Ever feel like a fifth wheel in a group? Good, because when its time comes, it’s the most important wheel on—or rather in—your car. Tucked away in the trunk, we tend to forget about the spare tire, and the basic periodical maintenance it requires. Here’s a guide for getting to know your spare tire and looking after it now so it’ll be ready when you need it most.
You may have heard spare tires called donuts and vice versa, but they’re different items. A spare tire is just that—a full-size tire that can replace any of the four working tires, though it might be slightly smaller than the others. A donut, however, is smaller than a spare, under greater pressure, and looks like a toy wheel. Remember spares and donuts are only temporary fixes, meant to get you to a mechanic or tire shop for repairs. That’s that. Note: newer cars may not come with a spare or a donut. Consider investing in one.
Grace Under Pressure?
Whether you have a donut or spare tire, it needs to be kept inflated. Whenever you stop at the gas station to give the tires a breath of fresh air, so to speak, check the pressure on the donut or spare. If you blow a tire on the highway or a remote country road, you don’t want to discover a second flat in the trunk. Check for leaks by immersing the tire in soapy water. Look at the treads too, though you’ll note that spares and donuts have little to no tread in comparison with regular tires. Regardless, take a look while getting to know your spare tire. You’ll need traction.
Slow and Steady; This Isn’t a Race!
Sorry, you may fantasize about being in a pit crew while replacing a blown tire, but this isn’t the Daytona 500. After putting on the spare or donut, you aren’t back in the race, and you certainly don’t want to travel at top speeds. Don’t drive further than 50 miles or faster than 50 mph on a donut or spare. If you do, the only destination you’ll need to reach is a mechanic or tire shop where it can be replaced immediately. Driving too long on a donut can put a lot of pressure on your car, and especially your differential.
Donut You (Forget About Me)
When it comes time for your car’s regularly scheduled checkup, oil change, or the like, most service providers already have your tires on their radar. Just in case, mention it to them, and ask them to check up on your donut or spare. Even if it’s just resting in the trunk, weather, age, and use (however brief) can affect performance, and after a few years it might be time for a new one. Final note: when getting a tire replaced, make sure the shop gives back your spare or donut. You don’t want to buy a new one if you don’t have to.