When Your Flat Tire May Need to Repair or Replace?

Not every flat or damaged tire can be fixed. Sometimes, you just need to replace a flat or damaged tire. However, there are other instances when you can get the tire and your entire car back on the road with a quick tire repair.

When to Repair, When to Replace

Here, we’re going to steer you toward when you should get a tire repaired and when you should get it replaced.

  • If you’ve got a tire that’s been punctured by a nail or another object, the tire can be fixed, but only as long as the puncture is in the tread area and doesn’t measure more than 1/4 of an inch in diameter.
  • If the puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder of the tire, you’ve got to ditch the tire and get a new one. Safety first!
  • If there’s more than one puncture, you likely can get the tire repaired if the punctures are at least 16 inches apart. Otherwise, it’s time to buy a new tire.
  • If the tire has sustained serious damage in a crash, such as big cuts or tread separation, it should be replaced, not repaired. No ifs, and, or buts.

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Repairable Tires

A tire can be repaired if:

  • It is punctured within the puncture repair area of the tire (pictured under the “non-repairable tire” section below)
    • The sidewall and the shoulder of a tire cannot be repaired per TIA and USTMA guidelines
  • The puncture doesn’t measure more than 1/4 of an inch in diameter
  • The repairs do not overlap or if the injuries are not directly across from each other

Tire Repair Process

  • Remove tire from the rim
  • Thorough inspection of both the inside and outside of the tire
    • Although a tire may appear to be a simple fix from the outside, the bottom half of the nail could have caused potential damage to the interior sidewall
  • Once deemed repairable, trim the puncture area of damaged cables to clean and stabilize the area
  • From the inside out, pull a rubber stem through the puncture area sealing off the inside of the tire
  • From the inside, buff the puncture area then apply special vulcanizing glue
  • A patch is then installed on the inner liner over the puncture area causing a chemical reaction
  • Tire is then mounted back on the rim, inflated to the proper tire pressure and the repair is checked for leaks
Tire Repair Process

This procedure takes 60-90 minutes to be done properly.

Related Article: How To Fix Flat Tire?

Non-Repairable Tires

In some cases, the tire can’t be repaired due to the location or severity of the damage. If the tire meets any of the non-repairable guidelines below, it’s time to buy a new tire.

1. Puncture Outside Repair Area

  • If the tire is punctured in any way outside of the Puncture Repair Area, the tire cannot be repaired safely.
  • True tire repairs are limited to the middle, or “crown” area of the tire.
  • The crown is defined as the center of the tread, approximately 1 to 1.5 inches in from each shoulder. For most tires, the puncture repair area can also be defined by the first major groove on both shoulders.

2. Size of Puncture

  • The maximum repairable injury size for passenger and light truck tires through load range E is 1/4 inch, or 6mm in diameter.
  • If the puncture in your tire is larger than the allowable repair size, the tire must be taken out of service.
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3. Bulge or Bubble in Sidewall

  • If there is a noticeable bubble in the sidewall of the tire, it has been damaged most likely by impacting a curb, pothole, or other types of road hazard.
  • The resulting bulge or “bubble” in the sidewall is not repairable, and unfortunately, the tire must be taken out of service.

4. Say “No” to Tire Plugs

A tire plug is a sticky, expandable object that gets pushed into the damaged area of the tire from the outside and is adjusted until the air is no longer leaking from the tire. Although the leak may stop, it is easy to believe that the tire is repaired and good to go; unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Tire plugs are a quick fix and can fail over time. They can also potentially cause air to become trapped between the layers of tread, eventually causing the tread to separate and result in needing to buy a new tire.

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Industry Standards for Tire Repairs

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA, formerly known as Rubber Manufacturers Association) and Tire Industry Association (TIA) standards:

USTMA Tire Repair Basics:

  • Repairs cannot overlap. A rubber stem, or plug, must be applied to fill the puncture injury and a patch must be applied to seal the inner liner. A common repair unit is a one-piece combination unit with a stem and patch.
  • Not all tires can be repaired. Specific repair limits should be based on recommendations or repair policy of the tire manufacturer and/or type of tire service.
  • NEVER repair a tire that has an existing, improper repair; the tire must be scrapped.
  • A plug by itself or a patch by itself is an unacceptable repair.
  • NEVER perform an outside-in tire repair or on-the-wheel repair.

TIA Tire Repair Basics:

  • The only way to properly repair a tire is to demount it from the rim so it can be inspected on the inside, remove the damaged material, fill the void with rubber, and seal the inner liner with a repair unit.
  • A plug by itself or a patch by itself is not an acceptable repair because the plug does not permanently seal the inner liner and the patch does not fill the void left by the penetrating object, which allows water to enter the body of the tire and start corroding the steel belts.
  • The use of sealants or emergency inflators that contain a sealant are not recommended as long-term solutions to a flat tire for the same reasons.
  • Puncture repairs are limited to the center of the tread area. If there are punctures or damage in the shoulder or sidewall of the tire, it is not repairable.
  • If the injuries are close enough so that the repairs overlap or the injuries are directly across from each other, the tire cannot be repaired and must be scrapped.
  • Never repair tires with a tread puncture larger than ¼-inch (6mm).

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How much does it cost to fix a tire that fell off?

On average, tire puncture repair will cost you between $10 and $20. The repair will involve getting the tire patched. Some tire dealers will repair a punctured tire for free if you purchased your tire from them.

