We study the nonlinear asymptotic thin disc approximation to the mean field dynamo equations, as applicable to spiral galaxies. The circumstances in which sharp magnetic field structures (fronts) can propagate radially are investigated, and an expression for the speed of propagation derived. We find that the speed of an interior front is proportional to η/R* (where η is the diffusivity and R* the galactic radius), whereas an exterior front moves with speed of order √γη, where γ is the local growth rate of the dynamo. Numerical simulations are presented, that agree well with our asymptotic results. Further, we perform numerical experiments using the 'no-z' approximation for thin disc dynamos, and show that the propagation of magnetic fronts in this approximation can also be understood in terms of our asymptotic results.