How To Plug A Car Tire
Proper tire care is essential for maintaining your car’s safety and performance for many reasons.
Safety, economic savings and preventing inconvenient breakdowns just to name a few.
If any part of the suspension is damaged or out of adjustment or a tire is run with low air pressure it can cause part of the tire surface to lose traction thus compromising the intricate balance of the car.
Sooner or later we are all going to experience a punctured tire.
It is a great benefit to know how to plug a tire even if you do not have to do it yourself.
A tire puncture may come in the form of a slow leak, or it may go flat within a few minutes.
If you have a good roadside assistance provider, they can fix a tire in no time at all, once they get to your location.
Many times the tire store where you purchased the tires will cover a flat car tire repair under your tire warranty that includes plugging a nail hole, patching or replacing your tire.
Both of these are good ways to get the repair done, but one will have you waiting until the roadside assistance shows up, and the other will require you to bring the tire to them.
For some people, they don’t have access to these services and will have to pay for a costly tire repair.
Plugging a Car Tire Only Takes a Few Minutes
Plugging a tire only takes a few moments, and you do not have to remove the tire.
We would like to show you using step by step pictures and instructions, how to plug a tire correctly the way the pros do it in just a few minutes.
Preparation is the key to quick and easy tire repair. The things you need can be purchased at your local auto parts store for just a few dollars.
You should leave these things in a convent place like the trunk of your car or glove box.
That way when you have a nail in your tire, you will know how to fix a flat tire where you are and without waiting for roadside assistance to arrive.
“How to Plug A Tire” In Four Easy Steps Without Removing The Tire.
- Find the leak caused by a nail or foreign object.
- Prepare the tire plug and tools needed.
- Prep the leak with a reaming tool.
- Install the tire plug and check the tire pressure.
Repairing a tire is not complicated and can be done easily by anyone whether you are mechanically inclined or not. It is easier than pulling out your spare tire and changing the flat tire.
If you have never plugged a tire before you will first need to decide if you are strong enough to install the tire plug.
It takes a good bit of arm strength to install the plug; the rest is easy.
It does not matter if you are male or female if you can lift about forty pounds with one arm you should be able to install a tire plug quickly if you follow the proper procedure.
The first thing you will need to do is put together a tire plug kit that you can keep in the car. Any auto parts store or discount department store that sells automotive maintenance parts will carry these tire plug kits for quickly plugging a tire.
The tire repair kit only costs a couple of dollars and usually has enough plugs for 5 or 6 repairs. It will also include a tire plug install tool and information on patching a tire.
The best tire plug kits also have a tire plug ream tool that looks like an ice pick with a file-like surface on the side. Try to buy a package with both tools contained in the pack because you will need both to do an easy repair.
You will also need to add a small pair of pliers to the kit for pulling nails and screws out of the tire. The kit will not supply any tools for removing the foreign object.
It is a plus if the side of the pliers also has a cutting device for cutting wire.
This comes in handy for cutting the plugs after you install one.
Another great benefit to plugging tires is to have a small tube of grease or silicone grease — this aids in installing the plug through the rubber surface.
Now let’s talk about what type of repair the plug kit will fix.
A tire plug kit will restore any puncher in the tread part of a tubeless tire. (all standard car tires are tubeless these days)
That includes nail and screw punctures or leaks that are caused by staples, wire or anything that produces a small round hole 3/16th inch or less in size.
When can a tire not be repaired with a plug?
- If your tire has sidewall cuts or punctures, the tire will have to be patched from the inside or replaced. You cannot plug the sidewall of a tire.
- It will not fix any tire that has a tire inner-tube, like farm equipment and some trailers or larger trucks. This type of repair will require a tire patch.
- It will not plug a cut, slice, gouge or anything that has a hole size larger than ¼ of an inch in diameter.
- For large holes up to a ¼ of an inch, you can install two plugs at one time to fill the gap, but it will increase the difficulty you will have to install the plugs. The need for two plugs is rare.
OK, now let’s learn the steps to “How to Plug A Tire.”
First, you will need to find the leak, nail or whatever is causing the leak.
You do not have to remove the tire from the car but locating the leak can be tricky with the tire on the car.