Is it better to patch a tire or get a new one?

If the tire has two punctures, getting a tire repaired may still be an option as long as the punctures are at least 16 inches apart and the maximum number of repairs does not exceed a total of 2 in the tire. No more punctures than that, and you should consider getting a new tire.

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Can you repair a tire with a hole?

Yes, you can patch a minor hole in the tire’s sidewall using a plug kit and the rubber cement that comes with it. However, enthusiast drivers and tire experts do not recommend it for safety reasons. The Tire Industry Association expresses that you must not repair any damage on the tire’s sidewall.

Can my tire be patched?

Puncture repairs are limited to the center of the tread area. If there are punctures or damage in the shoulder or sidewall of the tire, it is not repairable.

Are tire plugs permanent?

Tire plugs are not meant to be a permanent fix and should only be driven on for as long as it takes to get to a repair shop for a more permanent repair. Depending on the location of the puncture, a plug and patch kit may be used to fix the damage and can last for several years.

How do you fix a tire that has a nail in it?

How long can a nail in a tire last?

On average, tire experts predict that a proper plug and patch can last from seven to ten years. Although tire patches can last a long time, a tire should never be patched more than once. It can negatively affect the speed rating and potentially cause blowouts.

Can you drive long-distance with a plugged tire?

A standalone tire plug should only be used as a temporary repair solution and should only be used for as long as is needed to get the vehicle to a shop or other location to perform a proper repair. A plugged tire is not meant to be driven on for long distances.

How long can you drive on a patched tire?

As long as you notice the puncture or leak in time and don’t continue to drive on a flat, then the patched tire will function as well as your other tires on the road.

How long does a patched tire last?

Like with plugs, patches are said to last from seven to ten years or for the rest of the life of the tire. Again, this tire may not last if the installation goes poorly or there are issues with the location of the hole.

Can you patch a tire without taking it off?

How do you fix a slow leak in a tire?

Valve stems and cores (the tiny valve itself, inside the tube) with leaks also can be replaced. If the slow leak is because the wheel isn’t fully seated against the tire, sometimes removing the tire and applying a bead sealer can stop the leak.

Is it OK to drive with a nail in your tire?

The short answer is yes, you can drive with a nail in your tire. Drivers cruise over nails all the time and don’t realize it. Nails can lodge in a tire so tightly that air isn’t able to escape; the car hits the nail so fast and so hard that air is never given the opportunity to release.

How much does it cost to patch a tire at Walmart?

Walmart does fix flat tires at locations with an Auto Care Center as of 2022. Typically, the price of fixing a flat tubeless tire at Walmart starts at $15 per tire and can take 1-5 hours to fix. If the flat tire is beyond repair, Walmart also offers tire installation services from $10 per tire.

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Where is it safe to plug a tire?

Puncture repairs are limited to the center of the tread area. If there are punctures or damage in the shoulder or sidewall of the tire, it is not repairable.

How much should a replacement tire cost?

The tire replacement cost of a single standard tire is about $50-$200, depending on brand and quality. SUVs and other large vehicles can rise to around $350. Large trucks, such as pick-ups, usually cost about the same. Generally, it’s a good idea to replace all your tires at once.

Can I replace only one tire?

Typically, when you’re faced with replacing only one tire, it’s the result of an unrepairable situation such as a flat or a blow-out. Unfortunately, not all tires are repairable or worth saving. Replacing only one tire mostly depends on how much tread is remaining on the opposite tire on the same axle.

When should I change my tires?

Regardless of tread wear, vehicle manufacturers generally recommend you replace your tires at six years. Most tire manufacturers recommend you replace your tires at 10 years.

How long should tires last?

On average, people drive between 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, which means the average good quality all-season tire will last somewhere between three and five years, depending on maintenance, driving style, and conditions, etc.

What does Replacement tire mean?

Replacement tires are any other tire, which may be purchased thereafter. The replacement may be necessary due to wear or the age of OE tires. Or you may decide that you would like a new tire that delivers more of a particular feature. An OE tire isn’t necessarily an average tire.

Is it OK to replace only 2 tires?

If you are looking to replace all-wheel-drive tires, we recommend replacing all four at once. While it may be tempting to replace only two at a time, mixing new and worn tires can create a size difference from front to back, which can lead to damage to your vehicle.

Can I install new tires myself?

Changing tires doesn’t have to mean a trip to the garage. It’s easier than you think. Changing your own tires is a job you can handle yourself if you already have rims attached to your tires. Anyone can do it, it just takes knowledge, practice, and confidence to build the skill.

Is your car an all-wheel-drive (AWD)?

If so, most vehicle manufacturers and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) recommend that you always replace all four tires at the same time. That’s because the reduced diameter of the lower-tread tires causes them to spin faster than the new ones.

Can I drive 1 mile on a flat tire?

No. Do not drive on a flat tire. However, it may be necessary to travel a short distance on a flat tire when pulling over to the side of the road. But driving on a flat tire is a surefire way to put your passengers at risk and seriously damage your vehicle.

Should you replace all 4 tires at once?

It’s always best to replace all 4 tires at the same time. This is because all 4 tires spin independently of one another, and different tread depths and/or styles can cause them to spin at different speeds. That could potentially damage the drive train, and possibly affect an indirect TPMS system if the vehicle has one.

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