How to plug a flat tire

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3 min read

A flat tire feels like disaster (especially if you’re stuck on the interstate) but it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately they’re a common occurrence for drivers, and compared to having your exhaust fall off, or getting your catalytic converter stolen, are a pretty minor inconvenience.

It’s good to be philosophical about it—but that won’t get you back on the road. If you get hit with a flat, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and put your car maintenance knowledge to work.

The first step is to change the tire (and we’ve got a handy guide to help you). But if you don’t have a spare, are not in reach of a service station, or can’t get a repair van to come soon enough, then it’s down to you!

Being able to fix a flat is an important skill for any driver, so let’s brush up on what you need to do.

get the wheel off

The first step is to remove the wheel. Make sure your car safely on a flat surface with the emergency brake on. Use a jack to raise the car and remove the wheel with a flat.

locate the puncture

If there’s a big nail sticking out of the tire, then bingo you’ve found your puncture. But sometimes it’s not so easy to locate. In that case, coat the tire with soapy water and look out for big bubbles that signpost a leak.

prepare the rubber

With the tire off you have easy access to plug the puncture. Clean the tire and use a reamer to clear out the puncture hole and make sure the plug will make good contact.

attach the patch

Apply the rubber cement and push the plug part of the patch through the puncture hole. You might need to use a reamer tool to push the plug through. Finally, trim any excess rubber from the plug sticking out the top of the tire.

put the wheel back on

Re-inflate the tire and do a last check with soapy water to make sure the plug is holding (and you haven’t missed any other leaks or punctures). Then place the wheel back on the axle.

and you’re good to go!

While a tire plug is a good short term fix, the usual advice is to not rely on it for too long. Make sure to schedule a trip to the auto repair shop and have a mechanic give it a check.

Flat tire repair doesn’t have to be taxing, but if your car is racking up repair bills even the small fixes can start to bite. If you’re dreaming of a hummer with self-repairing tires or a steel-tread tank, it might be time to face up to reality and buy a new car. Sell your old one to Peddle through our online car valuation tool and pump up your price-range with some extra funds.