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How to Easily Plug a Flat Tire

Knowing how to plug a flat tire is one skill that everyone should know. You never know when it’ll come in handy.

If you can change a tire, there’s a good chance you have the skills to fix it too. However, it’s essential to know the proper procedure and what tools you need to ensure you do it right.

Flats rarely occur at convenient times, and you don’t want to get stranded because you didn’t take the time to learn. Today, we’ll walk you through how to repair a tire.

Let’s jump in!

What Is a Tire Plug?

A tire plug is a rubber device designed to repair small punctures. The piece of rubber gets placed inside the punctured areas to seal the hole. This prevents air escaping, and the wheel can maintain the proper air pressure.

They’re typically a temporary solution for drivers to get to a shop safely. However, when properly installed, they can allow the wheel to reach its whole lifespan. This could be thousands of additional miles after the damage.

When Should You Plug a Flat Tire?

Knowing when to plug a flat tire is crucial because it’s not always the best option. You should only attempt this method when a hole is less than ⅛” wide and the puncture is in the tread section. If you’re doing the work yourself, it’s best to head to the shop as soon as possible to ensure you installed it correctly.

If the puncture is too large, there’s a solid chance it won’t hold. You don’t want to get up to 60 or 70 mph and experience a failure. This could cause a risky situation that likely won’t end well. You could end up with more than just a damaged wheel.

Tire plug in tire
Don’t let a small puncture in your tire stop you from hitting the road.

Is It Safe to Plug a Flat Tire?

When done correctly, it’s safe to plug a flat. Unfortunately, knowing whether it was installed correctly can be challenging. It often requires removing the wheel from the vehicle and the rim to inspect the inside.

If installed incorrectly, it could cause a blowout and quickly lose pressure. You could find yourself in an unsafe situation, depending on the circumstances. When in doubt, it’s best to replace the tire. Regarding your safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How Long Can You Drive on a Plugged Flat Tire?

Driving on a repaired flat tire can be risky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re not confident in your skills, limit your speed and distance as much as possible. Hitting a hard bump or pothole could cause a flat, which could create an accident.

On the other hand, a properly installed plug can bring it back to life. This could give you thousands of additional miles before replacement is necessary.

Is It Better to Plug or Patch a Flat Tire?

Tire plugs and patches are two of the most common methods for repairing flats. Each can be effective and have benefits and disadvantages. Patching is typically the more reliable and durable method for fixing a flat.

While patching a flat may be more effective, it’s not nearly as easy to do, especially on the side of the road. It requires removing the wheel from the rim and inspecting the inside. You’ll need to apply a patch to the inside and then reinstall the wheel onto the rim and the vehicle. This is not something the average individual can handle.

Combining both is the best option for these repairs. This gives a solid level of protection against future failures at the puncture. Under normal driving circumstances, this method can give you the best shot of getting the full life out of your wheel.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have the best of the best for your wheels. We uncovered the answer to Where Can You Buy the Best Tires?

Tire being repaired
Knowing how to plug a flat tire is a useful skill for drivers to know.

How to Plug a Flat Tire

If you want to plug a flat, you’ll need several tools and skills. If you’re uncomfortable using a jack to lift your vehicle to remove the wheel, you’ll want to take your car to a shop for this repair. However, you can easily handle this repair if you can put on a spare.

Remove the Tire and Find the Cause of the Leak

First, grab a jack and take the weight off the wheel. After a minute or two of cranking, you’ll see it lift off the ground. Ensure you loosen the lug nuts before getting the wheel completely off the ground. This will allow you to get enough leverage, which makes it easier to loosen the lugs.

After loosening the lugs, raise the jack until the damaged wheel is off the ground. You can remove the lug nuts and slide the wheel off the studs. Now, you want to start inspecting for damage and any punctures or objects stuck in the rubber. You’ll have to remove these before you plug the flat tire.

Remove the Debris and Clean the Puncture

If the debris causing the leak is still present, you may need to use a set of pliers to grab it and pull it out. Make sure you pull in the same direction that the object went into the rubber to help avoid causing any more damage.

After removing the debris, you must use a reaming tool to clean and slightly enlarge the hole. This allows the filler to fit snugly and gives it the best chance to stay in place. Insert the reaming tool into the hole and pull it in and out several times.

Once you’ve finished cleaning the puncture, you’ll need to start preparing the plug. This requires you to pass it through the eye of the insertion tool. You can then apply rubber cement to it.

Insert the Plug and Pull Through

Now comes the critical step of inserting the plug into the puncture. You want to push it through the hole until about half an inch remains visible. However, don’t push it entirely through the puncture.

Next, remove the insertion tool by pulling it straight out of the puncture. When done correctly, the rubber piece should remain and seal the puncture hole.

Close up of car tire
When done correctly, plugging a flat tire is a safe solution to get back on the road quickly.

Cut off Excess

Now that the plug is in the tire, it’s time to trim away excess material. All you’ll need to do this is a pair of sharp scissors. Don’t forget that sharp objects and rubber wheels don’t go together. You may have to start the process over if the two get too close to each other.

Leave about a 1/8-inch piece of rubber sticking out. This will quickly wear down and become level with the rest of the surface.

Inflate the Tire

The next step is to grab an air compressor or portable inflator and fill the tire to the recommended pressure on the sidewall. You can also find the suggested PSI in your owner’s manual and the driver’s side door jam placard.

Take your time inflating and listen for any signs of leaks. If it cannot hold air at this pressure, putting it back on your vehicle and driving won’t be safe.

Check Results

The best way to check the results is to fill a spray bottle with soapy water. Spray the mixture onto the plugged flat tire and look for any signs of bubbles forming. Bubbles indicate that air is slowly leaking. While it may be holding air for now, it won’t be long before it’s flat.

If you’ve got a leak, you must put on a spare and take the damaged wheel to the nearest shop for a replacement. If you don’t have a spare, you should make other arrangements to get it to the repair shop. 

Pro Tip: Can’t patch up your tire? Find out How Long Can You Drive on a Spare Tire?

Should You Plug a Flat Tire?

There are certain situations where plugging a flat tire is incredibly safe. When done correctly, it can help you avoid a costly repair without sacrificing safety. However, it can create a hazardous and potentially deadly situation when not done correctly.

If you choose to do the work yourself, make sure you know what you’re doing and take the time to do it right the first time.

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