When a flat tire leaves you stranded, you have several options to shut down the puncture. Using a tire repair kit and plugging the tire is the easiest way, but also not the safest.
Patching the hole is a much safer solution, and it also lasts longer. The only issue with this method is that you can’t do it while on the road. Also, it takes more time and requires more considerable skill.
Still, if you’re most interested in safety, here is a detailed guide on how to patch a tire.
Things need to know before Patch a Tire
When is it Safe to Patch a Tire?
Patching is a very safe way of closing a puncture. When done right, this method can make set up your tire for thousands of miles to come. Contrarily, plugging a tire isn’t the best solution in the long run.
However, as with every method, you can’t patch a tire with a very large puncture. If the hole is too big, the internal cords of the tire might be damaged.
Now, sure, you can still patch a large hole and stop it from leaking, but the structural rigidity of the tire will be reduced, which might result in unstable and unsafe handling. The steel cords on the inside are essential for a safe drive.
As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t patch a puncture larger than 1/4-inch (approximately 6mm) on passenger cars and 3/8-inch (around 10mm) in light-truck tires. A hole that big probably won’t tear up the internal cords and plies, which means that the tire will be completely safe to drive.
Moreover, you can only patch a puncture in the middle of the tread of the tire. If the hole is on the outside of the tread (outboard shoulders), or the sidewalls of the tire, you should immediately replace it with a new one.
Furthermore, tire manufacturers don’t recommend patching a tire many times. For maximum safety, you should repair your tire only 3-4 times, and even less if possible. If your tire is punctured more than 3-4 times, you should probably look for a new tire.
Finally, if you aren’t familiar with mechanics, tires, or car repair in general, you should probably avoid patching your tire. Instead, take the punctured tire to the nearest tire repair service shop for patching.
How Long Does It Take to Patch a Tire?
While other methods might be fast, like, for example, plugging the puncture, patching requires time and patience. A skilled technician will only need 30 minutes to plug a tire, and that’s with professional tools that make the job much more comfortable.
If you want to do it yourself, be sure to have at least two hours, or perhaps even more. That’s specifically true if you don’t have much experience in car repair, or it’s the first time you patch a tire.
What Tools do You Need to Patch a Tire?
Professional vulcanizing tools can make the job much more comfortable, but sadly they are too expensive, huge, and require a lot of energy. For that reason, you should leave them only to the professionals.
However, you can use other tools to finish the job successfully. Obviously, you’ll need tools to remove and install the wheel on your car. These include a jack with enough lifting capacity for your vehicle and a lug wrench.
As for the patching, I recommend going for a mushroom plug cord patch for radial tires. This is a much better solution than a simple patch on the inside of the tire.
That’s because the stem protects the inside of the tire from water penetration, which might peel off the patch. Moreover, the stem has a metal clip on the top, which makes it easier to install the patch inside and over the puncture.
You will also need an air compressor to inflate the tire, tire spoon, valve stem core remover, reaming tool to widen the hole, a pair of pliers for removing the object, vulcanizing cement, and a stitching tool.
How to Patch a Tire
Here are the complete steps to patch a tire.
How to Remove the Wheel from Your Car
Before you even start patching the tire, you need to remove the whole wheel assembly from your vehicle. Here is how to do that:
Step 1. Loosen the Lug Nuts
Loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench before jacking the vehicle – it’s much easier this way.
Step 2. Jack Up Your Vehicle
Use the jack provided in your car to jack up your vehicle. Make sure that you put the jack on the jack point that is close to the damaged tire. If you aren’t sure about the position, check your user’s manual.
Step 3. Remove the Wheel
Unscrew the lug nuts completely using a lug wrench and then remove the wheel.
Step 4. Locate and Mark the Puncture
Before you even start patching the tire, make sure that you locate the puncture. You can use a soap and water solution and spray it over the tread of the tire. The soap should start bubbling over the leak. Then, clean and dry the tire and mark the hole with white chalk.
