Have you ever had a deflated tire with no spare, and your mechanic installed a tire plug and inflated the tire, and that solved the issue?
Do you wonder what this tire plug is, if it’s safe and how long a tire plug lasts? Then, search no further, because we have the answers to your questions.
A tire plug is a tacky substance, that gets placed in a hole in the tire from the outer area. Although driving on plugged tires, can be a health hazard for you and other passengers on the road, there are certain instances when it is safe to do so. The safe distance to drive on tire plugs is about 8 miles.
This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about the tire plug, the steps to install it, when it’s not safe to plug a tire, and the cost of plugging a tire.
Let’s get started!
How Long Does a Tire Plug Last?
When properly installed, your tire plug would easily last up to 5 years, but most professionals say the tire plug can even last for seven to ten years. The tire should, however, only be plugged in the case where the hole is not too large, and also if the puncture isn’t located on the shoulder of the tire, or the sidewall.
Indeed, a plugged tire can truly last for many years, but this will only be so if it’s installed properly, and if it isn’t severely punctured. Also, a tire should never be plugged more than once, as this may hamper the speed rating and potentially result in a blowout.
What is a Tire Plug?
A tire plug can be defined as a tacky and expandable material, that gets placed or stuffed in a tire hole from the outer region. The plug is wedged in until air stops being expelled from the tire.
The plug must be sturdy and must be able to easily remain intact – to enable the tire to be re-inflated with air at a local repair store, or even filled with portable air.
Fortunately, the tire plug can stay in a tire temporarily while purchasing a new one, or until the plug can be replaced with a better patch.
Buying a used or new tire with a lot of treads is the ideal situation. As we earlier mentioned, a plug could last for a long time, but getting a used or new tire is much better, to avoid blowouts.
Is Installing a Tire Plug Safe?
It is necessary to consider if it’s safe for a tire plug to be installed, before asking how long a plugged tire will last. There are instances when it’s safe to plug a tire. However, driving with plugged tires can be hazardous not only to you but also to other passengers that are on the road.
To determine if it’s applicable to plug a tire, you must consider the tire’s tread, the puncture’s dimensions, and how severe the damage is.
The tire damage (hole) must be located on the tire’s tread, and should not have a size greater than 6.35mm. If the tire’s puncture is situated on the shoulder or sidewall, the tire would have to be replaced.
Moreover, the puncture’s angle is also a major factor, when determining the plug’s effectiveness. Usually, whatever punctured your car’s tires went straight into it, making the fix quite straightforward.
However, a puncture that leans towards an angle, would make it very difficult to properly seal the hole. Note the angle with which the nail or screw entered your tire, and how it looks inside it.
The tire’s age and quality are two very relevant factors. If the tire tread is under 1/16 of one inch, you should know that you cannot plug the tread.
You may wonder what an unusual measurement of 1/16 or 2/32 of one inch is, but the classic penny test can be used to understand this.
You must ensure that your tire passes this test, before considering how it can be plugged. If the tire fails the test, you would have to replace it.
Also Read: Can You Use Power Steering Fluid for Brake Fluid?
How to Plug a Car Tire
Step 1: Locate the Leak
- Pump sufficient air into the tire to fill it out. The tire must be firm.
- Locate the tire leak by closely examining the tire. You don’t have to detach your tire from your vehicle to do this, but it might be easier if you lift the car using a car jack. This would allow rotation, and also take the weight off your wheel.
- Prepare an 80% water and 20% soap solution, and place the solution in a clean spray bottle. If the detected leak isn’t obvious, Methodically apply the solution to the wheel. . If there’s a leak, bubbles will form.
- Remove any nail, stray metal, or screw that is lodged in the tire using pliers.
Step 2: Ream Puncture Hole
- Ream the puncture hole, by pushing the T-handle reaming tool into the hole, and working it down and up numerous times, while constantly rotating it. This will make the hole wider, and clean the puncture’s inner surface to make it receive the tire plug better.
- Remove the reaming tool, then inspect the puncture hole. If it’s not completely round and uniform, reinsert the reaming tool, then continue to work it down and up some more times.
- If the puncture is tiny, you may be unable to insert the tool. Alternatively, you could make use of a hand-held drill. The drill bit you’ll choose should be slightly smaller in size than the diameter of the reaming tool. Enlarge the hole by drilling with the bit, then roughen up the sides using the T-handle reaming tool.
Step 3: Make the Plug Ready
- Check your tire plugging kit for a plug strip, and pass the strip through the eyelet of your plug insertion tool. Use the pliers to pull the strip from the eyelet’s other side, until it’s evenly distributed on the two sides.
- Tire-sealing cement should then be layered over the whole plug strip. Repeat this with the hole in your tire.
Step 4: Insert the Strip
- Slowly slide the plug insertion tool into the hole. If it’s resisting, do not worry; just continue pushing unrelentingly.
