- Tire Plug & Patch
- Soapy Water
- Jack Stand
- Lug Wrench
- Work Gloves
- Safety Glasses
The only thing that I can think of is a spray sealant. Is this something you would use? – The professional way to fix this tire would be with a patch and plug. Nails and screws easily puncture rubber tread and are typically the culprit of these types of slow leaks. The NHTSA advises that a proper repair requires both a plug and a patch and should only be used in select cases where this is a suitable fix. To help you understand the process better, we’re going to show you how it’s done. But keep in mind this is not a repair that should be attempted at home.
Always consult your manual for the proper vehicle jack points on the frame. Before lifting the car, loosen the lug nuts while the tire is on the ground, to prevent the wheel from spinning in the air. But, do not remove them altogether at this point. Now, lift the car and place the jack stands in the proper locations and release the weight of the jack slowly, until the car is resting on the stand itself. For extra safety, leave the floor jack in place as your backup.
Then, remove the lugs and, of course, the wheel. As you roll the wheel, look for any obvious metal or even a nail. Sometimes they’re hidden or obscured by the rubber itself. So spray a bottle of soapy water along the tread. The leaky air will cause the soapy water to bubble, letting you know where the object or puncture might be. In our example, the screw is fairly obvious, but marking the area with chalk can be helpful, especially if it’s a smaller leak. If an object is present, remove it with pliers if it’s a nail or some other metal piece, or simply unscrew it if it happens to be a screw.
Be sure to wear safety glasses and a thick glove as tiny metal objects may be forced upward by the air as they are dislodged, so be careful. Tire plug kits can be found at any auto store and typically contain a reamer, a plug install kit, and plenty of plugs. With the object out of the tread, immediately plunges the reamer into the hole, while minimizing the amount of air being released. This can be difficult to move in and out. The goal is to use the abrasive edges of the reamer to clean up the hole prior to forcing the plug material in that tight space.
After several passes, leave the reamer in the hole and prepare the plug tool by sliding the plug into the opened end. Once the plug’s in place, remove the reamer and plunge the plug tool into the air hole. Again, this tends to require a lot of downward force, so standing over the tire can help your leverage. Once the plug penetrates the tread, quickly pull the tool vertically out to set the plug in place. If extra plug material happens to stick out, or above the tread, you can simply trim it with your snipers.
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With the tire off the rim, the mechanic can inspect the tire from the inside for any damage that may not have been apparent before. Now, with access to the inside of the tire, the mechanic carefully razor blades the excess plug material, then, lightly sands down the area so that the patch can lay flush against the rubber to ensure a long-lasting repair. Next, chemical cement is thoroughly applied to the sanded area and the patches protective cover removed before installing over the tire plug. Finally, a deburring tool is used to spread the glue evenly under the patch to promote the best adhesion before re-installing the tire back on the rim. Afterwards, test for leaks once again.
If you see no bubbles, you’re good to go. But it’s always a smart idea to keep an extra eye on the tire in the upcoming days, just to be sure. Sometimes, during the soapy water test, a leak is found on the sidewall and not the tread. Unfortunately, these issues are not recommended for plug repair and will most likely require a new tire or even a new rim if a pothole has bent the metal significantly.
Either way, a plug may not be used, and a visit to your local mechanic is required. Your tires on the only thing touching the road and a slow leak are not going to disappear on its own. Diagnose the issue quickly to get back on the road safely.