Wether a tire patch or a plug is the way to go, a lot of drivers who have had tire problems on the road might be interested in the best way to fix a flat. Needless to say, local shops disagree on this all the time. The availability of options leads to some debate over what's the "best" way to fix a tire. Is it the patch or the plug? Here are some considerations for learning which you would rely on in a flat tire emergency.
The Case for Plugs
Some shops may recommend a plug in a tire because it is the cheapest and the quickest option. When someone has broken down on the highway and needs to get somewhere, they can enjoy the convenience of the quick plug (which often costs less than $10 and can be done in just a few minutes). Also, the technology for plugs has improved over time. In the old days, plugs were simply inserted into the tire, and that was that. Newer plugs "vulcanize" to the tire for improved stability on the road. As a result, a driver can get a quick tire plug and drive another 20k miles on the tire with no problems.
Limitations to Tire Plug Methods
Even though a tire plug by itself might be enough, national road safety agencies caution against a simple plug. Here are some of the situations where relying on a plug might be less effective:
- When the hole is near the sidewall - many experts recommend a patch for when a tire puncture is near the sidewall, as the plug may not be able to completely seal the damage.
- When the puncture is not straight - a diagonal puncture is more likely to need a patch solution.
Other Concerns About Plugs
Lots of experts also caution that a plug should not be applied without a patch unless a shop takes off the wheel for a visual inspection. Thorough inspection of the punctured tire helps catch additional damage that may go unnoticed when the tech is simply inserting a plug from the outside of the tire. The best and most effective solution, according to safety experts, is to combine a plug with a patch, to make sure the fix will stabilize the puncture.
Larger Tire Punctures
Some classes of tire puncture are not generally repair-worthy, according to those who understand tire safety. A puncture of greater than 1/4" in diameter will require a more complicated solution than a plug and patch. Some drivers deal with this by using a full-sized spare as a replacement and buying one additional tire.
The above will help drivers understand what they can do about the next flat that finds them on the road. Ask your mechanic about what specific methods they routinely use to repair a tire, and don't be afraid to ask for the option that you feel is the safest and the best.