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How to Plug a Car Tire (The Easy Newbie Guide)

last updated September 26, 2018 by

Have you just noticed a slow leak in your car tire but can’t fix it because you don’t have a spare in your trunk? Perhaps you noticed this problem while driving to an important business meeting and you can’t risk getting late by driving to a tire shop for a replacement. However, if you know how to plug a tire, you’ll arrive safely and on time.

How long does it take to plug a tire? It will take you approximately 10 minutes if this is your first time. So, sit tight and learn how to plug car tires like a pro!

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how to plug a tire

1. Three important questions about plugging tires

1. Is it safe to plug a car tire?

Yes, it is because it prevents slow leaks from turning into flat tires. A slow leak is dangerous because it brings about instability. A car with uneven wheels has a high chance of tipping over when negotiating sharp corners because the bad tire causes uneven weight distribution.

A slow leaking tire forces your car to use up more fuel when carrying weight in your trunk. Why? Because the irregular shaped tire requires more energy to rotate compared to a good one. Adding weight puts more strain on your bad wheel.

When should you plug a tire? If the car tire is new or covered less than 50,000 miles. Avoid plugging car tires with holes larger than a quarter inch in diameter. In addition, tires that already have plugs need replacements.

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2. Is it better to plug or patch a car tire?

Tire plugs only provide temporary relief. You’ll still need to get a new tire once you receive your paycheck. Plugging cannot address problems affecting the inner walls. Such as a higher rate of wear and tear on the inner part due to friction between the tire’s walls and rims.

It’s wrong to plug a hole that’s on or very close to the tire’s side walls. The constant expansion during tire rotation will force out your tire plug. If it goes unchecked, this hole turns into splits. It’s also unsafe to plug a bald car tire because wear and tear make the tire very thin. You need a thick tire to secure your plug firmly.

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What is patching? It’s a process of repairing holes and slow leaks on car tires using pieces of rubber smeared with special adhesives. Patching is better than plugging because it helps you to spot any internal damages to your car tire. Unlike plugging which is external, patching a tire requires you to remove the rim to assess and fix damages.

3. How long can you drive on a plugged tire?

A plug is just a temporary fix to get you to the tire shop. That’s why a police officer will want to know when you’ll get a tire replacement. A good plug will help you cover at least 2,000 miles. However, this varies with the age of your tire. A new car tire will cover more than 3,000 miles.

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If you’re driving in an area that’s hot and dry, you should cover fewer miles because the high temperatures make the tire expand a lot. This heats up the adhesive holding your plug together and leads to further expansion.

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2. 5 Steps to plugging a car tire

1. Remove the bad tire

  • Find a safe area to park your car. If it’s on the road, pull over and switch on your hazard lights
  • Place your hazard signs in front and behind your car. Especially at night to enhance your visibility
  • Brace the good wheels with rocks or wheel wedges
  • Use a car jack and jack stands to raise and support your car while you remove the tire.

2. Remove the foreign object

  • Wear a pair of work gloves. You need protection against sharp objects or wires sticking out of the tire.
  • You might need a friend to hold your flashlight while you closely inspect the tire for piercing objects
  • Gently rotate the tire while inspecting the threads and spaces in between. Use your fingers to feel for any protruding objects.
  • Remove item with a pair of pincers or pliers.

3. Check whether the damage requires a plug

  • Car tires that are bald need replacements because a plug won’t solve internal wearing.
  • If the car tire has trouble with the valve stem then you need a new tire.
  • If the car has unusual swellings, plugging might not work because the tube already has serious problems.
  • A tire that has a diagonal cut requires patching since the plug will only widen the puncture.

4. Get a tire plug kit

  • This kit contains a tire plug and tools used to fit this plug into your punctured tire.
  • It contains a plug made from leather sandwiched between unvulcanized rubbers. You need scissors to cut it into strips.
  • It has a corkscrew that helps you to push your plug inside the car tire.
  • You’ll find tire plug kits at your nearest auto mechanic shops ranging from $30-$50.

5. How to use a tire plug kit

Use the provided corkscrew to make the hole more circular by inserting and turning it in a clockwise direction. Makes sure your tire is completely dry. Use moderate force to avoid tearing nearby treads. Take out the plug material in your kit and straighten it using a pair of pincers. Do this by pressing the plug at least three times. This makes it easier to insert into the puncture.

Apply the adhesive provided in your kit all over the tire plug. Before doing this, your tire plug should be dry. It’s advisable to wear a pair of latex gloves to help you smear the adhesive evenly. Put the plug on your corkscrew’s tip then push it down the hole in your tire. Keep a firm hand on your tire to maintain stability while inserting your plug. A shaky grip might cause you to accidentally tear the treads.

Once the plug is inside, pull out the corkscrew fast. This prevents your plug from sticking with the corkscrew.

3. How to plug a tire without a plug kit

1. What tools do I need?

  • An old tire
  • A pair of work gloves
  • A sharp pair of heavy-duty scissors
  • A pair of pliers
  • A set of screwdrivers
  • Air compressor
  • Gorilla Glue

2. Spot the piercing object

Wear the protective gloves to feel for any nails or screws protruding from your tire. Do this in a well-lit area because the nail head might have snapped making it less visible. Use your fingers to feel the spaces between tire treads if you have new tires. Check the area near your tire for any broken nail heads or scattered nails.

When you find the object, rotate the tire so that you can pull out the object easily. Use the pair of pliers to gently pull out the nail or screw. If it’s deep inside, use a flathead screwdriver to pry it out. You might need an extra pair of hands to hold down the tire for extra support.

3. Improvise a tire plug

Take your pair of heavy-duty scissors and cut small strips of rubber from the old tire. The strips should be thin enough to fit inside the tire puncture but have enough thickness to retain stability during motion.
Cut the strips from parts that are still intact. Avoid cutting tire strips with exposed wires, bumps, or patches. Then, smear a little glue on both sides to ensure it sticks firmly inside the puncture.

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