How to Plug a Hole in a Flat Tire

If you don't have a spare, but do have a tire plugging kit, you should know how to use it.

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Getty ImagesFlorian Gaertner

Changing a flat tire is pretty easy—if you have a spare, that is. But if the manufacturer didn't give your car a spare tire from the factory (many don't these days, sadly), then usually, all you're stuck with is a tire plug kit. Here's how to use it properly.

Wyatt Knox of the put together a impromptu video educating us on how to use a tire kit that will properly seal a small hole in your tire. The first step, obviously, is to find the hole. Knox uses a bubbly soap and covers the tire all the way around until air bubbles start to appear. If there's an object stuck in the tire, like a nail or screw, take it out, then round out the hole with a screwdriver or a similar tool. This will make the next step easier.

Most plug kits come with a pointy tool used to stick the tire sealant into the car (though it can vary depending on what kind of kit you have). Stuff it into the rounded hole, and remove any excess material. Give it a second to seal up, then fill up the tire with air.

If you can't see the YouTube video below, .

Knox recommends that if it's the front tire you just repaired, to switch it with a rear tire, if possible. This way, if the same tire starts to lose air again, it'll be easier to control at speed and bring to a controlled stop.

Update 8/23: The Tire Rack's John Rastetter chimed in via email on why a plug should be considered a temporary fix:

While a plug repair could be used to get a rally car out of the woods in an emergency; according to industry standards, plugging a tire, as shown in the video, can only be considered a temporary repair.
Tires can only be repaired in their tread area. Repair of shoulders and sidewalls is prohibited. The tire shown in the video was borderline on being repairable.
Punctured tires should always be dismounted from their wheels to be inspected for damage not visible on the outside of the tire. The object that punctured the tire may also have gouged the tire’s air-sealing innerliner or the tire’s casing may have been damaged if run extremely low on pressure or flat.
If there is no hidden damage, the tire’s liner must be patched to reestablish and airtight seal to be considered a permanent repair.

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