*Plugging a tire leak*
By: Ahab
22 February 2006

Fixing a small hole in your tire is easy and much more inexpensive than taking it to a shop. Also, you may not be near a shop when the tire goes flat, or you may wake up one morning and find a flat tire right in your garage, and itís probably easier to fix a small leak than to swap out to your spare as long as you have the ability to pump the tire back up.

The start is just purchasing a tire plugging kit, which you can find at Walmart, Target, AutoZone, NAPA, etc. The one below cost me about $7. It included five plugs, which is about $25 worth of repairs at the local gas station (if you can find a gas station that actually has a mechanic anymore).

The kit contains three parts, the plugs, the plug inserter and the rasp.


Here is the first culprit in my tire (I had 3 -- hey, Iím in construction)

The first thing to do is load a plug into the inserter. This can be a little difficult, itís like threading a needle with sticky spaghetti, so I find itís easiest to rock the plug back and forth until you get a little bit through the opening, then use pliers to pull out just enough to get your fingers around. Then itís fairly easy to pull the plug half way through the opening. I donít recommend using pliers to pull it the whole way as you may rip the plug, and then youíre back a step.

So now the plug is loaded and ready to go, letís take a close look at the holder, itís pretty clever. Youíll see itís like a needle, but the end is split. This is how we get the inserter out of the tire while still leaving the plug in there.

Now is the moment of truth. Place the rasp and inserter close by, grab your pliers and get that offending piece of metal out of your tire!

Here is the culprit, but now is not the time to admire it!

Now you have one or two things going on. In one case, when you pulled the nail out, you immediately heard the WHOOSHING sound of all the air in your tire leaving. If this is the case, you can safely skip the next step. In my case on this nail, I didnít hear any air escaping, so I used the "spit test" on the hole to see if there was a small leak going on there.

The small bubble coming up slowly tells me there is a little hole going into the tire. So we take the rasp tool and run it into the hole several times. This does a few things. On one hand it evens up and cleans the hole so the plug has a good surface to bond to. Also in this case where the nail had barely gone into the tire, it widens up the hole so that the plug can easily be run into the tire.

Once youíve rasped a few times, get the inserter and push the plug down until Ĺ inch or so of it is showing above the tread. This should leave plenty through the hole and into the tire. This part can take a bit of effort, especially if you donít have good access to where the nail was. In my case, this one was very easy to get to and apply leverage to, but my second nail was dead in the center of the tire and the wheel well made it tough to bear down hard to get the plug in.

Now just remove the inserter by pulling up on it sharply. The tool will come out and leave the plug behind. All thatís left to do is trim up the excess plug above the tread and re-inflate your tire if necessary.


Refill kits of plugs are usually sold right next to the kit. Iíd suggest buying a set of those at the same time and leave both the tool set and spare plugs in your vehicle. Add a can of Fix-A-Flat and you should be able to get back on the road in no time!

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