- Insert the tire plug to a depth, such that about one inch of the plug remains outside your tire. Then, slowly push the handle of the tool upwards. Although the tool will slide out, the tire plug will remain inside the tire.
Step 5: Pump the Tire
- Attach an air compressor or pump to the tire, and fill it with air below the max rated pressure of 10%.
- Confirm there’s no more leak, using the soap and water solution.
Step 6: Trim the Excess
- Using a dry paper towel, clean off any extra sealing cement found around the tire plug.
- Let the tire rest for about 5 minutes.
- Use wire cutters to snip off almost all the excess tire plugs. Let about 1/8″ stick out.
Step 7: Conduct a Final Leak Test
- Check if bubbles still form, when spraying the soapy water on the plugged area. If there are no bubbles, the process is properly carried out, and the tire plug is well placed.
- Lower the vehicle, extract the car jack, and then continue driving immediately.
There are varying opinions on whether a tire plug repair is a temporary fix or not, but certain mechanics believe it is a permanent fix. It is, however, still recommended that you take your tire to be fixed at a tire shop.
When Should You Not Plug a Tire?
In some instances, the tire can’t be patched or plugged. So, when should you plug your tire or NOT?
If the tire was punctured by a blunt object such as a nail, glass, or sharp metal- then your tire can certainly be repaired- only if the puncture isn’t on the tire’s wall, but on the tire’s tread.
In addition, the puncture shouldn’t have a diameter of more than a fourth of one inch.
As we earlier stated, if the hole of a tire is on the tire’s sides or in the tire’s wall, the tire can’t be plugged (or even patched).
In this case, you will have to purchase a brand-new tire. As painful as it may be to read this, you must always consider “safety first”!
Is there more than just one puncture or hole in your tire? You can still get your tire repaired or plugged if the holes are more than 16″ apart.
If the space between them is less, you must purchase another tire. If your tire succumbed to severe damage, and there are large cuts or some major tread separation, then the tire must be thrown out and another one purchased.
We know there’s never any convenient time for you to get a new tire after a tire puncture, but jeopardizing your safety to avoid spending a little money, is never advisable.
Is It Better to Plug a Tire or Patch It?
It’s best to plug a tire, when a driver runs over a nail or blunt object that pokes or punctures the tire, resulting in an air leak.
After the nail or blunt object has been removed, the professional will insert a tire plug into the puncture, to repair the leak so that air will stop being expelled from the tire.
It was slightly difficult to insert plugs in the past – plugs were a “band-aid” solution to repairing a tire. However, some “advancements” have been made today, to make a plugged tire last a little longer.
Patching a tire is seen as a better option when fixing a tire. Although the patch generally has better quality, more work and labor are required in this process, when compared to the work involved in simply plugging your tire. You can therefore expect to spend some more money.
After a tire has been patched and detached from the tire rim, the tire professional will clean a 2″ diameter region around the tire puncture using a die grinder.
This ensures the patch has a sufficient bond. The professional will then take the tire patch, and push it from the inner side of the tire to the outside the tire. He then seals the patch and lets it dry for a while.
How Much Does a Tire Plug Cost?
Although it will cost you between $10 and $20 to repair a tire at any repair shop, it costs about $9 to purchase your repair kit. Depending on the shop, you may even get your tire fixed, at no cost.
Also Read: How Much Does Coolant Leak Repair Cost?
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you drive on a tire with a tire plug?
An average of 8 miles, is a safe distance to travel with tire plugs.
Can you fix a flat tire permanently by plugging it?
String Repairs and Tire Plugs are merely Temporary Repairs.
An emergency roadside tire plug repair is NOT supposed to be permanent. String repairs and plugs, are intended to help you continue driving safely until you get back home, or drive to the nearest service center to properly repair your tire.
How long does a rubber tire plug last?
As stated by tire experts, if you properly plug a tire, the tire could last anywhere from 7 to 10 years. Tire plugs generally have a long-lasting period, but a tire should never be plugged or patched twice. This can reduce your speed rating, and make a blowout more likely to occur.
Is it OK to plug a tire?
It’s safe to continue driving with plugged tires for a short period because this repair is intended to allow you to drive the vehicle, so the car can be driven to a tire store.
You should only use a tire plug when the holes are small – with a diameter not exceeding ¼ inch. In addition, tire plugs can be used, only when the puncture is on the tire’s tread, not near or on the tire’s sidewalls.
If a tire is satisfactory and the tire plug is installed properly, the plug can last for up to ten years or more. However, you should always remember that, if a tire is worn-out or has been previously repaired, it can’t maintain constant air pressure, and even if it isn’t plugged, it will most likely blow.
The puncture’s location matters, because the tire can’t be repaired if the hole is situated on the shoulder and the sidewall. The puncture’s severity will dictate whether or not plugging the tire will be a sufficient fix. If not, you can purchase a brand-new set of tires.