People who normally drive on a daily basis know the struggle of having a flat tire. It could easily ruin your day especially when you are all set to go to work or wherever it may be. It is inevitable though, it will surely happen to you one day. Sometimes, it can cost you money when you have to buy new tires or maybe call a tow truck if you are stuck somewhere and don’t have the slightest idea what to do. Whatever the reason why or how you got yourself a flat tire, it is always best to react to it immediately to not make the matter or your day worse. Fortunately, there are instances where you can fix the flat tire yourself. One of them is by plugging the flat tire.
What is a Tire Plug?
A tire plug is the cheapest and the quickest way to fix a flat tire. It is made out of a sticky, specialized rubber or an expandable object that you can stuff in the hole or puncture in the tire from the outside to stop the air from leaking. Tire plugs or tire repair kits are usually available at almost any gas station for an affordable price which include all the needed tools and materials to get the job done.
How to Plug a Flat Tire?
- Inspect the punctured area of the tire first. Not all tire punctures or holes can be repairable with a tire plug. If the puncture is located on the tread of your tire, then it’s doable. If it is on the sidewall part of your tire, a patch will be a good choice to fix that since a tire plug might not completely cover or seal the damaged area.
Finding where the leak is can be a little tricky especially if it is just a small puncture. It can easily hide in the tire’s grooves and ridges, or in the dark area between the tire tread blocks. To help you find the puncture, you need to fill the flat tire with air until it is fully pressurized. Once you’re done, remove the tire from your vehicle using a jack stand to secure your vehicle. Make sure that your parking brake is on when doing this.
2. Next step is to create a foamy liquid by combining soap or some dishwashing liquid with water. Using a soft brush, soak up the foamy liquid on the outside part of the tire. The air leak caused by a puncture should be easy to locate in a well-pressured tire as it will create bubbles in the soapy water.
3. Once you know the location of the puncture, check if the offending object like nails, screws, or broken glass is still there. If it is, pull it out using long-nose pliers. But, before you remove the debris, you might want to have the reamer ready and within your reach as the air will follow the debris once you remove it. Reamers are usually included in tire repair kits. If your kit doesn’t include one, you can use the plug-insertion tool to ream the hole.
4. As you remove the offending object, ream the hole first. It is important to do this before you put the tire plug since you need to make the hole large enough to fit the plug and the plug gun through. Reamers also help to roughen up the surface or edges of the leaking hole that provides the plug something to grab onto, thus, making the hold secure. To do this, insert the reamer into the hole and pull up and push it down a few times until you feel that the hole is getting bigger. After that, you have to spin the reamer several times in the direction of the reamer threads to roughen up the insides of the hole.
5. Get the plug gun or the plug-insertion tool and load it with a rubber plug. Pull it halfway through the eye of the tool or gun until you get the same length on both sides. Insert it in the hole and push. Do not push it too far though. Make sure to leave about half an inch of the plug hanging out of the tire. It is really important since it will wear down by and by as the plug hardens. If the length of the plug that is hanging is not enough, it will tend to get sucked into the tire.
6. Remove the plug-insertion tool or gun and get the small tube of rubber cement which is included in your tire repair kit. This will seal the tiny gaps around the plug and will also help to harden it. Apply it in generous amounts and leave it to dry for about ten minutes or more.
7. Check if the leak is gone by using the soapy liquid from earlier. If there’s no sign of leak, proceed to fill your tire with air and reinstall it back on your car. Repeat the process using a new plug if the leak still continues.
Tire Plugs Limitations
Your tire is the only part of your car that has a direct contact on the road. That is why, keeping it in its healthy state is a must. No matter how convenient and easy plugging your punctured tire is, it also has its limitations.
- Always remember that you can only repair a tire puncture if it is located within the tread area. If the puncture is beyond the tread or is on the sidewall, it will be unsafe to use plugs to fix it. You must need to go to a tire repair shop so they can inspect the damage. If a repair is not advisable, you will need to get a new tire to be safe.
- For punctures with a diameter greater than ¼ inches, repairing it with a simple plug is a bad idea. With tire punctures, size matters. If the damage is that big, it will be safer to retire the tire and buy a new one.
- Tires that have a tread that has less than 1/16 inch and is severely damaged cannot be repaired. Tires with that kind of tread shouldn’t be on the road to begin with. It should have been replaced the moment the tread comes way below 1/16 inch – with or without damage.
