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Have you ever driven the interstate and all of sudden felt the car lurch, followed by the “thump thump thump” of a flat tire? You ease out of your vehicle hoping your tire is not flat, but realistically, you know it is. You change the tire and head off to get it repaired. You may want to get it repaired instead of buying a new tire, but which method of repair is better, the plug or the patch? Below we are going to lay out pros and cons of both and which you should choose based off of your situation.
Plugging a Tire
Tire plugs are made from a gooey rubber compound covering short strips of a special cord material. These strips are forced into a hole in the tire; the plug fills the hole while the gooey rubber compound vulcanizes under the heat of driving to fully repair the hole. These plug repairs do not require the tire to be removed from the wheel to repair. To prepare for the plug, a reamer is first used to clean the hole of any debris and expose fresh rubber. Then, using a special tool that looks a bit like a seamstress’ seam ripper, the user threads the plug through the eye of the tool, coats the plug with rubber cement, and installs the plug in the tire, cutting the excess amount flush with the tread of the tire.
This method is a quick way to get back on the road, and it’s often cheaper to have done.
However, there are drawbacks to the plug, which is why the Tire Industry Association does not recommend using only a plug. If this type of repair is all that is available, it should be considered only as an emergency repair. It can even be done roadside by a semi-skilled do-it-yourselfer, if a source of air inflation from an air compressor is available.
Repair shops may tell you the plugs will last the life of the tire, but a plug repair may fail because the hole is too large for the plug created or the hole can be irregularly shaped.
Additionally, with a plug, it is not necessary to remove the tire from the rim. This makes for a speedy repair and prevents any rebalancing issues, but running the tire underinflated may have damaged the tire’s carcass. The tire could then blow at a later time, leading to vehicle damage, loss of vehicle control, and injury or death.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) recommends using either a plug and patch, or a combination plug and patch product.
According to TIA, “a plug by itself or a patch by itself is not an acceptable repair because the plug does not permanently seal the innerliner, and the patch does not fill the void left by the penetrating object [such as a nail], which allows water to enter the body of the tire and start corroding the steel belts.”
Patching a Tire
Patching is different from a plug in that it is an adhesive-backed piece of rubber that is placed on the inside of the tire, instead of from the outside, like a plug. The adhesive will vulcanize when the tire is heated up. This repair is a much stronger and more effective repair compared to the plug in many ways. Patch repairs are good also because they require you use trained technicians who have equipment to dismount and remount the tire, although this will require more time.
When to Replace and not just repair
If your damage is done within an inch of either sidewall, or on the sidewall itself, you will need to have the tire replaced. The reason is the sidewall and shoulder areas (the outside edges of the tread) will flex too much when rolling, which will work any repair loose. This can cause a rapid loss of air in the tire while driving, which can be dangerous. If you develop low air pressure in your tires and you drive on it more than a mile, there is a possibility that the carcass or sidewalls are damaged, which will require replacement. This damage is often detected only by dismounting the tire from the rim. A telltale sign your technician may point out is tiny bits of crumb rubber (think of all of the rubber eraser debris you left behind on that difficult math assignment, only black) in the inside of the tire.
About Spirit West Rapid Refinish
Spirit West Rapid Refinish, established in 2011, was formed to focus on providing quality service for customers who are paying out of pocket for automobile repairs and streamline the workflow volume. We take great pride with teamwork and our commitment to making sure our team receives training on the latest innovative state-of-the-art equipment and collision repair techniques. We are proud to say our team is family and we treat our customers like family too. Whether you are in need of minor collision repair services, bumper repair or vehicle paint, give us a call today to see how we can restore your vehicle to its original factory finish.
Spirit West Motor Carriage, founded in 1977, is a full-service auto body repair shop serving the St. Louis and surrounding Metro area. For nearly four decades, our family-owned business and our experienced staff have been providing quality auto collision repair, mechanical, paintless dent repair (PDR), complete paint refinishing, and wheel and framing alignment services.