Got a flat tire? There’s a good chance that just a minor repair can get you back up and running again quickly. Three of the most common of these “minor repairs” are tire plugs, tire patches, and tire plug/patch combos. The first option, a tire plug, is cheap and fast to administer. Plugs work best when you’ve run over a nail or similar blunt object that punctures the tire and causes it to leak air. After the nail or sharp object is removed, the plug can be inserted into the hole to fix the leak. While plugs of the old days were problematic and served more as a band-aid type of repair than anything else, many plugs available today actually vulcanize to the tire to provide better stability.
A patch, on the other hand, is considered to be a better quality tire repair. However, it’s a bit more laborious of a repair than a plug. Patching a tire actually consists of removing the tire from the rim and then using a die grinder to clean up a 2-inch diameter around the puncture to give the patch enough of an area to bond with. The patch is then pushed from inside the tire through the outside of the tire, sealed and let dry.
The best modern tire repair solution is a plug/patch combo product. This is one piece and it combines the best benefits of both options. Any repairs that we do at bestusedtires.com are done using the plug/patch combo.
DIY or Mechanic?
If you purchased your tires from a mechanic or tire-specific business, then chances are they will either plug or patch your tire for free if it develops a leak and a patch or plug can resolve the issue. Many tire-specific businesses will also fix your tire via these means as a way of developing goodwill with you, the customer, so that when it comes to buy new tires you’ll consider purchasing that next set from them. However, outside of these two scenarios, tire patching and plugging isn’t necessarily expensive (usually only $10-$20 a repair), but more of an inconvenience.
DIY: How to Patch/Plug
DIY patching or plugging is an option, yet we’d advise you to be absolutely sure of what you’re doing before going the patching route. The plugging route is fairly simple (and cheap, as plug kits can purchased for just a few dollars), as all you really need to do is locate the hole and insert the plug. Going the patching route is also fairly inexpensive, but there’s a lot more involved. For instance, patching a tire consists of:
- Removing the tire.
- Removing the tire’s valve stem core.
- Separating the tire from the rim.
- Cleaning out the puncture hole (usually with an air die grinder).
- Equipping the grinder with a grinding stone to prepare an area around the puncture.
- Removing dirt/debris around the puncture.
- Administering vulcanized cement to the inner part of the tire.
- Administering the tire patch, working your way from the inside out.
- Sealing the patch.
- Putting the tire back together and back on your car.
What limitations are there with each? Plugs won’t usually work when a puncture is near the sidewall, as it likely won’t be able to completely seal the area. Plugs are also ineffective when the puncture is on an angle. Patches are usually the better recommended option, but they do have their limitations. For instance, if a puncture is greater than a quarter-inch in diameter, a patch will likely be ineffective and the tire may be too damaged to repair.
What’s better – plug or patch? Plugs, when installed correctly and in the right situations, can help a tire last for up to 25,000 additional miles. But while plugs can be effective, usually patches are considered to be the better, more secure option of the two. The patch/plug combo is the safest and most reliable option.
Are plugs just band-aid repairs? Yes and no. Years ago they were and if they aren’t installed correctly or in the right situations today, they still are. However, today’s plugs vulcanize to the tire and can help it last for tens of thousands of miles more.