Part of being a car owner is dealing with the occasional flat tire, be it from a nail, glass shard, or another sharp object. Depending on the size and location of the puncture, you may be able to repair it with a radial patch.
Patches are not only long-lasting and safe, but the cost to patch a tire is far less than buying a new one.
How much does patching a tire cost?
Factoring in parts and hourly shop rates, the minimum cost to patch a tire ranges from $25 to $40. However, to account for the extra weight, newly patched tires should also be balanced, a service costing around $15.
In total, expect to spend $40 to $55 to properly patch a tire.
This guide covers these costs in more detail, but first, we’ll explain what a tire patch is and how long you can expect one to last. Lastly, we’ll compare patches with two other tire repair options: plugs and sealants.
Note: The cost figures in this guide are estimates. Exact pricing depends on the size and location of the repair, as well as shop rates, parts costs, and fees.
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What Is A Tire Patch?
Simply put, tire patches are flat, adhesive-backed rubber strips for covering and sealing punctures. The adhesive of choice is rubber cement, which dries quickly for a strong, flexible bond.
Patches work best when the puncture is in the center of the tire’s tread, at least ½” from the sidewall, and no more than ¼” in diameter. Tires with shoulder or sidewall damage are structurally compromised and cannot be repaired.
How Long Do Tire Patches Last?
When properly applied, tire patches typically last seven to 10 years. The average set of tires lasts about four to five years, so patches are a safe, permanent fix for most drivers.
Yet, if the patch is not installed correctly, the chances of the tire leaking or blowing out increase. While you can patch a tire multiple times, punctures should be no less than 16 inches apart.
How Much Does Patching A Tire Cost?
Patching a tire is not complicated, with most shops charging for 15 minutes of time at an hourly rate of $75 to $130. As for parts, you’ll only be paying for a patch and some adhesive, so total costs should not exceed $6.
Combined, this means you’ll spend between $24.75 to $38.50 just to patch a tire.
However, the added weight of the tire patch will cause the wheel to be unbalanced, leading to uneven tread wear, reduced fuel economy, and other negative symptoms. For these reasons, you should always balance newly patched tires.
Shops usually charge $20 to $30 to balance a tire, but most will lower that to $15 since the wheel will already be off.
Altogether, the total cost to patch and mount a tire ranges from $39.75 to $53.50.
Reduce Repair Costs By Patching Your Own Tire
To cut costs even further, you can also patch your own tire. Patch kits cost around $10 to $20, depending on the type and quantity of patches, and come with everything you need to patch a tire at home.
You’ll also have to balance the tire manually if you go this route, which is a bit tedious. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay full price at a shop, negating the DIY savings.
Ultimately, most drivers will do best by having a shop patch their tire, mostly for the added convenience.
Tire Patch vs. Tire Plug vs. Tire Sealant: Cost Comparisons
A tire patch is the strongest, longest-lasting method of fixing a punctured tire, provided the damage is repairable. However, there are other options, including tire plugs and sealants.
Tire Plug Costs
Tire plugs are thin strips of leather coated in a sticky rubber compound. These get forced into the hole left by the nail, screw, etc., to plug the leak.
Plugs are installed outside the tire, so you won’t have to separate the rubber from the rim.
Tire plugs cost slightly less than patches, ranging from just $10 to $20. Unfortunately, tire plugs are temporary and only good for up to eight miles of driving.
Tire Sealant Costs
Tire sealant is another tire repair option, a latex-based liquid that goes inside the tube, sealing small leaks.
While a can of sealant should only cost $6 to $12, many mechanics suggest avoiding sealant, claiming it’s bad for your tires and can clog pressure sensors.
If you’re in a bind, tire sealant is fine for small punctures, so long as you pick a quality product. Realistically, there’s no reason you shouldn’t keep a can of sealant in your car, just in case.
Patching A Tire Costs More Than Other Repair Options, But The Fix Is Permanent
As a reminder, patches are only an option when the puncture is less than ½” from the sidewall and no more than ¼” in diameter.
If you’re in a bind, plugs are a great, short-term option that should allow you to reach a repair shop. You can also use sealant if the puncture is small, but don’t be surprised if your TPMS light comes on.
While plugs and sealants cost less and are more convenient, tire patches are the most reliable fix and the one you should choose first.