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How to fix that flat tire with some easy DIY tire plugs

Excellent video for a quick fix to get you back on the road. However, getting you the air needed to re-inflate your tire would be a good tip as well. Many people carry air pumps in their “trunk” - most don’t. Either you are near an air source or you’re not. Perhaps a followup article on the latest and greatest on that would be good. Lastly, usually the cryptic comments are from people who aren’t skilled in repairs, so their lack of understanding the big picture of what is being offered is limited.

I’ve been using these type of plugs for 20 plus years and have never had an issue. They are great as in most cases you don’t need to remove the tire. One thing the video did not show is when are pulling something out of the tire the air pressure may jettison that piece of metal out of the tire. Have had this happen a few times and typically you face is over the tire. I now place a rag over the pliers thus blocking the object from flying out.

A proper repair also depends an awful lot on the location. I’ve had sidewalls repaired with no problem, however, I took it to a professional. Its so easy to call AAA and have somebody else do it. We experienced a flat tire on a 4 lane highway and it wasn’t to long before the State Police showed up and informed me that I could not repair the tire on the side of the road. A tow truck was on the way whether I wanted it or not. I had no choice. Would not even let me put the spare on. I repaired the tire as soon as the tow truck unloaded the car in a big lot they used for the towed cars. Did you know that if you ask someone what a tire iron is, they will inevitably show you a lug nut or rim wrench.

I used to work at a small town station where we sold used cars, pumped gas, changed tires, did full mechanical work, even sold propane and did UPS. We had the option back then to plug for a lesser price and I too plugged many of my tires. I was very poor back when I started and drove / road raced at high rates of speed in the Sierra Nevada’s even having blowouts on bald tires, “like I said very poor”. Fact is some of those tires were even plugged and the plugs remained in the tire. I never had the red cloth type plug fail ever, but although I did not install and did not like the rubber style plugs I have seen them fail. I also never saw a bead ever separate from one of my plugs but as far as I know I am the only one who went twice the speed limit through turns and over 100 mph on straight-a-ways. Still alive and hotrodding at almost sixty but would not recommend my long ago youthful indiscretions to anyone who would want to live a full life.

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I too am a firm believer in these plugs. I have been using them for 30+ years and have plunged nearly 100 tires, never had a failure. I’ve even had success with using 2 plugs for a large hole. I’ve used them on sidewall punctures as well and they work just fine, no balance issues at all and thousands more miles on the tires at highway speeds.
A few suggestions are my experience and opinions-
Over inflate the tire some before you pull out the screw, nail or whatever object, then mark the spot with a chalk circle so you don’t lose it, sometimes the hole is very small. Then after carefully extracting the object, if it is obvious that air is flowing out of the hole stick the reamer tool in right away to help stop lose of air. It’s easier to plug an inflated tire as opposed to a deflated tire (as in the video). If no sign of air lose is evident after pulling the object out, check for air lose with soapy water. Sometimes short screws don’t actually puncture the tire carcass and no plug is needed.
This procedure can also easily be done without taking the tire off the car if you also have a compressor. If you find the object on the treads just slowly move the car so that the object is at about 4 o’clock or 8 o’clock looking at the front of the wheel (whichever is easier to get at). Lay down and plug it. Don’t worry about putting the rubber glue on the plug either, I’ve never used it as the plugs are very sticky and seal tight without it. I carry these plugs and a mini compressor in all my vehicles so not to have to deal with changing a spare. And my Corvette doesn’t have a spare. Plugs are much better than foam inflation sealants.

I’m not an expert but I have seen the horrific results of an improperly repaired tire and I have listened to the testimony of several experts. The Rubber Manufactures Association recommends using a plug and patch. The industry uses a Plug/patch combination for repairs unless the angle of the hole prevents the combo’s use. In those cases a separate plug & patch are used. Additionally, sidewalls are not repairable. www.tireindustry.org/tire-maintenance/tire-repair

I am guilty of plugging a tire and never giving it a second thought. It is convenient and may hold for the life of the tire. However, it is not worth the risk of experiencing a tire failure at 80 mph. Plugs are temporary repairs. They are meant to get you to a competent tire shop where the tire can be permanently repaired. I enjoy the Hagerty articles and look forward to the emails. However, this article should have never been published.

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The directions say to push the plug in 2/3 of the way and then pull the tool out (hopefully) leaving the plug in. There is a slot in the tip of the tool so this may work. Some tools have the slot in the side if the loop which requires the alternate method of pushing the plug in all the way and pulling the end out. The latter method seems more dependable. The instructions and the tool may not match.

I need to put an emergency tire repair kit together for wife’s Tesla M3. Any suggestions by anyone who has actually used what they recommend for either an entire kit or for individual tools and plugs as well as an air compressor?

Using a conventional roadside tire repair kit may be difficult for your wife unless she’s got good upper body strength. I would recommend a can of tire fix as it may inflate tire and seal it so she can get home or to the station. it also will probably screw up the tire pressure sensor but repairing the tire that way would at least get her out of a bad fix.

I plugged many a tire at a Mobil station I worked at when I was a kid in the sixties. I think we charged a dollar for the plug and seldom took the wheel off the car.

However, in my 50+ years if driving, I don’t think I’ve ever had a flat on the road. I don’t even carry a spare in my Corvair, just a can of fix a flat.

I have used plugs without the glue and it works fine but they’re easier to insert with the glue acting as a lubricant. Also, if you’re buying a kit, get one with Tee handles as the little screwdriver type handles are much more difficult to grip and twist.

