Flat tires will find you at the strangest of places and you may not be in a position to replace your tires with new ones. Patching up tires is perfect for emergencies and is economical in the long run. Patches are perfect in sealing blowouts caused by randomly intrusive bodies like nails and glass shards, as well as slow punctures.
Before you decide on whether or not to patch up your tire, it is paramount to check on the guidelines from the US Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA). If your tire is in good condition, patching it up in case of a puncture could carry it through to its original intended lifetime.
Most dealers’ advice is that tires shall not be patched more than three times, having one patch per one-third of the tire. There is, however, no officially set limit as to how many times you may patch up your tire as long as a few industry rules are observed;
- Patches shall not overlap.
It is not safe to patch over a previously repaired area. If damage occurs in the same place, you may consider replacing the tire altogether for your safety on the road. While not overlapping, patches should not be done too close and if there are too many leaks close together, it may be time to replace the tire
- Patching can only be done on the tread area.
No patching should be done on the shoulder and sidewall areas of the tire. There is too much flexing on the sidewall when the car is in motion and a patch cannot hold in this case. If you have a leak coming through the sidewall, you will have to replace the tire.
- If the tread is too worn out. If your tire tread is too worn out, then patching is not a solution and you do not need any quick fixes. You will need to replace it with a tire in good condition.
- The damage is ¼ inch in diameter (6 mm) or less. It is prohibited to patch damages that are any larger than this. Gashes greater than this will require replacing your tires. Cuts that go way deeper, past the steel belts, render the tire unreliable and unsafe and should be disposed of.
How difficult is it to patch a car tire?
Patching a tire will require you to put in quite some physical work. It does not require professional expertise but will require you to carefully adhere to the guidelines given as well as put in some physical effort into the procedure. For people who are handy and more of Do-It –Yourself kind of people, changing and patching tires is not a difficult In some cases, to reinforce the patch, you may plug and patch at the same time.
Steps in Patching a Tire.
It does not take much time to patch a tire. You will need about thirty minutes, mainly because of all other processes. If you take the tire to a tire repair shop, they will take much less time as they are better equipped and of course, well trained to do this.
Remove the tire
To inspect the tire for the source of the leak and to begin the patching process, the tire has to come off. This is why it is important to keep your jack in the trunk at all times.
Find the leak.
If the leak is as a result of a direct puncture by a nail, screw or something similar, then it is easy to locate. If not, have a look at the tire and look out for any visible tears or puncture marks on the tire. If nothing is visible still, put your ear close and listen for the quiet hissing of escaping air. Pump up the tire and try to fill it up to help with this. If none of these help with locating the leak, pour soapy water on the tire surface and watch for where it bubbles.
Fixing the Patch.
With the tire detached and leak located, next step is fixing the patch. You will need to detach the tire from the rim too. The patch is fixed from the inside of the tire, so you cannot avoid this step. Precision and care is required in the patching process;
- Clean out the area around the leak and ensure there is no grit and dirt. If an air die grinder is available, you may use this. Buffs out the area well after cleaning it to enable the patch adhere well.
- In your puncture repair kit, there will most likely be vulcanizing cement. Apply this to the area you buffed and allow it to dry out.
- Take out the patch and push its pointy end through the hole, from the inside. You may need pliers or another gripping tool to push it out and pull on the pointy end from the outside on tread. The patch will stick on to the inside from the sticky end. You may trim off the top from the tread if it is too long.
- To ensure there is no air leaking into the patch and loosening it, flatten it out, with a roller if possible. You may also use a sealant glue to reinforce it.
Re-attach your wheel.
Once the patch is well affixed, all that needs to be done is reattach it, inflate it and get back on the road. For as long as the patch is well fixed, you should have no cause to worry as you drive. However, if you feel there is any concern, pass by a reputable tire repair shop at the earliest and have it inspected.
How long can you drive on a patched tire?
Once a tire has been patched, if done well, it is expected that it will live out its remaining lifespan or even outlive it. You can drive on it as long as you need to with no fear of it coming off. Patching a tire will not cost you any more than $10. This is a worthy investment especially if the tire is new or in very good condition and has not put in much wear on the treads. If your tire is well worn out, there is no need patching it. Full replacement will be your safest and most reliable option.
Is it safe to drive on a patched tire?
It is perfectly safe to drive on a patched tire. If you are doing extremely high speeds, like in case of race cars, it is best to replace your patched tire at the earliest possible after patching. Always check with the tire dealer or the USTMA on set standards for tire repairs before putting your tires out for repairs, to ensure everything is done the right way.
Flat tires are an annoying and inconvenience to drivers, patching and plugging tires is an easy and convenient way of taking care of flat tires. They should not be considered permanent solutions. If you cannot afford to replace your tires after a puncture, do not stall your car. Patch your tire and put the car on the road as you plan around replacement.