Is A Tire Plug A Permanent Fix?

Can you rely on a tire plug? Is plugging a tire a permanent fix and if not, how long do plugged tires last? Here's the ultimate guide.

Tire plugs are a very basic way to re-seal your rubber after a puncture.

But what do you do next? Leave it as it is? Or do you need to go to a tire shop anyway?

Go to a tire shop! That is the quick answer. A tire plug isn’t a permanent fix and isn’t designed to be.

Read your owner’s manual and the advice on the tire plug kit for everything you need.

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What Is A Tire Plug?

Tire plug

A tire plug is a piece of rubber forced into a tire to plug the hole left by a puncture.

They’re often included in roadside emergency kits. You don’t need to remove the tire from the rim, making them a very effective temporary fix.

When you need to install one, follow the instructions on your specific kit. They will vary slightly between brands and types.

In short, you’ll need to pull the puncturing object out (such as a screw, nail, glass shard, etc.), if applicable. You then use the handle to force the plug into place before cutting off the remnants (still outside the tire).

Now you can use an in-car air compressor to pump the tire up. Soap solution is usually provided to help you check for leaks.

You can’t use plugs if the puncture is:

  • On the tire wall
  • Near the tire wall
  • Large (greater than 1/4 inch)

Is A Plugged Tire A Permanent Fix?

Tire Repair Kit

No.

If you’ve been researching this topic, you might have come across advice telling you it’ll last for many years.

Don’t take that risk.

A tire plug is a very (very!) crude and imprecise way of stopping the air from escaping your tire. They’re far inferior to a proper tire patch installed from the inside by a trained mechanic.

Some people will get lucky. They might leave a tire plug in place for years without seeing any problems.

In reality, this is just laziness. If the tire blows out at highway speeds, your car could spin out of control and cause a potentially fatal crash.

It’s your responsibility to get a suitable puncture repair patch or a new tire immediately. If you manage to successfully install a tire plug, go straight to the nearest tire shop.

Are Plugged Tires Safe?

Plugging A Tire

Plugged tires are safe for what they’re designed to do.

They’re there to get you to the nearest mechanic, where the problem can be properly diagnosed and repaired.

They aren’t safe if misused. They aren’t a permanent fix, so leaving one in your tire for days, weeks, or months is dangerous. It increases the risk of a blowout.

Plus, if the tire plug isn’t perfectly sealing the puncture, your tire will deflate again.

The tire plug kit and owner’s manual will contain specific instructions on driving safely after these temporary repairs.

Although these vary from car to car, it’s usually best to:

  • Never exceed 50 mph.
  • Brake, accelerate, and steer gently.
  • Avoid overly uneven and rough surfaces.
  • Be careful when traveling over speed bumps.
  • Pull over to re-check your tire pressures after a few miles.

If the tire plug isn’t working or feels dangerous, find a safe location to change your tire for the spare wheel.

If you don’t have one or can’t get access to an inflator, you should call for breakdown assistance and a tow truck.

How Long Do Plugged Tires Last?

Tire Shop Repair

You should only drive on a plugged tire if you’re heading to a tire shop.

There’s no guarantee – at all – about how long a plugged tire will last. It could be five minutes, and it could be a year.

Follow the safety advice found in your owner’s manual and on the tire plug kit. Doing this will make the tire last as long as possible.

However, the same applies: you only need to make it to the nearest tire shop. You’ll then get a new tire or a professional puncture repair. In most cases, you’ll be on your way again in no time.

Don’t Mechanics Use Tire Plugs?

Mechanics and tire technicians should use puncture patches. These are far more reliable than tire plugs. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

They’ll take your wheel off the car and remove the tire using their tire machine. They’ll then remove the intruding object (if necessary) and drill through the hole to make the edges smoother. Buffing equipment and solutions are then used to make the inside surface polished and flat.

After this, a rubber patch is pulled through from the inside out. They’ll use a heat gun to seal it and then cut off the remnants from the outside.

Tire patches don’t work in the following circumstances:

  • If the puncture is on the side wall.
  • If the puncture is in the tread but within the patch’s radius of the tire wall.
  • For large tears and significant cracks.
  • For worn down tread and strange wear patterns.
  • If the puncture is too large (such as a big piece of glass).

Again, you can’t get a tire plug instead of a patch. Unfortunately, you need a new tire.

Concluding Thoughts

Patching A Car Tire
A tire patch is generally considered a permanent fix.

Tire plugs aren’t a permanent fix. You shouldn’t ever be tempted to think of them as such.

A tire patch (a completely different thing) should be a permanent fix if installed correctly by a trained mechanic.

The alternative is a new tire.

Don’t skip basic safety when it comes to tires. Look after them. They’re your only connection to the road, after all!

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Benjamin Kitchen

Ben is an automotive author from England. With experience in a fast-fit garage, he's an IMI-qualified light vehicle technician. He aims to help drivers worldwide with common automotive problems. You’ll often find him working with his 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa – it may have a tiny engine, but in eight years it's never once let him down!

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