Plugging a Flat Tire

November 9, 2011

Emergency Response, Skills

Plugging a flat tire

“Why are our tires magnets?”

That was the first thought that came to my mind as I walked outside to see yet another flat tire on one of our vehicles. It seems that there must be an irresistible attraction between the steel belted radials on our vehicles and any sharp, pointy object that can pierce the tire and liberate the air trapped inside. It seems to happen to us regularly.

If I only could harness that attractive force.

Learning to Plug a Tire

I’m thankful that I learned a skill many years ago that has come in very handy many, many times – far too many times for me to count: I learned to plug a tire.

My initial reasoning for learning the skill had nothing to do with prepping. I was raised to be a do-it-yourselfer. Growing up if there was a job to do, nine times out of ten we did it ourselves. Change the oil in a car? We did it ourselves. Install an attic fan? We did it ourselves. Most every household repair, home improvement project, or auto maintenance, we did ourselves. I’m thankful for those learning opportunities and the hands-on, I-can-do-it spirit that it instilled in me.

The other reason that I learned to repair my own tires was one of financial. I don’t know just how much a repair shop charges to put a plug in a tire, but I’m sure that it cannot be less than I can do it myself. A tire repair kit from Amazon is $6. It comes with enough plug material to repair four punctures. Not bad.

Repairing a Tire

Repairing a tire is a very simple and straightforward process. If you can change a flat tire and put on a spare, you can also repair the original – though it does require a certain amount of strength.

punctured tireStep 1. Find the puncture.  The obvious first step in repairing a flat tire is to find the cause of the flat. Most flat tires are caused by objects picked up on the road. These are frequently nails and screws, but can also be other object such as bones and files. The easiest way to locate the puncture is to remove the tire from the vehicle and slowly roll it on the ground looking for the cause of the flat. Sometimes this is obvious and easy to find. Occasionally, the nail or screw is imbedded in a valley of the tread and difficult to locate.

Step 2. Remove the offending object. Once you’ve located the foreign object that has deflated your tire (along with your method of transportation), it’s time to remove it from the tire. The easiest way to do this is to use a pair of needle-nosed pliers. You can also you use the pliers that are part of the multi-tool that you keep in your vehicle’s Get-Home Kit.

Get a good grip on the object and pull it out of the hole.

fixing a flatStep 3. Ream the hole. Insert the repair kit’s Rasping Tool in the hole left by the nail or screw. You may find that it’s easier to do this if you allow some of the compressed our to leak out of the hole before trying to insert the rasping tool. Additionally some punctures may have been made by objects with a very small diameter compared to the rasping tool. So this can take some strength and patience.

Once you’ve inserted the tool in the puncture hole, remove and insert over and over again rapidly to roughen the puncture hole. It works best to not completely remove the tool from the hole. This process also ensures that the hole is large enough for subsequent steps.

Be aware that after doing the several times, the rasping tool can become very hot. Don’t touch it immediately after using it to ream the hole.

Plugging a tire with the insertion toolStep 4. Plug the hole. Once the hole has been reamed with the rasping tool, it’s time to plug it. Insert the plug (the very sticky tar-like strip) into the the eyelet of the insertion tool. The plug should be approximately 1/2 through the eyelet.

You’ll notice that the eyelet of the insertion tool has a narrow slit in the end of it where the plug can slip out as you remove it from the tire.

Using the insertion tool, insert the plug into the hole approximately 3/4 of the way. As with the rasping tool, this will take a non-trivial amount of force to push the plug into the hole. The plug is larger than the hole.

Once the plug is in place, give the insertion tool a good swift tug and remove it from the tire, leaving behind the plug.

Step 5. Remove the excess plug. Using a sharp knife or the blade of your multi-tool, cut the excess plug that protrudes from the hole. Be careful not to accidentally pull the plug back out of the hole. Don’t worry if it’s not completely flush with the surface of the tire.

Use an air compressor to inflate the tire. We carry a 12-volt mini compressor and repair kit in each of our vehicles.

checking a plugged tire for leaksStep 6. Check the plug. Finally, once you’ve inflated the tire, you can check it for slow leaks. The easiest way to do this is to put a little dish washing soap in a cup of water so that it bubbles up. Apply the bubbles to the top of the plug and watch. If the bubbles grow in size, you’ve got a leak, if not you’ve got a good solid plug.

Mount the tire back on your vehicle and continue inflating it to the manufacturers specifications.

A Skill for Now and after TEOTWAWKI

Learning how to plug a tire can save you money and time. And by stocking up on inexpensive tire plugging kits nows, you’ll be prepared for life after TEOTWAWKI when the local tire shop is no longer in business.

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15 Comments on “Plugging a Flat Tire”

  1. Jeff Says:

    What an Awesome post!!!

    I had never thought about having a kit like that on hand! I know i have had this done several times and each time I thought WOW that is simple, but just never occured to me to get a kit…DUH! Of course I carry a full sized spare, but still that is a great great tip!

    Thank you

    P.S. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for this site, and all the hard work and thought tha you put into it. You both are a blessing to many people and myself in particular. Thank you, Thank you and Thank you



    • Joe Says:

      Thanks so much for the comment, Jeff!

      We really appreciate hearing that others find it useful. We certainly don’t claim to be experts in anything; we just like sharing our experiences with family, friends, and others with similar outlooks on life.



    • Laura Says:


      I can’t tell you how much that warms my heart and will encourage us on the days that we are pushing ourselves hard to keep up the blog in addition to all our responsibilities. We feel we have been blessed by God with an early calling to get prepared and so are ahead of some on the learning curve. We have viewed this blog as a ministry to help anyone who is interested, especially if they are just starting out. I remember how overwhelming it seemed when we first began. I hardly knew where to start and it seemed there was more to learn and do than I could ever get to. We hope to provide others the benefit of our mistakes and successes to make it easier for them as time grows short.

      Thanks again for taking the time to say that! You made my day!


  2. Jon Says:

    I have plugged a tyre with the wheel still on the car – very convenient. However it has been recommended that it is only temporary fix till a better plug can be fitted at the tyre shop, and they are better plugs. This wide 4WD tyre later developed a bulge on a third of its width say 3 inches (and 5 inches long) across the tread and wore down through the first layers of nylon and steel belts, whilst the rest of the tyre looked fine. That’s after 75,000 Km’s my son noticed it. The puncture originally happened at about 10,000 Km’s.

    Never put a plugged tyre on the front, always on the back wheels. FYI it is a Chinese cheap tyre. Normal sedan cars I’d only buy Goodyear.

    So a puncture can compromise the belts. If the puncture is on the side wall, I’d change the tyre and throw it away. If you had to you might get away with stuffing with plugs and take it steady, again on the back wheels temporarily. Very high risk of blowout.

    I have also been told you can drive a flat tyre (not fast) on dirt roads, but asphalt produces too much friction heat for the metal rim and the tyre will shred.


  3. Stewart Says:

    The info on this site is handy.


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