Space saver wheel rules explained for your car

In the past, cars would typically come fitted with a full-size spare wheel in the event of a puncture, but as car manufacturers strive to cut weight and save space, these are often be replaced by a space saver wheel as a spare.

Sot what are the rules for driving on a space saver tyre? We take a look at what the replacement tyre is capable of and how to ensure safe motoring.

A space saver spare wheelDo you know the rules around space saver spare wheels on your car?  (Credit: Michael Sheehan)

What are space saver spare wheels (SSW)?

Space saver wheels are the emergency spare tyre option fitted to many cars that can be used in the event of a puncture or damaged wheel. The wheel and tyre is typically much thinner than the car's usual running gear.

Are these spare wheels safe for use on the road?

SSWs supplied by a manufacturer with a vehicle are legal for use UK roads. They are also safe to use - as long as drivers understand how they work and adhere to restrictions that apply. Such tyres are not suitable for continued use in place of a standard wheel and tyre.

What is the maximum speed for a car with a space SSW fitted?

There is no maximum speed limit for a vehicle fitted with one of these spare wheels, but they should all come with a speed restriction marked on them - typically 80km/h or 50mph. Check your owners' manual for full details.

How far can I drive with this type of spare wheel fitted?

There is no official regulations that dictate how far you can drive with a SSW fitted to your car. However, 50 miles is considered to be the maximum that can be safely driven while using one.

SSWs have less tread depth on the tyre, and this will also wear away fast than on a standard tyre because of it's narrow width.

Drivers should also be aware that tread depth rules apply to spare tyres of this type in the same way as they do to standard wheels - so driving with less than the legal requirement will leave leave open to being fined and given penalty points.

Handling ability will also be hit, with the car’s cornering grip reduced by 10-15 per cent.

Is it legal to use one on a motorway?

It is perfectly legal to use a SSW on a motorway, but travelling at 50mph is likely to put you at risk. Try to stick to the left-hand inside lane as much as possible.

Try to avoid driving on motorways when a space saver wheel is fitted to your car.

Can theses spare wheels be used on the front and back axle of a car?

Some vehicles have restriction on where the thinner spare wheels can be used - this could be due to braking systems etc - so they might only be permitted for use on the front or back axles. Check the vehicle's handbook before fitting.

No more than one such wheel and tyre should be fitted to a car at one time .

Will the car's handling feel different with one of these spare wheels fitted?

If you keep to the speed restriction for the wheel, you should not notice any significant handling problems, but exceed this speed and your vehicle is like to have severely restricted cornering and braking capabilities.

Remember to check your spare wheel's air pressure regularly

Like all wheels with pneumatic tyres - as most of these tyres have - SSWs can also leak air from the tyre. So, avoid the possibility of a dangerously under-inflated spare by checking the tyre's air pressure at regular intervals.

Can I take my MOT with a SSW fitted?

If you present a car for an MOT test with a SSW fitted, the vehicle will fail the test. It is also worth remembering that your spare wheel will not be looked at during the vehicle's MOT test - so you will need to regularly check it yourself.

Can I take my driving test with a SSW fitted to the test car?

You cannot take a UK driving test if you have one of these spare wheels fitted to the car being used for the practical test. 

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