- If your tire has been fixed with a tire plug before and for some reason it is punctured again on the same spot, never ever overlap repairs. Some tire manufacturers limit the allowed number of repairs for each tire. Usually they allow a max of two repairs but, only when the damage is within the tread area and should be no closer than 16 inches apart.
- Long slits, irregular, and jagged gashes cannot be repaired. These types of cuts also damage the tire’s steel belts and body plies. Damaged steel belts and body plies can’t be fixed as the cuts reduce their strength and durability that is essential for a safe operation. If the tire you have is rather questionable, even the spare ones, it is better to replace it to be sure.
How Long Will a Tire Plug Last?
One might question if a tire plug can last long considering that it doesn’t cost much and it’s not really that hard to use. It seems like it is only for a temporary fix. In some cases, it is the truth. There are cases where you have to fix your tire with a tire plug and use it just until you can reach a repair shop and have it fixed or replaced. However, there are also some instances where you don’t have to.
If the puncture is repairable and you plugged your tire the right way, then you have nothing to worry about. It can last for the whole useful lifetime of the tire only if it won’t get punctured again. It is not advisable to plug the same tire twice. Doing so can negatively affect the tire’s speed rating and can even cause a blowout. Always make time to check your tires regularly for wears since tires and tire plugs are not permanent. You will have to change them eventually. Follow the tire maintenance schedule like wheel balancing and wheel alignment religiously and make sure to avoid overloading your vehicle.
How to Choose the Best Tire Repair Kit?
Choosing the right tire repair kit really depends on your need and your purpose for it. Some are made for heavy duty while some are not. When you purchase one, make sure that it has plug strings, a reamer, and a rubber cement. A case would be beneficial too so you can carry it anywhere you go. You never know when you will need it.
Flat tires happen when you least expect it. One thing to consider while choosing is the product’s versatility. Something that can fix many types of punctures and for any type of tire. Tire plugs are known to be very convenient and easy to use so make sure to choose the ones that are less complicated to use. To help you choose the perfect tire repair kit for you, here are some of the best ones of 2020.
- Tooluxe 50002L – this repair kit is perfect for beginners. It is affordable and the kit includes a T-handle plugger with 2-Hex keys to adjust its length, a reamer, and 30 plug strings. It also comes with a ceiling lubricant that allows you to insert the tire plugs into the tire quickly and easily.
- Boulder Tools BT4001– this one is known to be very durable and long-lasting. It is a bit more expensive than the Tooluxe 50002L, but it comes with a metal reamer, metal T-handle plugger, and premium plug strings. The carry case it comes with is high-quality which is ideal for professional use. This kit can be used on all types of vehicles and can fix almost all tubeless tires.
- Safety Seal KAP30 – this kit uses 30 4-inch rubber plug strings. It has a molded carry case that contains all its accessories and tools. It is pricier but it has a superb heavy-duty build construction. This kit is not advisable for beginners, it is intended for professional use.
- Slime 1034-A – this is one of the cheapest tire repair kits available on the market. It comes with a T-handle tire reamer, T-handle plugger, 5 plug strings, and a rubber cement.
- Victor 22-5-00106-8 – another affordable repair kit. It includes 5 plug strings, plugger, reamer – both with plastic handles. It also comes with an instruction manual on how to use the kit easily. This kit can fix almost all kinds of punctures.
- Slime 70004 – this one is quite a crowd favorite. It offers a 2-in-1 repair kit that fixes the punctured tire by plugging, but it also seals the hole from the inside of the tire by spraying its tire sealant. It also comes with a flashlight that comes in handy when you get a flat tire at night.
- Smittybilt 2733 – this kit is on the expensive side. Its reamer and plugger are made from high-quality metal. Its tools durability makes it ideal for professional use. The kit includes lots of accessories including a folding knife and a tire pressure gauge. It is also designed for the off-roader enthusiasts.
- Blackjack KT-340 – this one is great for beginners and professionals. Its accessories are all made from high-quality materials so trust to be long-lasting and durable. It’s also on the expensive side but its quality makes it worth the price.
- Stop and Go 1001 – as its name suggests, this is a pocket-sized kit that is ideal for vehicles that have a limited space. It comes with 12 mushroom plugs, insertion tool, rasp tool, and hex keys. It also has a compact carbon dioxide canister and an adapter that can help you inflate your tire when you need it.
- Safety Seal Auto KAP – this compact yet robust kit comes with a T-shape handle spiral probe and insertion tool, string plugs and a sealing lubricant. This kit is made to a high-standard quality.