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How to Plug a Tire the Easy Way and Get Back on the Road Fast

Most people don’t know that many times with a simple tool, you can repair a flat tire yourself in minutes. Back in high school auto shop, this simple trick was the first thing I learned, and it has come in handy many times. Many times you don’t even need to take the tire off the car, and you can safely get back on the road. Plugging a tire can be a simple process that just about anyone can do. If you’re wondering how to plug a tire easily, this article is for you.

Today, we’ll show you how so you can get back on the road quickly and safely. Buckle up, and let’s get started!

How to Patch/Plug Hole in Tire in LESS THAN 5 Minutes - Fix a Flat Tire - EASY FIX

Everyone Should Know How to Plug a Tire

Unfortunately, trash isn’t the only thing littering roads across the country. If you’ve spent much time driving, there’s a good chance you’ve picked up a nail or two along the way. A tiny nail in a tire can do a massive amount of damage to your bank account. Knowing how to plug a tire can allow you to extend its life instead of replacing it. We think it’s one skill that everyone should know how to do.

Luckily, it’s incredibly easy and requires minimal tools. You don’t have to be a professional mechanic or have years of experience to be able to do this yourself. You can quickly and easily plug a damaged tire and get back on the road.

Pro Tip: If you get a flat tire while on a road trip, follow these tips on what to do to get you back on the road quickly.

What Does It Mean to Plug a Tire? 

Plugging a tire refers to the process of repairing a puncture or hole in it. When there’s a hole, air can escape through it and cause the tire to go flat. It involves inserting a specially designed plug into the hole to seal it and prevent air from escaping. The plug forms a bond with the tire’s rubber, which helps keep the tire sealed and prevents the hole from growing.

Plugging a tire is typically a temporary repair solution, and the tire should be inspected by a professional as soon as possible to determine if you need to replace it. This is because a punctured tire can become weak and unsafe to drive on, depending on the damage. Additionally, a plug may not be appropriate for all types of punctures.

close up of plugging a tire
Plugging a tire is relatively easy and requires very little tools.

What Kind of Puncture Can Be Plugged?

Most small punctures by a nail, screw, or another similar piece of debris can be plugged. If the hole is larger than half an inch or there has been additional damage, a plug will not work.

In addition, the location of the object is important to a safe repair. It’s important to only plug a tire in the primary tread for a long-term repair. If your puncture is in the curved area (called the shoulder) or sidewall the tire will need to be replaced. This does not mean you cannot plug the tire, but you should keep in mind that repairs in this area will increase the likelihood of a blowout. Because of this, if you are repairing a shoulder puncture, you should drive slowly and immediately to a tire repair shop.

Location Where A Tire Can Be Repaired

How Do You Plug a Tire? It’s Easy!

It’s much easier than you think. With the right tools and products, just about anybody can do it in a few minutes. You will need a tire plug kit that consists of a few simple tools and the tire plugs themselves. Tire plugs are thick rubbery, and very sticky strips that will plug up the hole and stay in place.

Locate the Leak

The first thing you need to do is locate the leak on the tire. This might require you to remove the tire from the vehicle completely. If you’re having trouble spotting the damaged area, put some air in the tire and spray it with soapy water. The soapy water will bubble at the point where the air is escaping from.

Typically, the damage must be in the middle part of the tread for a tire to accept a plug. If there is an inch or more from the edge of the tire, there’s a good chance you can plug it. However, you’ll need to invest in a new tire if the damage is outside this narrow area.

Remove Any Object Left in the Tire

Having a pair of pliers in your repair kit can help remove any objects that have been left in the tire. If possible, try to pull the object out instead of pushing it into the tire.

Use a Reaming Tool

After locating the puncture, you need to use a reaming tool to clean the hole. A plugging kit will come with it to jam into the hole. You need to work it up and down several times while rotating it. This prepares the puncture for the plug you’ll place soon.

The hole needs to be round and uniform. Repeat this process with the reaming tool until you have a well-rounded hole to plug. If you’re working with a smaller hole, you may need to use a drill bit slightly larger than the puncture. You can then use the reamer to roughen the sides of the hole to help hold the plug.

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Coat the Plug With Tire Sealing Cement

The next step is to coat the plug with tire-sealing cement. However, before you start coating it with glue, you want to place the plug through the eye of a plug insertion tool. Once that’s done, you can begin applying the cement. It’s a sticky residue that helps ensure the plug stays in place as you and your plugged wheel travel down the road.

After coating the plug with the tire sealing cement, you should apply the cement to the hole in the tire. Be generous with the cement, but don’t be wasteful. You may need to use it again someday down the road.

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nail in tire
If you encounter a nail or other sharp object while on the road, a tire plug kit can help.