How to Remove the Tire from the Wheel
Afterward, you must remove the tire from the wheel to patch the puncture on the inside. This process requires a bit of force, but don’t overdo it! Otherwise, you risk damaging both the tire and the wheel. Here is how to remove the tire:
Step 5. Remove the Valve Stem Core
Use a valve stem core remover to take off the valve and completely deflate the tire. Otherwise, you won’t be able to remove the tire from the wheel.
Step 6. Remove the Tire from One Side
Put the tire spoon between the tire and the wheel. Then, use a hammer, so the spoon penetrates inside and breaks the bond between the rim and the tire.
Afterward, push the other side of the spoon – the edge of the tire should come out. Turn the wheel while using the spoon so that the whole tire comes out.
Step 7. Remove the Tire from the Opposite Side
You’ll need to use the tire spoon similarly on the other side of the tire to remove it altogether.
How to Patch the Puncture
Now, we’ve come to the fun part – patching the puncture itself. Ensure that you take your time here – rushing it might result in an improperly sealed leak. Got it? Then, follow the steps below:
Step 8. Remove the Object
If there is any object left in the hole, make sure that you remove it with a set of pliers.
Step 9. Ream the Puncture
Start by reaming the puncture. For this job, you can use a reaming tool or a drill. Reaming the hole will make it easier to install the mushroom patch.
Step 10. Use a Scraper to Roughen the Area
Scrape the inside of the tire and around the puncture. Doing this will create a rough surface, which makes it easier for the patch to stick correctly. You might also want to use a buffing tool or a grinding paper for even better results.
Step 11. Clean out the Hole and Surrounding Area
Cleaning the area is perhaps the most critical process, but sadly one that is often overlooked. First, use your compressor to clean the puncture from any debris left inside. Then, use a clean brush to remove the debris surrounding the leak.
Step 12. Apply Vulcanizing or Tire Cement
After properly cleaning the area, apply a thin layer of vulcanizing cement. You can use a cheaper tire cement as well, but it doesn’t provide the best possible adhesion.
Leave the cement to set up for 30-60 seconds, or until it becomes tacky. Don’t leave it too long – dry glue won’t stick well.
Step 13. Prepare the Patch for Installation
Give the mushroom plug cord patch a pinch to remove the plastic coating on the inside. Ensure that you don’t touch the surface under the plastic coating.
Then, put vulcanizing cement on the stem of the patch. The adhesive will lubricate the stem and make for an easier installation. Moreover, it will secure the stem in place.
Step 14. Install the Stem of the Patch Inside the Puncture
Push the stem of the patch inside the reamed hole carefully.
Step 15. Pull the Stem from the Other Side
Using a pair of pliers, pull the metal tip from the other side of the tire until the patch adheres well.
Step 16. Use a Stitching Tool on the Patch
To properly bond the patch on the inside of the tire, you will need a stitching tool. Run the device over the patch left to right, and then up and down. Repeat the step for several times in each direction. Make sure that each time you stop, it’s over the rubber and not the patch.
Step 17. Remove the Plastic Covering on the Patch
The patch has a plastic covering on the upper side. Never try to remove the covering from the end – you risk peeling the patch off. Instead, gently cut the coating on the inside with a sharp blade and work your way from there. It should come out quickly.
Step 18. Trim the Stem
The stem of the patch will undoubtedly hang on the outside of the tire. Use the same sharp blade to trim the stem. Make sure that the stem is level with the tread of the tire.
Step 19. Installing the Tire on the Rim
To install the tire back, start by putting a bit of soap and water solution around the bead of the tire for lubrication. Use two tire spoons to open the casing and slide it back into the rim. Repeat the procedure on the other side.
Then, inflate the tire to the value provided by the vehicle manufacturer, and you should be good to go!
Patching a tire is certainly not a straightforward process. For that reason, always make sure that you follow each step closely – each one is crucial. Otherwise, you risk an improperly sealed puncture and tire that loses pressure over time.
And, if something is unclear, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below. Also, if this article helped you patch a tire, share it with your friends – it might help them in the future, too!