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Are Tire Plugs Safe? The Dos and Don’ts of Tire Repairs! 

Are Tire Plugs Safe

It can be a hassle when you’re already late for an appointment and  you see a flat tire with what appears to be a nail sticking out. When this happens, you won’t really have the time to take your car to a tire repair shop and have it fixed. Fortunately, there are now quick solutions for punctured or blown tires available such as tire plugs. Tire plugs are made of strips of leather which are coated with a sticky unvulcanized rubber compound. It works by sealing the tire’s hole, so firm that water or air won’t be able to get in or out the tire. 

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The tire plugs can save you a lot of trouble especially if you want a fast and cheap solution in fixing your flat and punctured tire. However, there has been some discussions that say that tire plugs are unsafe and should only be used as a temporary fix. There might be some truth to it but keep in mind that plug tires should only be used for some specific cases. The hole size should not be larger than 0.25 inches and should only be located on the tread of your tire. 


Tire Plugs: Is Plugging a Tire Safe?

When a flat, punctured tire is discovered, there are usually three common ways to fix it – tire plugs, patches, and a plug/patch combination. But now, we will focus on the tire plugs. There are many people who are asking if tire plugs are safe. To understand whether tire plugs are safe or not, we need to understand how they work. 


A tire plug is a piece of malleable rubber. When forced and inserted into a nail hole or puncture on the outside of the tire, the plug fills the hole, expanding and trapping the air inside and keeping it from getting out. The tire plug’s rubber goo vulcanizes by itself under the heat of driving which fully seals the repair. 


Tire plugs are convenient and easy to use. It takes a very little time to install it and you can do it without removing the tire from the wheel. Depending on the location of the puncture, you can even install the tire plug while the tire is still attached to your car. Tire plugs can be bought for a cheap price and are very easy to install. However, there have been some claims saying that the tire plugs are unsafe to use. This must be the reason why many are asking, is plugging a tire safe? 


First things first, remember that not all tire punctures can be fixed using tire plugs. You need to consider some factors to determine whether it is safe to install a tire plug or not. If it’s not, you need to fix your punctured tire using other methods. If you still use a tire plug to fix your punctured tire even if it calls for another method like using patches, then it will really become unsafe. It’ll be dangerous since the plug tire can fail. 


Here are some of the things you need to consider to determine that your tire punctured can be fixed by using tire plugs.

  • The puncture or hole size.


You need to inspect your tire and determine the size of the puncture or hole. You also need to know the extent of the damage. The size of the hole must only be 0.25 inches or smaller. If the size of the hole is larger than that, then it is best that you have your tire fixed in a tire repair shop or replace your tire instead. 

  • The location of the puncture or hole.


Aside from the hole size, you also need to determine the location of the hole. You can  only use tire plugs if the puncture or hole is located on the tread of your tire. If the puncture is located on the tire’s shoulder or sidewall, do not attempt to fix it with a tire plug. You will have to replace the tire since it is the safest solution.  

  • The angle of the puncture. 


Checking the puncture of your tire and knowing its angle can help you determine if the damage can be fixed by using tire plugs. For the tire plugs to work effectively, they should only be used when the nail or other object that punctured the tire went straight in. It should not be a problem to plug it since the repair will be fairly simple. 


But if the tire got punctured at an angle, it will be difficult to completely seal the damaged area. Make sure that you look closely at how the nail or the object causing the puncture looks and the angle it had when it entered the tire. 

  • The quality and the age of your tire.


Before you decide on installing tire plugs on your punctured tire, you need to consider the quality and the age of your tire. If your tire’s tread has worn down below 2/32 of an inch, then it means that it is no longer safe to plug it. It is safer to replace the tire instead of fixing it.  

  • Your tire warranty. 


Another factor that you need to consider before you decide to use tire plugs on your punctured tire is your tire warranty. In some cases, the manufacturer’s warranty on your tire will be affected if you choose to use tire plugs on it. Improper repair and maintenance can void the warranty. Make sure that you are familiar with what’s written on your warranty. To be sure, have your tire repaired by professionals instead of using do-it-yourself tire repair kits. 

  • You already used tire plugs on your tire before.


