Plug or Patch a Flat Tire?

Our reader Bindu Nambiar who recently had a flat tire and got it fixed by getting a “plug” job done asked us – “Is it better to plug or patch the flat tire?” Bindu is someone who maintains her SUV very well, uses the best products available in the market for her Hyundai Tuscon. So, when she heard about “patching” option for the flat tire, she wanted to clarify what is the right thing to do – plug or patch the flat tire?

It is actually a very good question. Most people aren’t aware of the differences between plug and patch. We have been traditionally going to the local puncture shop to get the tire fixed. It used to be the tires with a tube but now it is mostly the tubeless tires.

The plug and patch process in discussion here is related to tubeless tires. Let’s straightaway jump into understanding the definition of plug and patch, to begin with –


Plugging of tire involves inserting thin strips made of unvulcanized rubber compound into the hole. The strip is forced into a nail hole as it fills the hole and gaps. The rubber thus plugged undergoes vulcanization, a chemical process, which increases elasticity and other properties, helps seal the hole. As the car is driven and tire develops heat it is sealed completely. Plugs cannot be used on the sidewall since there is not enough space and can be potentially dangerous. You can fix it even without removing the tire from the car. The following video is a good example of how the “plugging” of the tire takes place.

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Plugging of a Flat Tire



Patching of tire involves fixing of an adhesive patch on the punctured area or the hole from inside the tire. Patching requires special equipment, personnel, and space to remove the tire from the wheel and fix the patch. It is usually performed at specialized tire or auto workshops. It is expensive and time-consuming but more durable with no chance for air to leak. It is not recommended to fix the plug or even patch when too close to the side wall as it can loosen the patch while driving. The following video will explain the extensive steps required to perform the patching of the tir

Patching of a Flat Tire



The plugging of the tire has been taking place since 100s of years and it has worked. Plugging is the fastest and easiest solution for the tire if you are in hurry or trying to plug a small hole. On the other hand, patching is an ideal solution if the hole is bigger or irregular and you have time to get the puncture repaired. If you are someone who wants to be extra safe and ensure that the air does not leak then patching is the way to go. Do keep in mind that you should not plug or patch a hole close to the sidewall as it can lead to sudden loss of air and cause accident. And you should replace the tire if you have damaged the side wall driving in the low air and/or if the tire has run beyond its life.

Thanks Bindu for asking this question.

I hope this article will help you all take the right decision about plug and patch. Do share your comments and feedback below or you can ask a question by emailing at [email protected]

Drive Safe!