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This is a pretty common question and I get a lot of conflicting responses from "Extremely dangerous could blow out at any minute" to "I've driven on it for a month". A mechanic at midas told me I could drive on it for a week and be fine.

I'm driving a 1993 Grand Am thats actually in fairly good condition. One of my tires cracked really badly on the side (I knew they were old and was going to replace them, all four).I had it swapped out for the donut tire but I don't know if it is safe for me to drive on the spare until the weekend.

I drive about 24 miles per day to get to and from work. It's the only place I drive to short of a subway just down the street for lunch. It's pretty cold right now and I hear the main danger for donuts is a blow out, reduced traction and more wear and tear.

So in this scenario, is it safe to drive on the donut until the weekend to have it replaced or should take time off in the morning to have it fixed?

This isn't a general question but more so a "In this exact scenario".

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

First, the critical caveat:

You are the driver. You have to make the decision. It ultimately doesn't matter what we say.

Given, that, I would say NO, it is not safe to drive until the weekend. Get the broken tire fixed or replaced as soon as possible.

You have two problems:

  1. Top speed limitation: the donut is top-speed rated for 50 mph (check the sidewall of the donut). That's a hard limit. I would expect failure probabilities to increase rapidly as speed increased. Stories about how someone drove super fast on a donut I regard as the babblings of a lunatic.

  2. Maximum distance: driving until the weekend is three calendar days as of today (Wednesday). At your cited distance, that's at least 72 miles. Check the sidewall of the donut: there's almost certainly a maximum distance cited and it's usually 50 miles (edited: Brian is right in the comments. 70 is less common).

Absolute best case: you'd drive super slowly and go the full 72 miles. At that point, you'd need to get your broken tire fixed and you'd need to purchase a new donut.

Worst case, you try to drive on icy roads on a donut and have a terrible accident. Please don't.

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I drive on city roads the whole way and theres no snow or ice but I wanted a more... specific answer to my situation. Thanks, that helps me make a more informed decision – Shykin Nov 28 '12 at 17:06
Update: Decided to drop my car off at a discount tires my boss recommended to have them replace the one tire. Thanks for the advice – Shykin Nov 28 '12 at 18:15
My manuals both say that the donut spare tire is only good for 50 miles. – Brian Knoblauch Nov 28 '12 at 19:22
@Shykin, I'm being as specific as I can within the information that you originally provided. If you'd like a more specific answer, it helps if you front-load the question with more data. For example, is that the original donut that came with the car? If so, you're asking if you can drive a long way on a twenty year old emergency spare. The answer is still no (only more so). – Bob Cross Nov 28 '12 at 21:07
You were plenty specific, I read plenty of articles on it but wanted to know in my case, so thanks for the advice. – Shykin Dec 13 '12 at 21:20

And, to just add my two bits, make sure that donut spare is properly inflated while you're driving on it! Most spares have a much higher inflation pressure that people do not know about. The spare on my Accord has a max. pressure of 60 PSI. And to significantly decrease the chances of your tire exploding, or wearing poorly, you should have it up around 45-50 PSI. A fully inflated spare is much better able to withstand 50 MPH speeds and prolonged use than a half inflated one. I have checked too many spare tires sitting at just 20 PSI to let that slip.

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This is my testimony. I'm not bragging in any way and will not suggest that anyone take my experience to make a confirmed decision. This was only done in an emergency, well prayed up, situation. My tire blew out in San Antonio Texas and I replaced it with a donut. I drove from San Antonio to VIDALIA GA (mostly via I-10) driving in excess of 70 mph at times. I did not have the knowledge I now have in regards to the max donut speed or max miles to be used. Had I known this information, I would have not even attempted to drive that far or that fast. I thank GOD that I made it home safely.

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Drive it for no more than 50 miles each trip no more than 45 MPH. Reason is because it will get hot and blowout. My tire warranty says the tread life is 3,000 miles. I'm reading all over that they are only good for 100 miles. That is false. Check your warranty or owners manual. Regardless of the miles, if its more than 6 years old it is no good. They do have a shelf life.

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