o matter how much work and care you put into maintaining your vehicle, there's always going to be a caveat—you may know what's under the hood, but you never really know what's on the road.
The hazards of the road are many, and they come in all shapes and sizes. If you're cautious, alert, and safe, you can avoid many pitfalls that you come across. But there will always be small, sharp objects that can slow you down and cause damage to your tires.
That damage isn't always the end of the line for your tire, though. Under the right circumstances, a patch or a plug can give your tire new life and get you back on the road, saving you time and the cost of a brand new tire.
You can save money by repairing your own tires instead of buying new ones. Read how much it costs to patch a tire blog to get more tips!
Should You Plug or Patch Your Tire?
Running over a nail with a brand-new, perfect tire can be very upsetting, but it can be common in under-construction areas like the perpetually under-construction I-4. How should the tire be repaired in instances like this? Should you replace or repair it, and what are the reasons to use a tire plug vs. patch? We're going to talk about tire plugs and patches, why you would choose one over the other and the limits of these kinds of repairs.
Tire Patch or Tire Plug
Flat tires can happen at any time and can make you feel helpless. But if you are armed with some information and quick fixes, you should be back on the road quickly.
If you notice that your tire is flat but still has some air in it, you might be able to fix it with a tire patch as long as the hole is not in the sidewall. However, you should never drive on a tire that is more than ten pounds low on air. If the leak allows the rest of the air out, you could end up driving on the rim, which will cause damage. So what should you do when it seems like your tire is low?
Find the Leak
Jack the vehicle up using the jack points closest to the tire. Slowly rotate the tire to find the problem. If you don't see an object sticking out of the tire or a hole, there's a trick to discovering the leak. Make a mixture of liquid soap and water. As you brush the water on the tire, the mixture will create bubbles where the hole is located. If you mark the hole with chalk or white shoe polish, you can easily find it again.
Plug the Hole
If the hole was caused by a nail or screw and is small, you can plug the tire, but larger holes will need to be patched. A tire plug kit contains two T handles: One has a point and a rough shaft, and the other has an "eye" at the end.
Air the tire up to about five pounds over the recommended pressure. Next, thread a plug through the eye on the smooth-shafted T handle. Insert the T handle without the eye into the hole in the tire. Push it in and pull it out three or four times. Remove the T handle and then push the plug-loaded T handle into the hole in the tire so that the plug is inside the tire. Pull the T handle out. The plug will stay in the tire and will be visible.
Patch the Tire
While you can patch a tire yourself, bringing your car to a tyre shop may be better. This is because you must first remove the tire to install the tire patch and then remove the tire from the rim. While it's possible to do this yourself, it can get pretty complicated.
If the hole is too big to plug, you shouldn't try to drive. A hole that's big enough for a patch will leak quickly. The easiest and best thing to do to avoid damaging your rim is to bring the tire to a tire repair centre.
If you must drive the vehicle, remove the damaged tire and wheel, and install the spare. If you have another mode of transportation, remove the tire and wheel, and bring it to a tire repair centre to be repaired safely.
Driving on a Patch or Plug
You can drive for many miles on a plug or patch. However, if you notice another leak, it may be time to head to a service centre. If you need a second tire patch, the tire is ready to be replaced.
Safety is always the number one priority. A tire patch can help with a small leak, but it's time for a replacement if more than one is needed.
When Is it Okay to Patch a Tire?
How Quickly Can You Address the Problem?
Like many maintenance concerns with your vehicle, timing is everything with a deflated tire. But in this case, your timing needs to be immediate if at all possible.
Standard tires should never be driven while low on air, especially if they're all the way flat. This will cause scuffing to the tire's inboard and outboard sidewalls, which could lead to having to replace the tire completely rather than patching or plugging the leak.
What Kind of Damage, and How Big Is It?
The next thing you need to find out is whether you're dealing with a cut or a puncture.
If it's a cut, you're going to need a new tire unless the cut is ¼ of an inch or less. This is because cuts can sever the steel cords within the tire, which give the tires their strength. Patching a cut of this calibre would prevent an air leak, but it wouldn't restore the tire's strength.
If you're dealing with a puncture, though, you may be in luck. Tire patches are designed to repair round holes, after all. But, again, ¼ of an inch or less is the sweet spot for repairs; anything over that size in diameter is too big of a puncture.
Where Is the Damage Located on the Tire?
Size isn't all that matters for repairing a puncture, though. You'll also need to make sure the damage is within a specific area on the tread face of the tire, between the outer grooves (no closer than two inches of the sidewall, if your tire doesn't have circumferential grooves).
If the puncture is on the sidewall of the tire, you'll need a replacement. This is because the tire's sidewall often flexes while you drive, and one flex too many will loosen the patch. The same logic goes for the shoulder, which flexes most of any part of the tire.
If your tire meets these requirements, congratulations, you may save a trip to the mechanic and a few bucks. If you are patching the tire yourself, though, you will have to de-mount the tire from the rim so you can see the inside of the tire as you repair it. And remember, you should always follow your kit instructions.
