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Summary
  • Tire plugs and tire patches mend holes in tires left by stray nails, stones, and other sharp objects.
  • These repairs can last up to 10 years (25,000 miles).
  • Tire plugs and patches can’t repair everything. You’re better off replacing a bad tire if the sidewall is damaged, there’s overlapping damage, or the tire is more than three years old.

Running over a nail or a screw at just the right angle is the perfect way to mess up your tire. Thankfully, tire plugs and patches are now commonplace and can easily be installed. How long will the repair last though, and what kind of damage can be fixed up using these methods?

Tire Plug vs Tire Patch

Tire plugs are made of a tough, usually fibrous and sticky composite material strip that’s coated in a sticky rubber compound formulated to bond with the rubber of the tire. The best tire plugging is done with a plug that is dipped in special glue before it’s installed in the tire. The plug seals around the edges of the hole in the tire and swells a bit on the inside. The plug will need to be trimmed after installation so it’s level with the surface of the tread.

Some people might say tire plugs are the easier and cheaper of the two to install, but if you’ve ever installed one, you know how hard they can be. It takes strong hands and a lot of arm muscle to ream that hole out in the tire (passing through the steel belts) and then to install that plug so that it doesn’t leak. It’s not as simple or easy as it sounds. Granted, you don’t have to break the tire down to do it, and it can be done on the car, but it’s a workout, even for a guy who pulls wrenches all day.

repairing a tire using a tire plug kit
Some people might say tire plugs are the easier and cheaper of the two to install, but if you’ve ever installed one, you know how hard they can be.

You can buy tire plug kits from parts stores, but make sure you get a really good one. It’ll usually come with a few tire plugs and a set of tools.

, Tire Plugs and Patch Repair: How Long Do They Last?

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Don’t think this is something you can do easily beside the road. If there’s a screw or a nail that has punctured the tire, you’ll need to remove that first as well. If you don’t have a pair of pliers that will grab the source of the tire puncture, and if the sidewall is where the hole is, using a plug or a patch will not work.

Tire patches are a little more versatile, but they cost more and are harder to install, because you have to remove the tire from the rim. A patch can’t be applied to the outside of the tire. Patches are made of rubber that is thick in the center of the patch and very thin around the edges.

, Tire Plugs and Patch Repair: How Long Do They Last?

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: The tire side of the patch is protected by plastic that has to be peeled off. But before you do this, the location of the hole has to be pinpointed on the inside of the tire. This is a very important step.

The rubber then needs to be vigorously buffed around the hole, removing all the small ridges that are ubiquitous inside the tire. After the buffing, you must paint the area with glue (a bit larger than the patch) and wait about five minutes for the glue to dry. Then peel the plastic off the patch and install it very carefully over the dried glue, after which you roll the patch with a special tool to make sure it bonds with the rubber all the way around the hole and vulcanizes itself to the inside of the tire.

This YouTube video from the McCuistian channel shows in detail how this is done.

Both repair methods can be used on the same damaged area to create a stronger seal known as a tire plug-patch.

How Long Does a Patched or Plugged Tire Last?

When properly installed, some manufacturers claim that tire patches and plugs can last seven to 10 years or up to 25,000 miles when installed perfectly. How long they last may also depend on how fast you drive and the terrain you’re driving on. High-speed driving and hot weather can be particularly hard on repaired tires, so the sturdier plug-patch repair may be necessary if you’re driving fast in a high-temperature area.

In addition, take note that depending on how much you drive, you may reach the 25,000 mile mark long before you reach seven years. However, since most tires have a lifespan of about three years, you’ll probably need to replace your tire long before a well-installed patch or plug fails.

How Many Times Can You Patch or Plug a Tire?

If your tire’s been repaired before, you may be wondering if your tire can be patched again. You can probably safely patch or plug a tire a total of two times as long as the punctures aren’t within six inches of each other. Any more and it becomes dangerous. If the damage overlaps with old repairs though, you should replace the tire entirely. This is also the case when the holes are less than 6 inches apart or close to the tire’s shoulder and sidewall. In these cases, we highly discourage using tire plug and patch repairs.

Types of Tire Damage: Repair or Replace?

Considering how effective plugging and patching is, it’s tempting to solve all your tire problems with a simple repair. Unfortunately, it isn’t always safe or possible to do so. There will be times when replacing the tire is necessary.

Repair

  • Small Holes. These are typically caused by running over a small, sharp object. Holes that are 1/4th of an inch or 6 millimeters in diameter fit into this category. You should replace any tire with damage larger than this.
  • Damaged Tread. Since it’s the part of the tire that comes into contact with the terrain, the tread is the more likely area to receive damage. Patches and plugs are made to repair only the tread.
  • New Tires. It’s more worth the price and effort to just repair newer tires with less worn treads.

Replace

  • Damaged Sidewall. Don’t attempt to repair an area that’s near or on your tire’s sidewall. It’s dangerous to do so and will likely result in failure.
  • Overlapping Damage. If the damage overlaps a previous repair, the spot is too compromised to patch or plug.
  • Nearby Repairs. When multiple holes are too near each other, repairing will no longer be an option. Holes should be at least 16 inches apart if you plan on patching or plugging multiple areas of damage.
  • Old or Worn Tires. Tires that are more than three years old or worn by more than 1/16th of an inch should be replaced.
  • Bubbled Tire. A tire with a bubble on its sidewall has an air leak inside the tire’s inner lining. This can’t be repaired with a patch or a plug.

Is Driving on a Patched or Plugged Tire Safe Long-Distance?

car tire patch
A patched or plugged tire can last a good number of years when repaired correctly.

As long as the tire patch or plug has been installed properly, it’s safe to drive on for the prescribed 25,000 miles.

If you ever want to check on your tire repair though, try spraying the damaged area with soapy water and watching for bubbles. This isn’t a guarantee that the repair is secure, but it may help you catch any weak spots in your repair. To be sure though, it’s best to take the tire to a mechanic for a quick check-up.

A patched or plugged tire can last a good number of years when repaired correctly. As long as you keep an eye on the damaged area, you should feel safe with a tire patch or plug for the rest of your tire’s lifespan.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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