How to Repair a Flat Tire with a Tire Plug Kit
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
If you have never plugged a tire yourself, you are about to learn how. Step by step with details. Whether you live on a farm, mow lawns for a living, or drive your vehicle on roads you will likely encounter a flat tire. This article details how to use a tire plug kit.
Here is what you will need:
Pliers (to remove the object in the tire)
Tire Plug Kit (Rasp tool, Plug tool, Plugs, rubber cement, utility blade)
Spray bottle with soap and water (optional if you cannot find the puncture)
Step 1: Find where the leak is on your tire. Usually it's easy to spot a nail or screw in the tire. You may need to rotate the tire around to find it. Other times the hole is harder to spot. If you can't find the leak use a spray bottle filled with soapy water to spray on the tire. The leak will be obvious when the soapy water hits it and blows soap bubbles outward. For completely flat tires, add some air to do the soap test.
Pro tip: Inspect tires on vehicles and machinery often. You can spot trouble long before you get stranded with a flat or get behind on tractor work.
Now that you know where the leak is on your tire, you can take some action to get rolling again. You will need a tire plugging kit. They are available online, at most car parts stores and even some gas stations (though you will pay dearly there).
In your tire plug kit you will find two tools with handles. The rasp (or reamer) tool is a file used to clean the hole up a bit so the plug fits snuggly and makes a good bond to the tire. The plug tool is for inserting the plug into the tire. The rubber strips, which are sticky, are the plugs. Rubber cement is often included in the kits to use in combination with the plugs. Some say it improves the success of the plugging while others skip the cement. We recommend using the rubber cement because it acts as a lubricant to help insert the plug through the puncture and provides a better seal.
You will need a pair of pliers to remove the object from your tire if the nail or screw is still in there. We had a customer once who got a flat on his truck from a deer antler in the road. He now keeps TireJect in all his farm tires and a jug in his truck for emergency repairs. Needless to say you have to watch out for everything out in the country!
Step 2: Use a pair of pliers to remove the object - this might be a nail, screw or some other devious piece of metal that flattened your tire! It will take some effort to pull the object out with the pliers. So be very careful as you pull on it using force. You don't want to hurt your hand by hitting it on the vehicle once the nail or screw comes out. A slow methodical twisting/pulling motion is best. No need to rush the process. Your knuckles will thank you later!
Step 3: Prepping the hole is crucial for those who know how to plug a tire properly. Don't skip this step. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. We've all heard that from our dads and grandpas, right? All that's needed is to stick the hole-cleaning tool into the puncture on the tire and push it in and out several times. This makes the hole smoother, allowing the plugs to work perfectly.
Step 4: Once the hole is cleaned up enough (10 in and out motions is plenty), it is time to insert the plug. Take one of the plug strips and slide it into the eye on the end of the plugging tool. It may take some twisting and maneuvering. These things are sticky! That's what helps keep them stuck to the inside of the tire.
You want the plug to stick out with equal lengths on each side of the eye (slit at end of the tool).
Before inserting the plug into the hole, squirt some rubber cement on the plug. The cement will actually help lubricate the plug and then it will dry and bond to the rubber for an air tight seal. Now push the tool into the puncture. Stop pushing when there is about 1/2 inch / 3/4 inch of the plug is sticking out. There will be two sections of the rubber strip as shown below.
Step 5: So, you have the plug inserted to the proper depth. Now it's time to pull the tool out without yanking the plug with it. No rush here. The tool is designed to release the plug as you pull outward. You may have to twist it a bit and do some wiggling to make it release the rubber strip completely. Just ease the tool all the way out of the hole once you see the plug is staying put.
Did you get it fixed totally? Inflate the tire to the specified air pressure and use the soapy water to test the plugged puncture.
If you see you left too much plug sticking out then you can trim the excess off if you like. Not mandatory, but some folks are perfectionists. And some would argue that leaving excess material hanging is asking for trouble.
Let's do a quick summary of how to plug a tire to recap what we just talked about.
Find the source of the leak (if it's a bead leak you should use TireJect, the only sealant that fixes bead leaks).
Remove object from tire with pliers.
Use rasp/reamer tool from plug kit to clean the hole.
Thread a plug strip into tip of plug tool, add rubber cement onto plug and push tool into the puncture until about 1/2" of the plug strip is sticking out.
Slowly pull the plug tool out of the hole leaving the plug in place.
Inflate tire to proper pressure and test for leaks with soapy water.
Repairing a flat tire is no fun. But until we are all flying around in hover cars we must deal with flats on occasion. It will be less of a hassle now that you know how to plug a tire. You can also use TireJect's Automotive Bead Sealer and Tire Repair sealant for Cars and Trucks. They also have off-road tire repair and flat tire prevention kits.