Everyone has been there. You’re off to work or heading back home, and you hit something with the wheel of your car and are suddenly lugging along. Yup, it’s a puncture.
So what do you do?
If you’ve never fixed a flat or slow leak yourself, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to repair a tire and when it’s best to repair vs. replace a tire.
The Short Answer
The process of how to repair a tire is straightforward. You’ll need to remove the tire, apply a plug or patch, seal the repair using rubber cement or vulcanizing glue, and reinflate it to optimal tire pressure.
When to Repair vs. Replace a Tire
The first thing you need to do is find out if you can repair the tire, or if doing so would be dangerous, and it would be after to replace it with a new one.
You probably need a replacement if:
- The puncture is on the outside of the Puncture Repair Area, i.e., on the outer edges rather than in the center tread;
- The puncture is larger than a ¼ inch, or 6mm wide;
- There is a bubble in the sidewall; an air bubble is not something you can repair, so the whole thing will need replacing.
You can safely complete a repair and continue to drive, at least short term, with it if:
- The puncture is within the puncture repair area. This area spans the middle part, roughly as wide as your hand, or 1 to 1.5 inches from each tire shoulder. This zone, known as the ‘crown,’ typically has grooves in the rubber closest to the shoulder on either side of this area, defining it.
- The puncture measures less than ¼ of an inch wide.
- The repairs do not need to overlap, or if damaged areas are not directly across from one another.
Basic Steps for How to Repair a Tire Yourself
It is best to get most repairs done at a reputable car shop. These shops have special equipment, such as vulcanization machines, that enable long-lasting repairs. There are also instances, especially with newer cars, where you’ll need to reset the car’s computer. Again, a repair shop will know how to do this.
That said, if you have some fair vehicle mechanical or DIY know-how, you can repair a tire yourself.
Tools and materials you will need for repairs:
- A carjack — to lift the car, so you can remove and work on the tire
- A pair of pliers — for holding firm or pulling
- A T-handle Insert Tool — for cleaning the puncture area
- Plugs or patches — to seal off the punctured area
- Rubber cement or vulcanizing glue — an adhesive to seal the plug or patch
- A tire inflator — to reinflate and achieve optimum pressure after repair
- Jack the car up off the ground carefully and safely.
- Take the tire off its rim.
- Perform a thorough inspection of both the inside and the outside of the tire to assess the damage. Sometimes, a leak may look reparable from the outside but have significant damage on the inside.
- If you find you can repair it, trim damaged cables from around the puncture area to stabilize it.
- Working from the inside to the outside, pull a Rubber Stem through the puncture zone to seal off the tire’s interior.
- Again, starting from the inside, buff up the puncture zone and then spread rubber cement or vulcanizing glue to the puncture area.
- You can place a patch over the inner lining over the puncture zone. This patch causes a chemical reaction, which seals the repair work to the original tire surface.
- Remount the tire onto the wheel rim.
- Inflate to the correct pressure. Check your vehicle specifications for this information.
- Check for leaks before putting the tire back onto the car. You can do this by submerging it in a vat of water and seeing if any air bubbles escape the puncture area.
You will need to keep an eye on everything in case the repair starts to come apart. If it does so, then it may be safer to purchase a brand-new tire.
If you get a puncture, you need to know when repair or replacement is best. You also need to know how to repair a tire yourself and the safest way to do so.
Driving a car with a poorly repaired tire is extremely dangerous. So, unless you have experience with car repairs, it’s best to visit the experts if you notice a puncture.
Did you find this guide helpful? Then consider checking other recommended readings:
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