tyre as soon as possible.

If you do need to put a space saver spare on, keep the precautions mentioned above in mind, and don’t delay getting your punctured tyre repaired or replaced as soon as possible at your local tyre shop.

Spare shouldn’t mean subpar

A spare tyre is like a flashlight or smoke alarm: You won’t need it until you really need it, so ensuring it’s well-maintained and ready for use when the time comes is critical.

Most cars will have a pretty solid buffer or shell between the spare tyre and the rest of the gear you put in your boot day to day, but even so, don’t take this for granted.

If you’re in the habit of dropping the weekly shopping on top of your spare every Friday night or tossing your sports equipment on it every weekend, over time, the risk grows that an air bubble or even a puncture could occur. You might not notice it at that moment, but you certainly will when you’re trying to change your tyre on the side of the road and realise your spare is a dud.

And using a damaged spare tyre could leave you worse off than ever. If you drive on a damaged spare tyre, the risk of a blowout and major accident can really increase significantly. With 30% of car accidents in Australia occurring due to a car running off the road, a blowout can come with no warning but result in a serious accident. Keeping your spare tyre in good working order guards against this risk, and keeps both you and those around you safe.

Replace all tyres at the same time

In addition to treating your spare tyre with care, keep it in mind when it comes time to get a new set of regular tyres. If your vehicle has a full-size spare, you may be rotating it along with your four main tyres. If so, it will probably be pretty worn down by the time you’re ready for a new set, so make sure you buy an extra matching spare.

This can mean a little more upfront cost, but it’s well worth the peace of mind. It can also save time over the long run if you replace all five tyres in one go, instead of having to make multiple trips over time to replace your regular set and your spare.

Knowing what type of spare you have, maintaining it, and knowing how to use it properly are all factors in feeling safe driving on it. But if you’re in doubt about the condition of your spare tyre for any reason, or it seems worn or damaged, then it’s best to just leave it in the boot and call for roadside assistance.

Some drivers may feel a bit embarrassed at making a call for someone to put on their spare, but it’s essentially the same thing as an F1 or IndyCar driver getting the pit crew out for a change. And while a flat tyre isn’t great, getting into a crash because you used a dud tyre would be far worse. So be proactive, play it cautious, and make the call if you feel the need to.

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Posted 11/04/2023