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For those of us who run staggered tire sizes, carrying two size spares is not very practical. Therefore a patch kit (and mini compressor) makes a lot of sense to get you going until a proper repair or replacement can be done.

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Tire plugs are temporary repairs. There are three basic parts of a tire the tread, the belts or carcass, and the inner liner. A plug patch combination is the correct way to repair a tire. The plug is used to fill the hole in the tread and carcass to keep dirt and moisture out of the hole so the belts aren’t damaged. The patch seals the inner liner which acts like an inner tube for a tubless tire. If this liner is not sealed air can escape into the belts causing separation ruining a tire or worst causing a tire to blow out. I have seen plugs inserted into small holes which stopped the air leak at the time but because of the small hole when the reamer was inserted it did not follow the original hole and actually made another hole in the liner. I have also seen plugs inserted that stopped the leak but when the tire was demounted for proper repair it was found to have major damage on the inside. Most tire makes do not allow repairs to a sidewall and a plug only in the tread will void any warranty.

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Since we are nit picking, did you mean to say “This is clearly not the case as the plug doesn’t come”, instead of “This us clearly not the case as the plug diesn’t come”?

Devin, I have had to do the plug fix a few times. Unfortunately many people without classics with Laverty do not have a clue they can do a fix like this on the road. By the way love the late model on the lift. Have had 4 corvairs. Nick

VERY DISAPPOINTING VIDEO! Hard to believe a company that sells insurance would support and encourage an unsafe process. I spent 37 years in the Firestone Retail division and retired as a Division President. I then opened 3 tire and auto service centers with my son. NO reputable tire store will plug tires today. We only plugged tires for lawnmowers, tractors and other non highway use tires. An examination of the plug kit box will say for temporary use only. Why? We only did patch plug repairs which required the tire to be removed from the wheel. In many cases we then did not repair the tire because of internal damage that could only be detected when the tire was removed from the wheel. Tires that were run low or flat often had lots of loose rubber inside which made the tire unsafe to repair. On one occasion we found a screwdriver minus the handle inside the tire. Plugs are not a good option and should only be used to get to a reputable tire store for a permanent patch repair.

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Been plugging tires since owning my 1976 Ford Fiesta. Never one problem. The patch is just more political correctness gone crazy. Just a way for Firestone to make more money.

It seems most newer vehicles come without a spare sadly, for fuel savings. However, they often come with an air pump. I carry a can of liquid air just in case in all my vehicles, with or with out a spare.

I agree, but the rubber cement actually helps as a lubricant to insert the “bacon rind” plugs with less effort. I’ve used them on car and bike tires, and though eventually I’ll stop in and get the tire dismounted for a plug/patch repair w/spin balance, they sure keep you from walking home. Had to stuff 3-4 bacon rind ones into an actual cut from a piece of metal into an almost new rear 180 tire on my old CBR1000F but it got me the 80 or so miles back home on a Sunday afternoon. Took all 3 cartridges from the kit to get the tire full enough to limp the shoulder to a gas station with an air pump, but a great outcome overall. Just another useful tool, to be used or not, I guess.

I agree that self-plugged repairs should only be a temporary fix until a proper professional repair including a patch can be performed (especially when you consider there could be unseen damage on the inside of the tire), however, I too have driven lots of miles on self-plugged tires without later getting a proper repair. I’ve had mixed results with string plugs - some repairs lasted indefinitely, others leaked after a time and needed to be replaced. Often, even a successful installation first required a couple of tries as releasing the plug properly from the insertion tool wasn’t successful on the first try.

In recent years I’ve switched to a rubber mushroom-headed plug system marketed by Stop & Go (they offer several systems including string plugs). The insertion method is ingenious:

(1) Ream the hole using probe (looks like an awl) and reamer tools like in other systems.

(2) Insert a (silicone) pre-lubricated rubber mushroom-headed plug in one end of a special machined plugging tool (looks like a small impact driver), and fully seat the plug using the tip of a nozzle (looks like a funnel). Set the plugging tool aside.

(3) Screw the nozzle into the awl/probe, then insert it into the hole in the tire. Push while twisting until the nozzle tip is fully inserted into the hole in the tire.

(4) Unscrew the awl leaving the nozzle in place.

(5) Screw the plugging tool into the nozzle in the tire.

(6) Place the provided hex key in the other end of the plugging tool and turn clockwise until it bottoms out, at which point the plug has been pushed through the nozzle into the tire, with the mushroom head protruding on the inside of the tire.

(7) Remove the hex key, and slowly pull the plugging tool away from the tire leaving only the plug’s stem visibly protruding from the tire.

(8) Pull on the stem a bit with a pair of pliers to fully seat the mushroom head on the inside of the tire, and in its rest state, cut off the excess stem with a small blade, also provided.

(9) Place the hex key back on the end of the plugging tool and screw counterclockwise until it stops to prepare the tool for a future repair.

The Stop & Go Pocket Tire Plugger (Model #1000) includes everything but the pliers in a small zipped vinyl pouch along with pictured instructions on a laminated card so you can even read them in the rain. The system is very compact as it was originally designed for tubeless motorcycle tires, and some kits also come with CO2 cartridges to inflate those tires. The procedure sounds lengthy and complicated but if you watch their demo video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCVNRtmxHEs), it is easy and intuitive. All you need is the kit, a small pair of pliers (if you don’t carry a multitool), and a dependable 12V air compressor (preferably one with a cooling fan to keep it from overheating and seizing) and you’re good to go. I have these in all my vehicles.

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