How Spare Tires Cause Accidents

July 13th, 2020

If you’re really lucky, you’ll never have to change a flat tire on the side of the road. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get that lucky! But if you’re like most drivers, you may go many years without needing to change a flat, by which time the spare tire in or under your trunk may have outlived its usefulness and even become dangerous.

Being stranded on the side of a busy highway or interstate is not the time you want to discover that you don’t have a way to get your vehicle moving again! By periodically inspecting your spare tire, you can save yourself the headache and the potential risks of driving on a bad spare tire and avoid having to call highway assistance or a tow truck in the future.

Here’s how to know if your spare tire is safe to use.

Check to See if Your Tires Are Expired

That’s right; spare tires can expire! They’ll break down and stop working effectively the older they are, even when they haven’t been used before. Heat like we experience in Louisiana can accelerate how fast the rubber in your spare tire degrades as well. When the rubber degrades too much, it can cause a rupture in the sidewall or tread separation while you’re driving, which can cause a serious accident.

To determine how old your spare tire is (or any of your tires are!), look for the letters “DOT” stamped on the side of the tire. Following this will be a series of letters and numbers. The last four numbers indicate the month and year it was manufactured. All tires compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s laws and regulations for tire manufacturing will have this information printed somewhere on them.

For example, a tire stamped with 2210 was manufactured in the 22nd week of 2010, a.k.a the first week of June in 2010. Conventional wisdom says tires should be replaced every 6-10 years. If your tire is older than 10 years, it should definitely be replaced. If your tire is at least six years old, you should examine it for signs that it may be starting to degrade. 

Signs Your Spare Tire Is Unsafe to Drive On:

  • There are cracks in the rubber.
  • There are bulges or blisters on the sidewall.
  • The tread is excessively worn.
  • The tire has been exposed to dirt, water, or sunlight for long periods (such as full-size tires mounted on the exterior of the vehicle).
  • The tire is flat or severely under the recommended air pressure (compact “donut” tires should be inflated to around 60 PSI).

What Happens When Spare Tires Are the Wrong Size?

New tires are expensive, even spare tires. However, when you find yourself with the unexpected expense of a flat or punctured spare tire that can’t be patched, don’t buy the first affordable aftermarket tire you find. 

Since compact spare tires are not intended to be driven on for days or long stretches at a time, many drivers make the mistake of thinking any tire will do.

This is a dangerous misconception, as not all spare tires fit all vehicles. Putting the wrong size spare on your car can cause serious damage to your vehicle and increase your chances of an accident.

When a tire is too wide, it can rub against other parts of your vehicle and cause damage to the fender, fuel system, electrical components, and even the tire itself.

Furthermore, when you have two tires with different heights on the same axle, it can cause massive damage to your vehicle’s differential. A differential allows your vehicle’s tires to turn at different speeds, which is necessary when making a turn. The outside wheel has a farther distance to travel, so it needs to turn faster to keep pace with the inside wheel. When a differential fails, the wheels can lock up, which is not a situation you want to experience in the middle of the highway or while driving in heavy traffic.

It’s better to do your research to find the right-sized spare for your vehicle, even if it costs a few bucks more, before you end up with an even bigger repair bill!

You should also inspect the spare tire whenever you buy a car, new or used, and regardless of whether you are buying from an individual or from a dealership, to make sure it is the right size.

We Help Drivers After Car Accidents That Weren’t Their Fault

Were you in a car accident after another driver lost control of their vehicle? Or maybe you purchased a defective tire that caused your accident. Whether your accident was the result of a negligent driver or a negligent manufacturer, Dudley DeBosier has made it our mission to help victims who are injured in car accidents through no fault of their own.

Contact our team today for a free consultation on your case.