Is Plugging A Tire Acceptable At Times
September 18, 2005 8:41 AM   Subscribe

My Daughter had a slow leak in one of her tires. A repututable neighborhood gas station identified the problem as a small nail as the cause for the leak and recommended a PLUG. I want to insure my Daughter is safe; therefore I ask is plugging a tire a good idea?
posted by Mckoan1 to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
Tires can be plugged. I had exactly the same problem some time ago, and my mechanic took the nail out and plugged the hole. The tire's been fine ever since. As long as the place is reputable, your daughter should have no problem.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:44 AM on September 18, 2005

I've never experienced a problem with plugs as tire repairs.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:45 AM on September 18, 2005

So long as the puncture is relatively small, and it isn't in the sidewall of the tyre, a plug is fine.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2005

I drove over a nail in the grocery store parking lot. The hole it created was not a slow leak -- the tire was completely flat in a very short time. I thought I was going to have to get a completely new tire, but the mechanic was able to plug the old one and I've put some 15-20k miles on it since with no troubles.
posted by jewishbuddha at 9:18 AM on September 18, 2005

Same here, still driving on my plugged tire 6 months later.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:23 AM on September 18, 2005

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a nice web site on automotive tires, including a page on plugs:
A plug by itself is not an acceptable repair.

The proper repair of a punctured tire requires a plug for the hole and a patch for the area inside the tire that surrounds the puncture hole. The repair material used – for example, a "combination patch and plug" repair – must seal the inner liner and fill the injury to be considered a permanent repair.

Punctures through the tread can be repaired if they are not too large, but punctures to the sidewall should not be repaired.

Tires must be removed from the rim to be properly inspected before being plugged and patched.
So, as long as the puncture was in the tread, not the sidewall, and the gas station will be installing a plug and an internal patch, I think everything should be fine. In my experience, when my local gas station says that they will be installing a "plug" they install an internal patch as well (thus what my local gas station calls a "plug" is what NHTSA calls a "combination patch and plug").
posted by RichardP at 9:52 AM on September 18, 2005

If you'd rather pay for a new tire go right ahead, but (as I was surprised to find out myself) plugs do work most of the time; when they won't work, usually somebody will try to sell you a brand new tire, or send you to his cousin/friend who will. Sometimes people will even try to sell you a new tire, or two "two keep the treads matched", when you don't need one.

As for the "combination patch and plug", will someone please post a (link to a) photo of one of those? I want to be doubly sure we're talking about the same thing.
posted by davy at 9:56 AM on September 18, 2005

Hm yeah a patch does sound like a good idea now that I read about them, but I've done several plugs myself and they've all held. I usually follow a plug with a can of fix-a-flat (which is probably evil and messy but I've usually needed the inflation boost to reach a pump).
posted by scarabic at 10:05 AM on September 18, 2005

Yep, plugs are fine.
posted by bshort at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2005

A patch and plug looks like this.

(Yes, it looks kind of like a rubber thumbtack.) It is inserted from the inside of the tire (the pointy part sticks out of the tread and is snipped off later), and the flat part is bonded to the inside of the tire with a vulcanizing goo that anyone who's ever patched a bike tube should be somewhat familiar with.

When properly installed they're safe. Chances are, your mechanic is talking about one of these (or something similar). If he tries to sell you a solution that doesn't involve removing the tire from the rim, then go elsewhere.

But probably, you should feel lucky that your mechanic is honest enough to patch your tire, rather than try to sell you two new ones.
posted by toxic at 10:25 AM on September 18, 2005

The May 2002 Car Talk column discusses plug vs. patch vs. combination patch/plug.

davy, I don't think there is necessarily anything special about a "combination patch and plug", one can just install both a regular patch and regular plug. However, a web search did turn up some photos of tire repair kits that, for convenience sake, appear to combine the patch and plug into a single part.
posted by RichardP at 10:26 AM on September 18, 2005

I'll add my anecdote: I drove over a nail when my car was months old. The patched/plugged tire worked fine for 45K miles until I wore those tires out and got new ones.
posted by teece at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2005

Well, just for one more data point I ran over a screw and had the tire repaired with a plug. A little over a year later the plug failed, and the tire pretty rapidly deflated and was essentially destroyed (I was on the highway.)

My car has a full size spare that's the same as the rest of the tires. After the second mishap, I ended up getting my spare put on the destroyed tire's wheel and getting a barely used used tire to put on the spare wheel (they're different.) It cost about $40 and seemed like a good deal since a new tire matching the rest of mine was about $150, and I only drive a few thousand miles a year.

You might consider that if your daughter's car has a full size spare.
posted by sevenless at 11:58 AM on September 18, 2005

This is pretty much standard practice, if you're wondering. As far as I know, the standard approach is to repair a tire rather than buy a new one. I've had no problems driving on a repaired tire.
posted by mikeh at 7:18 AM on September 19, 2005

From InformativeButUselessToThisIssueFilter, I might toss in the suggestion that anyone near a Costco tire center look into them for future tire replacement: not only do they have a no-BS pricing structure but all tires come with lifetime balance, rotation, valve stem replacement and flat repair as well as a road hazard warrantee based on remaning tread, not time since purchase. Not a stockholder, just a very satisfied customer.
posted by phearlez at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2005

Speaking of Costco, we brought a punctured tire into Costco for repair one time and they plugged it for no charge. The guy seemed to treat it as such a routine procedure that it wasn't worth the hassle of having us pay for it. It's been working fine for 2+ years now.
posted by jacobsee at 10:55 AM on September 19, 2005

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