If you have already used tire plugs on your tire, it is not recommended that you try to plug it again. You can’t plug the same tire more than once. It is not safe. If you already used a tire plug on your tire, a second one will not make it any better. You will just increase the chance of the tire to get more damaged. It is best that you take it to a tire repair shop and have it checked. If the repair shop thinks that you need to replace the damaged tire, then do it. It will be safer. 


Tire Plugs: Is Plugging a Tire a Permanent Fix?


Is using tire plugs to fix a punctured tire a permanent fix? Many people might have asked this question. While there are several people who claim that the tire plugs installed on their tires have lasted for a long time, the experts are saying that it is only a temporary solution. 


Experts are saying that while the tire plugs can seal your tire and stop the air from leaking out, you will still have a hole in your tire. There is still a structural failure on your tire that needs more than a temporary fix. The tire plug on your tire won’t be able to handle the level of strain or stress the same way as the tire in good condition does, especially if you are driving on a highway at high speeds.  


The small puncture your tire has can slowly become larger over time and the tire plugs can’t do something to stop it. When this happens, you will lose a great amount of air and increase the chances of a blowout while you are driving. Plus, it is also possible for the tire plugs to fail while you are driving. 


If you choose to use tire plugs on your punctured tire, keep in mind that tire plugging is meant to be just a temporary fix until you can visit a tire repair shop and have a long-lasting or permanent solution. If you need to drive your car with a plugged tire, make sure that you drive it for short durations only. If you have to travel long distances, it is best that you have your tire permanently fixed by a professional or replace your punctured tire with a new one instead. 


Tire Plugs: Is it Better to Patch or Plug a Tire?


Tire plugs are installed by inserting the plug through the outside of the tire using an insertion tool. When this insertion tool is removed, it leaves the plug on the hole and fills it. There are also some tire plugs that are string plugs. This type of plug has about four to five inches of long woven cord that is coated with sticky material. It usually comes with a repair kit that has an insertion tool, reaming tool, some string plugs, and sometimes, a rubber cement to use as a seal between the tire and the plug. 


The patch on the other hand is an adhesive-back piece of rubber that you can put on the inside of the tire with its adhesive that vulcanizes when the tire heats up. To install a patch, you have to locate the puncture from the inside of the tire first. Once located, the puncture’s surrounding area will then be prepared with scrapers, buffing tools and some cleaning solutions. All these tools are needed to prepare the area. When it’s ready, the patch will be applied with a vulcanizing cement as well as the inner liner of the tire. The patch will then be applied over the hole. It will then be rolled, stitched, or covered with sealant before the tire will be put back on the rim. 


While the plug tires and tire patch work can help repair the punctures or holes on the tire, the experts are saying that a plug by itself or a patch by itself is not enough to repair a punctured tire. This is because the tire plugs won’t be able to seal the inner liner of the tire permanently and the patch can never fill the void left by the object that punctured the tire. This can allow water to enter the tire’s body which can cause corrosion to develop on the steel belts.


The NHTSA or the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is recommending that a combination repair is the best way to repair a punctured tire. It involves using a repair patch with a rubber plug or stem attached to its center. Although there are times when you can use a separate plug and patch, the industry guidelines find it more proper if a one piece combination repair unit should be used. 


To make the repair more long-lasting and safe, you need to locate the puncture and ream it out to make a clean hole to install the plug in. The surrounding area of the hole on the inside of the tire will then be prepared so the patch can be bonded. The area will then be applied with a vulcanizing cement as well as the plug and patch combination. Next step is to pull the plug from the outside of the tire through the reamed hole. This way, the hole will be completely filled and a tight seal will be created with the rubber of the tire. 


The process prevents air from escaping since the patch will bond to the inside of the tire. The plug on the other hand, will seal the puncture hole and prevent air and moisture from entering the tire. The rubber stem will then be cut to level with the surrounding tread. 


Plug tires can come in handy if you need to be somewhere and you can’t have your tire fixed in a tire repair shop yet. They are cheap and can be installed easily, even without removing your tires. However, you need to keep in mind that tire plugs are made and should be used as a temporary fix. Make sure that you take your punctured tire to a repair shop and have it repaired. If the tire can’t be fixed, then buy a new tire and replace the punctured one. It will be safer. You know what they say, it is better to be safe than sorry. 






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