7 Steps to Plugging a Tire

by Liz Jansen

Ironically and as these things invariably go, the day after advising participants in the Preparing for Motorcycle Travel webinar to practice repairing a hole in a tire before setting out on extended travel, I got an opportunity to try it myself.

I was having the snow tires on my car removed and replaced with their summer cousins. One of them had a slow leak that I’d addressed by keeping it topped up with air. I’d given the tire several cursory inspections, not seen anything but attributed the leak to oxidation on 10-year old rims. Over the winter, the tire had lost all pressure, so now before installing it, it got the inspection it needed.

plugging a tire

There plain as day was the nail, and my opportunity to practice repairing the tire.

plugging a tire

Tire repair Got it nail

The first order of business was to remove the nail. Easy enough but I was impressed with myself.

Tire repair rasp

Tire repair rasp in

Cleaning and roughing up the hole to accept the plug, and ensure a secure fit, required a bit more strength. It’s important to make the rasp follow the direction of the “injury” and create a healthy surface for the plug to adhere to.

Tire repair plug copy

Tire repair done

Next was threading the adhesive-coated plug halfway through the eye of the needle, inserting it into the hole then quickly removing the needle, leaving the plug inside. I had to ask for extra muscle finishing the insertion, but snapping the needle back out was no problem. Lastly, the plug was trimmed as close as possible to flush with the tire surface.

After that, it was inflated to the recommended pressure and installed on the car. Check to make sure the plug is not leaking, ideally covering it with liquid soap or spit, watching for bubbles.

After a week and a few trips around town, the patch is holding admirably.  Please note that although this can get you out of a emergency situation, it’s wise to have your tire checked by someone qualified as soon as possible. Your safety, and possibly your life, depends on it.

In summary, follow these steps for plugging a tire in an emergency:

  1. Remove embedded object.
  2. Rasp out puncture wound.
  3. Thread plug through needle.
  4. Insert “threaded” needle into hole.
  5. Sharply retract needle, leaving plug inside.
  6. Trim plug flush with tread.
  7. Inflate tire and check for leaks.

Keep a close watch on the tire and have it checked by a qualified tire mechanic at the first opportunity.

PS. Remember to carry a tire repair kit with you!



Author, writer, student and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.