What Kind of Tire Damage Can Be Repaired?
Can You Repair a Punctured Car Tire?
Puncture location and severity of damage can often decide between getting a tire repaired vs. replaced. For example, if you've got a tire that's been punctured in the tread area and it doesn't measure more than 1/4 of an inch (6mm) in diameter, a simple repair may do the trick.
If the tire has two punctures, getting a tire repaired may still be an option as long as the punctures are at least 16 inches apart and the maximum number of repairs does not exceed a total of 2 in the tire. No more punctures than that, and you should consider getting a new tire. Punctured tires will likely need to be replaced if:
- The puncture is more than a ¼ inch in diameter
- There's a puncture in the sidewall or shoulder of the tire
- You have multiple punctures that are less than 16 inches apart
Can You Repair a Run Flat Tire?
Durable run-flats, such as Bridgestone DriveGuard tires, can often buy you a little more time in a flat tire situation. But if driven on with less than 15PSI, they may not be repairable. To prevent this issue on run-flats and otherwise, avoid driving your vehicle if you have a flat or are low on air.
Can Tires With Side Bubbles Be Repaired?
If you notice a bubble in your tire's sidewall, this has likely been incurred by high-impact damage. Factors like driving on a flat, hitting a pothole or curb the wrong way, riding over speed bumps or railroad crossings too quickly, or overloading your tires can all lead to this issue. Although this tiny bulge may not seem intimidating, tires with side bubbles are not repairable, and you should have the tire replaced as soon as possible.
Can You Repair Tires That Have Existing Repairs?
Repaired tires can often be mended again if the damage doesn't compromise a previously repaired area. For example, if you have a nail-in-tire situation, you may be able to do a quick repair if the puncture location doesn't overlap with a previous tire injury and the repair was done properly. However, if it does overlap, you will likely need a replacement.
Can You Repair a Tire After a Car Accident?
Often, affected tires will need to be replaced following a major incident. For example, if the tire has sustained serious damage in a crash, such as significant cuts or tread separation, it should be replaced, not repaired.
Tempting Tire Repair No-Nos
You might be tempted to do a quick fix when you do have a flat or damaged tire. Here are two that can be used in an emergency or short-term situations but shouldn't be considered long-term tire repairs:
Should You Use Sealants or Emergency Inflators?
These fast fixes are a double-edged sword. They'll help you get your car to a local Firestone Complete Auto Care, but don't count on them to keep you on the road for very long. Tire sealants can freeze in cold weather, damage your tire pressure monitoring system, and prove ineffective at repairing any tire damage that's more serious than a slow leak or small hole. It's also important to note that our technicians will not fix punctures in tires with temporary emergency sealants.
When Can You Patch up a Flat Tire?
Again, these are quick fixes that aren't meant to enable long-term use of a punctured or damaged tire. When considering a flat tire patch or replacement, remember that a patch doesn't fill in the hole left by a puncture — while a plug doesn't offer a permanent seal—in short, patching or plugging alone are never adequate long-term solutions. That's why at Firestone, our technicians can use a patch-plug combo to provide an adequate long-term solution for some tire punctures.
Important Facts You Should Know About Tires
- While you can purchase your kit and repair the tire on your own, it is recommended that, if possible, you go to a licensed repair shop.
- You have a host of options when determining a specific kit to fit your repair needs.
- If your tire happens to endure sidewall damage, you should replace your time. Failing to do so can result in damaging your tire even further. Sidewalls cannot be plugged.
- While repairing your tire at a shop will run you anywhere between $10 to $20, purchasing your kit will cost you about $9. Depending on what shop, you might have the pleasure of getting your tire repaired free of charge.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tire
Tire repair refers to the process of replacing a faulty tire with a new one or simply repairing a tiny puncture. While it sounds like a job anyone with two hands can handle, it's recommended to go to a shop that specialises in repairing tires to ensure that you get your problem solved completely.
Years ago, car owners frequently dealt with the extra hassle of repairing their tires due to the quality.
However, thanks to the manufacturers and present-day technology, tires are meant to withstand even the worst conditions on the road.
While this holds much truth, it is not uncommon for people to find themselves needing to have their tire(s) repaired due to weather or other hazards on the road.
While a tire repair won't cost you an arm and a leg, it will cost you a bit of your time. If you're looking into having a puncture repaired on a tire, you're looking at spending on average between $10 to $20.
The puncture size makes a huge difference and will determine the amount you will spend on getting your tire repaired.
A tire plug is exactly what it sounds like; a sticky expandable plug that is inserted into the puncture in hopes of keeping the injury secure long enough for the tire to re-inflate with air.
A patch is also pretty self-explanatory when it comes to description. Better known as a radial patch, this piece of material is used to seal up the damaged tire. Unfortunately, due to the heat caused by driving, the patch eventually melts into the tire, completely erasing all repair notices.
Most vehicles are equipped with a spare tire if you happen to be running on a flat. However, in some cases, you might have to go to your local car shop to purchase a tire, depending on the circumstances.