First carefully look at the tread area. Mark the spot where you start so you will know when you have looked all the way around, and this could require you to move the car once or twice.
You are looking for anything that appears stuck in the rubber tread. In most cases, you will see a nail head or screw head sticking out.
However, if you do not see anything you will have to move the car up a few inches at a time until you find the leak.
Make sure the car is in the park position, with the brake set and the motor is off before you get out to look at the tire.
If you cannot find anything from a visual inspection, then you will need to use a spray bottle with a little soap to spray on the tire.
Use a little at a time until you see the tire blowing a bubbling pile on the tread. If this is not available, you can just use a little water from a plastic water bottle, but soap will show bubbles easier.
Once you find the leak, you should see the cause. It could be a nail or screw that the head had gotten worn off by driving an asphalt.
Do not remove it at this time! If you do, the tire will rapidly lose air and go flat.
Once you find the leak Do Not Remove the object until you have gotten the plug ready.
Most nail and screw holes can be removed and plugged before the tire goes completely flat if it is done correctly.
After you have done a few tire repairs of this type, you will be able to do this with very minimal air pressure loss.
Getting the plug ready.
First, find the tire plug tool from the tire repair kit and thread a string plug into the tip of it.
This is the tool that has the hole and slit in the end. Pull a plug string strip from the pack and save the others for other repairs. You can add a little grease to the tool to help the plug slide through.
Squeeze one end of the string plug strip with your fingers and make one end flat then thread it into the tip of the tool.
Pull it through until the plug tool is centered equally in the middle of the plug.
Next, is the Tire Ream Tool.
If you have some grease or oil in a spray can, you can put a few drops on the tire ream tool for lubrication. This will help you push it into the hard rubber tire.
(Tip- If you are fixing the tire in a remote location and don’t have any grease or oil you can use a few drops from your engine oil dipstick or power steering dipstick.)
If you have never plugged a tire before, your first-time repair should be done with a tire inflation hose close by.
This way, if you run into trouble, the tire may go flat before you get finished, and you will need to be able to add air when you are finished.
The next few steps should be done as quickly as possible if you do not have a convenient way to refill the tire with air.
If all goes smoothly, you can finish the repair with only a small amount of air pressure loss.
First, move the car, so the tire is in a place, so the object is easy to access, to remove with the pliers.
When you have the tire plug repair tools ready, grasp the object with the pliers and pull it out. If it is a screw, you may have to unscrew it or twist it side to side then pull it out.
As soon as it is removed push the tire ream into the hole as hard as you can. You may have to use a twisting motion to get it to go in. Note as soon as it is in the tire the air loss will be reduced to a small hiss.
Twist this tool several times to enlarge the hole and clear the metal fibers from the steel belt for the plug tool to fit into.
When it moves in and out with less restriction, the hole is ready for the tire plug.
Quickly remove this tool and push the plug tool in with the plug mounted end into the tire. Note this tire is being plugged with (2) plugs for a large hole.
Push the tool all the way in using a twisting motion until only a small amount of the plug is still sticking out.
Do not drive the entire plug into the tire or you will have to start over with a new plug. Leave at least ¾” of the plug sticking out.
With only ½” to ¾” sticking out you can now remove the insert tool.
Pull it back out straight. The plug will stay in the tire. If the plug comes out with the tool, you will have to push it in farther to get it to hold.
At this point, the tire is plugged, and the air should not be leaking at all. If you have any doubt, you can check it with a spray bottle of soapy water.
As you drive the car, the plug will seat itself tighter into the repaired hole and around the steel belts in the rubber tire tread.
At this point, you can trim some of the extra plugs off but don’t pull any of the plug out.
If you trim the plug, leave at least ¼” sticking out of the tire. This will eventually wear off on the road.
Check The Plug For Leaks and Check The Tire Air Pressure.
Refill the tire to the proper tire pressure before driving on the highway and check the tire pressure periodically to see if the tire plug remains tight.
Correct tire pressure is required to keep the plug tight and trouble-free. The right tire pressure for your car tire is listed in small print on the tire next to the tire rim. It is listed in PSI (pounds per square inch)
The average tire pressure is between 35 and 44 PSI. Your tire can run a little under this pressure rating but should never run over it.