Introduction: How to Repair a Tire Leak Using a Plug - Everything You Need to Know
Video tutorial on how to repair a leak in your tire using a plug. Unfortunately the other day I was unlucky enough to pick up an S hook from a rubber tie down strap. As soon as I heard an odd noise, I pulled over immediately to inspect the tire and then continued to change out to my spare tire to prevent future damage.
Tire plugs are not legal in all countries, so it’s important to consult with your local laws. Another option instead of installing a plug is a vulcanized tire patch which requires the tires to be unmounted from the wheel, that patch is applied to the inside of the tire. A vulcanized patch is the best repair for a punctured tire, however it does require more work, specialty equipment such as a tire machine, and can be slightly more costly.
- plug insertion tool
- tire plug
- spray bottle with soap and water mixture
- air compressor
- side cutters
While we can easily see the leak, if you are having trouble finding yours, using a spray bottle with a soap and water mix, ensure the tire is up to pressure and spray the tire. Leaks can be anywhere from a loose valve in the valve steam, faulty valve, faulty valve steam, bead leak, a puncture such as here or even a faulty wheel. The leak will be shown as bubbling.
A plug can only be applied to the tread face of the tire. A plug should not be installed in the shoulder or sidewall of the tire as this jeopardizes the structure of the tire, along with your safety. Tire plugs can be used on punctures up to 6mm or 15/64” in diameter. If a tire is too far worn, taking reference from the wear bars, than a plug cannot be used as well.
First removing the object which punctured the tire if it’s still there, this can be anything from a piece of plastic, glass, metal, screw, nail, bolt, I have seen wrenches cause punctures before, or in my case an s hook. Removal processes of the object varies depending on what it is. You may need a screwdriver to dig the object out, needle nose pliers, something to help unscrew the object, etc.
You can purchase these plugs in a kit which comes with all the tools required to install the plugs. Starting out with the reamer, similar to a rat tail file, this allows you to clean out the hole which may cause sealing issues for the plug. When inserting the reamer, you’ll need to follow the same path the object took. Run the reamer up and down, along with rotating to help clean the hole.
Once clean, next you’ll need the insertion tool which is basically like a needle. However it has a slit on the very end so the plug is able to pop out when the tool is removed. Therefore the plug remains in one piece and does not break. Insert the plug in the loop, this can be a little tricky as the plug already has an adhesive applied. Pliers can be used to help pull it through. The plug should be somewhat even on both sides.
Follow the same hole, pushing the plug into the tire. Roughly a quarter length of the tails should be exposed on the outside. Do not use any lubricating spray to help push the plug into the hole as this can cause sealing issues, not allowing the adhesive to bond to the tire. When inserting the plug, there also do not need to be air in the tire. Once you have the plug inserted enough, then pull the tool out quickly and the plug will remain in place. Some people also twist the tool while removing it, this can help, but isn’t needed. It really depends what is comfortable for you.
Pump the tire up to the correct pressure rating. The generic number is 32psi, however this can vary a couple psi depending on the tire types.
To verify we no longer have a leak, spray the newly installed plug and watch for bubbling. If bubbling is found, you may need to pull the plug around slightly or in a worst case scenario, it’ll need to be removed and then re-installing the plug.
Using side cutters, trim off the exposed plug tails and any small nub remaining will eventually wear off with driving. After the plug has been installed, the plug has minimal weight so there is no need to have your wheels balanced again.
The plug will last the life of the tire and there is no need to visit a repair shop for a further repair when done correctly. As a tip depending on your vehicle, if you have enough room this repair can be done on your vehicle rather than removing the wheel.
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