Insert the Plug

With the plug and hole covered with tire sealant cement, it’s time to insert the plug. You will need a special tool designed to hold the plug but has a slit at the end. This allows the plug to be pulled but not out.

Slide the insertion tool slowly into the hole. This will require you to be firm and direct when applying pressure. 

You want the plug to stick out approximately an inch from the tire. Then remove the insertion tool with a quick rapid pull out. If all goes as planned, the plug should remain in the tire after you remove the tool.

Fill the Tire to Your Preferred PSI

With the plug inserted into the tire, you need to fill the tire to the correct PSI. Check the sidewall for the maximum PSI for the tire. Take your time when filling the tire, and avoid overfilling it. Depending on how much air you need and the quality of your air compressor, this may take some time.

Trim the Plug and Do a Final Leak Test

Now that your tire is holding air, it’s time to cut away the excess plug material sticking out of the tire. Cut the plug so only a small amount sticks out from the tire. As you drive down the road, this will eventually wear down to level with the tire. It’s now time to do the final leak test.

Take the soapy water you used to find the leak and spray the area where you plugged the tire. Look for any signs of bubbles in the area. If all goes as planned, no bubbles should appear. However, if you see bubbles, you’ll likely need to invest in a new tire. If not, you can celebrate the success by placing the tire back on your vehicle.

flat tire on car
Even after plugging your tire, take your vehicle to a mechanic to ensure it is safe to drive on.

How Long Can You Drive on a Plugged Tire?

The official answer from tire repair places is that they are a temporary solution. However, the life of a plugged tire can vary greatly. It typically depends on the size and location of the puncture. If your puncture is mid-tire and a single screw or nail, a plug could easily last for the rest of the life of the tire. I personally have driven on tires with multiple plugs for tens of thousands of miles without problems.

That being said, we do recommend you have the tire inspected by a professional as soon as possible to determine if you need to replace it.

Driving on a damaged tire can also increase the likelihood of tire failure and reduce the safety of your vehicle.

Pro Tip: Don’t let a flat tire stop you from enjoying your road trip! We found the Best RV Roadside Assistance for Peace of Mind on the Road.

Can a Tire Plug Cause a Blowout?

A properly installed tire plug should not cause a blowout. However, there are a variety of things that could cause a blowout. Some of the most common reasons for a puncture in these situations are if the puncture is too large for a plug, it’s on the sidewall, or the tire has reached the end of its life. Also, if the tire was driven on with low pressure for a while before the plug was inserted, it’s possible that it has sidewall damage.

While plugging a tire is relatively easy, you must do it correctly. We recommend having your tire inspected by a professional to determine if it needs to be repaired or replaced. Driving on a punctured tire can be risky and may result in a blowout. We don’t recommend taking any chances as it can be dangerous and cause a serious accident.

man plugging tire
The cost to plug your tire at a tire repair shop will be much more affordable than a new set of wheels.

How Much Does It Cost to Plug a Tire?

The cost to plug a tire can vary depending on several factors, such as the location of the repair, the type of tire, and the type of repair. On average, you can expect to pay between $15 and $30 to have a tire plugged at a tire repair shop. However, some shops may charge more for larger punctures or additional services, such as patching the inside of the tire.

Some tire shops, like Discount Tire, often plug tires for free. They’ll simply ask that you return to them when you need to replace the tire. Considering that a new tire can range from $50 to several hundred dollars, plugging a tire can be worth it.

Is Plugging a Tire a Permanent Fix?

Many times a tire plug will last for the life of the tire, so yes, it can be a permanent fix. However, if you repaired the tire on the side of the road, it’s probably only a temporary solution to get you to a safe place for a proper repair or replacement. While a tire plug can effectively stop the air from leaking, it may not be strong enough to withstand the pressure and stress of driving over time, especially at high speeds or on rough roads.

Best Tire Repair Kit? SLIME, Westweld, Dynaplug, Grand Pitstop

How Long Does a Tire Plug Last?

Like I said before, a properly placed tire plug can last for years in some cases. However, you must ensure the plug stays in place and the tire remains in good condition. Depending on the age of the rest of your tires, there’s a good chance you may be able to put off replacing the damaged tire until you purchase your next set of tires. 

Even if you know what you’re doing when plugging a tire, we recommend having a professional examine the repair. It’s better to be safe than sorry in these types of situations.

Have you ever had to plug a tire? Tell us your tips in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Monday 13th of March 2023

Having the tire partially inflated during plugging makes it much easier to insert plug. Plugging a tire may void your tire damage warrantee. Discount tire does void your warrantee if you show up with their tire plugged. They sell tires. Primary concern is inflation between the plies. Offroad primary use tires are plugged all the time everywhere possible and survive surprisingly well but should be considered just a temporary repair. Bigger hole more repair plugs can be used but even more temporary. Beats waiting for an overpriced repair.