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Before opting to have your tire plugged rather than replacing your tire, you must find out if your tire must be replaced or if a tire plug may be used. Relying on an unsafe solution to a flat tire not only jeopardizes your life, but the lives of other drivers and passengers who are on the road around you. Let’s discuss what you need to know to make the best choice:

How long will a tire plug last?

When tire plugs are installed properly, they may last the useful lifetime of the tire. A vulcanizing flat tire plug or a vulcanizing mushroom tire plug are the recommended types of tire plugs for maximizing durability to last throughout the tire’s remaining useful lifetime.

Vulcanizing flat tire plugs include a special piece of rubber combined with a bonding agent substance that helps the tire plug become part of the tire wall, which makes this type of tire plug effective.

Vulcanizing mushroom tire plugs got their name from their mushroom shape. This type of plug is stronger than their flat cousins because not only do they become part of the tire itself, but when properly installed, they make the tire stronger where it was damaged. Of course, this extra strength comes at price; mushroom tire plugs are usually the most expensive. Even though it is the most expensive option, it is recommended that this type of tire plug be used, as it is the strongest and it is less expensive than a new tire.

The key word here is useful lifetime; if your tire has 20,000 miles left in it, that is how long you should expect the tire plug should last. If your tire is worn down and genuinely requires replacement, a tire plug cannot make the tire last longer than it’s useful life.

The tire plug vs the tire patch

The biggest difference is that a tire patch is installed from the inside of the tire, and a tire plug is installed from the outside of the tire. For a road side emergency, keeping a tire plug kit in your trunk is a good idea, as tire plugs may be installed on the road side if you understand how to install them correctly. Tire patches, however, may not be installed road side, as the tire must be removed from the wheel to install them.

What these repair methods have in common is that they should never be performed on a tire that sustained a tire wall puncture, or on a puncture that is more than 1/4 inch in size.

Is a tire plug permanent?

Tire plugs may be used for the tire’s useful life, making them a long term solution to getting more wear out of a tire, but not a permanent fix. Tires are not permanent, so tire plugs cannot be expected to be permanent either. All drivers should regularly inspect their tires for wear and anticipate having to replacing them at some point.

Are tire plugs reliable?

A tire plug’s reliability is determined by the damaged sustained by the tire. If the tire sustained a severe injury, a tire plug cannot be considered a reliable repair, even if it is installed properly. If the damage allows for the tire to be plugged, the reliability then shifts to the quality of the installation.

Before plugging a tire, it must be removed from the wheel so that the interior of the tire may be inspected. Seeing the damage inflicted on the exterior of the tire only tells half of the story; if the interior damage is significant, a tire plug will not be an effective solution.

Installed by itself, a tire plug is reliable for approximately 20,000 miles, or the remaining useful life of your tire. However, depending on the damage that your tire sustained, the plug may be more appropriate to get you where you need to be that day, not be a reliable long term solution.

Motor Week recommends tires be repaired with both a plug and a patch for ultimate reliability. While tire plugs do have certain strengths, such as making the tire stronger around the damaged area when installed properly, they are not a perfect, all-encompassing solution. The plug prevents leaks occurring from the outside of the tire, but including a patch on the inside provides extra security and reliability.

No matter what type of tire plug you purchase, proper installation is key to the tire plug being reliable. If it is installed incorrectly, it will not be able to function as it should.

How many times can you plug a tire?

It is only safe to plug a tire one to three times. Ethical mechanics should refuse to plug a tire more than three times due to the risks associated with plugging a tire multiple times.

If your tire sustained multiple punctures, there must be at least 17 inches between the punctures for it to be able to to be repaired. If the punctures are closer together than 17 inches, you need a to replace the tire.

How do you know if your tire cannot be plugged?

Plugging a tire with severe damage will pose a safety hazard to you, your passengers, and others on the road. There are a few scenarios in which a tire is considered severely damaged and should be replaced, not be plugged:

  • The tire sustained multiple punctures less than 17 inches apart.
  • The puncture is larger than 1/4 inch.
  • The tire sustained internal damage.
  • The puncture is not a straight incision.
  • The puncture is on the side wall of the tire, not on the road side of the tire.

If you damage a tire as severely as mentioned above and consider plugging it to limp to the nearest mechanic, think again. Although you might be able to make a plug work temporarily, it is not likely to hold up very far, risking your safety while driving, and risking damaging your wheel.

While saving money is an important practice, plugging a tire that really should be replaced is not the place to trim the fat from your spending. If your mechanic recommends replacing the tire, even though it will be more expensive than plugging the tire, consider that their recommendation is not stemmed from trying to make more money; it may truly be the safer option.

How much does it cost to plug a tire?

If you are considering installing a tire plug yourself, tire plug kits are available for $25 to $70 to purchase.

If you’re not handy with tools, or you just want to make sure the job is done right, do not be afraid to consult with a mechanic. As aforementioned, inspecting the interior of the tire is important, and that is not something that can be done at home. Hiring a mechanic is easy to justify; you will most likely spend less on tire plug service than you would purchasing a new tire. Although a mechanic would charge labor in addition to the cost of supplies; you should expect to pay $25 to $80 using a mechanic to perform the inspection and installation.

Summary
If the tire has sustained damage severe enough to make replacement necessary, it cannot be plugged. If a tire has sustained one puncture 1/4 inch or less on the road surface of the tire, it may be plugged. So, how long will a tire plug last? If installed properly, especially when a patch is installed simultaneously, a tire plug may last the remainder of the tire’s useful life.
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