How to Plug a Tire Yourself

In this guide, we will show you how to plug a tire.  This is a simple procedure and works for just about any vehicle.

Plugs are a great thing to keep in a vehicle in case of an emergency. Knowing how to plug a tire can be the difference between being able to keep driving or being stranded with a flat tire.

Plugs are also great in situations where a tire can not be patched due to the location of the puncture, and although it's still recommended to get a new tire, can help out in a pinch. Most of the time a tire can be plugged without ever taking the tire off of the vehicle.

What you will need

To plug a tire while the wheel is still on the car, you will need: 

If you need to remove the tire from the car, you will need the following as well: 

  • Floor jack
  • Jackstand
  • Torque wrench

Tire plug kits are inexpensive and can be purchased that include the rasp, insertion, and plugs together.

Procedure

Follow this procedure to plug a tire if the leak is not obvious:

  1. Loosen the lug nuts/studs of the wheel on the ground with the tire iron.Loosen the lug nuts

     

  2. Jack the tire off the ground and set the vehicle on jack stands.jack up vehicle

     

  3. Remove the lug nuts or studs. Remove the wheel from the vehicle.
  4. Locate the hole in the tire. If it is difficult to find the hole, make sure there is air in the tire and spray with a soapy water solution. Look for any bubbles forming to find the hole. If there is a nail or screw in the tire, remove it with the pliers.
  5. Take the reaming tool and push it through the hole. This can require great effort when the hole is small, use your body weight pushing down toward the ground to puncture the tire. Work the reamer in and out of the hole 10-20 times to clean the hole and prepare it for the plug to be inserted.
  6. Take a fresh plug and insert it halfway through the eyelet of the insertion tool. With a plugin, the insertion tool, push the plug through the hole in the tire. Once the plug is completely in the hole of the tire about a 1/4-1/2 inch inserted in the tire, pull the tool out of the tire and the plug will stay.
  7. Cut off any excess plug sticking out of the tire. It is okay to leave it also, it will wear off on its own after driving.
  8. Air up the tire to the recommended pressure and spray the hole to check for any leaks, if the plug job is successful, put the tire back on the vehicle.
  9. Put the lug nuts or studs back on and snug them down.
  10. Jack the car up and remove the jack stands. Lower the car down so there is a little weight on the tire.
  11. Torque the wheel nuts to the recommended specs.
  12. Lower the car the rest of the way down and remove the jack.
If you can not find a nail, it is possible that the air leak is at the valve. Remove the valve cap and spray water at the cap and inspect for leaks. 
Sidewalls of the tire should not be plugged. 

Plug a Tire While on the Car

Plug a tire on the car

It is possible to plug a car tire while the tire is still on the vehicle. Follow this procedure if the hole is exposed with the wheel on the vehicle:

  1. Position the tire by either driving it or putting it in neutral and rolling the tire to get to a comfortable position where the hole can be worked on.
  2. Use the pliers to remove any nail or foreign object from the tire.
  3. Follow the same procedures starting at step 5 above for plugging the hole. It can be a bit more difficult to do this with the hole not being as easy to get to as when the tire is off the vehicle. This situation is not ideal but can be done if a jack or tire iron is not available. 
  4. Once the hole is plugged air up the tire and check for leaks. If no leaks are spotted you're done!

Is it safe to drive with a plugged tire?

A plugged tire is not ideal, but many outlast the life of the tire. Keep an eye on a freshly plugged tire and see if it leaks. If it doesn't leak over an extended period of time it may last the life of the tire. A proper patch plug is intended for more long-term and permanent use. 

How long does a tire plug last? 

A tire plug usually lasts the life of the tire which can be over 40,000 miles. 

Should I use a patch plug or plug on my tire?

If the hole is inside of the tire's middle tread section and not the shoulder it is ideal to use a patch plug. If the hole is in the shoulder a patch plug can not be used due to the nature of how it works. If it is possible, get the tire to a shop to use a patch plug without having to put in a plug. The reamer may make the hole too big for a patch plug, some shops may not even attempt to repair the tire with a plugin it. It is ideal to have a patch plug because they are a more successful permanent repair.

Can you plug a run-flat tire? 

A run-flat tire can be repaired but only if you did not drive on a flat tire. If you drive on a run-flat tire that has lost air, the tire should be replaced and not plugged. 

How much to plug a flat tire? 

The average cost to plug a tire is between $15 and $30. Some tire shops do not offer this service. Instead, they remove the tire and patch it from the inside.  

Where can I fix a flat tire? 

Tire shops such as NTB National Tire, Pep Boys, Mr. Tire, Discount Tire stores will fix your flat tire. Note that a tire shop, will remove the tire and patch it. It is rare for a tire shop to use this method to fix a flat tire. 

By  YOUCANIC Automotive Experts

Published on: Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Updated on: Wednesday, January 13, 2021