When your tires are flat, there are many ways to cover the puncture, such as patches or plugs. The first option is favored for its outstanding coverage and durability.
However, it does not mean that this measure can handle all cases. Sometimes, the mechanic will tell you the sad news that says there is no other way but to replace your tire. So when can a tire be patched and not? Scroll down to learn.
In this article:
When Can You Not Patch A Tire?
When the puncture is bigger than 1/4 inch, sits on the sidewall/shoulder, is overlapped, or there are more than 2 holes, it can’t be patched. Also, if the tire has worn out excessively or comes with other severe damage, you have to replace it.
The industry standard considers patching on the sidewall illegal based on safety principles in practice. Tire shops take great care in checking for this damage to protect their customers and themselves from legal liability.
Most refuse to handle punctures less than 1/2 inch (12 mm) away from the sidewall. Additionally, manufacturers do not recommend any other method other than replacement for holes staying within 1 inch (24 mm) from the edge of the tread.
You should know that the sidewalls stretch and move around the wheel. It suffers greatly when the tire touches the road surface, especially when cornering.
Hence, the patches are insufficient to handle such excessive stress and pressure. The adhesive may wear off, and the patches lose effectiveness.
Similar to the sidewall, the shoulder is also a non-repairable area. Although it sits closer to the steel belts, the internal rubber construction of this part is still not solid enough to withstand the strain.
The steel belts support the bend for added durability but fail to ensure absolute safety. Once random objects hit the wheel on the road, the patches weaken and come off.
Unfortunately, your tire will go to waste when a hole exceeding ¼ inch (6 mm) appears on the surface. Although you can only see the damage in the outermost layer, the body structure has collapsed. The larger the “wound,” the more severe the dilation and exhalation.
Even if you put a large patch that covers the entire surface, it won’t cure the root of the problem. The damage still occurs inside and ends with a completely flat tire or, worse, a blowout.
Experienced mechanics may be able to save a tire with many small holes, but it is unsafe. It’s up to the auto center’s guidelines in the event of more than one hole.
For example, some experts require two holes must be at least 16 inches apart. You can still find some services that accept your request if the two patches do not overlap, but it probably puts you in danger.
Similarly, the decision on the number of repairable punctures is also controversial. Some tire repair shops venture to fix it as long as the punctures are far apart.
However, most agree that multiple punctures along the tire’s width are beyond simple repair. In this case, your tire no longer maintains its structural integrity resulting in flexing beneath the tread. Patches are only a temporary solution as a bandage rather than a cure.
A Run-Flat Tire
As the name implies, run-flat tires have a load-bearing layer inside the casing, which helps to withstand the pressure from the vehicle and continue to travel about 50 miles after being punctured. However, it is irreparable after you drive in such a case.
Some technicians may say no to your repair request because they can’t check to see if you’ve driven without proper air pressure. Some people still want to try, but you often face poor performance afterward.
Excessively Worn Tires
Patching makes no sense if the tread depth in any spot is less than 2/32 inches. This means that the tread pattern is no longer safe to continue running, so most stores recommend replacing instead of any repair.
You Have To Drive With The Flat Tire For A While
Once you take the risk of driving your flat tire to the nearest repair shop, be prepared for potential damages. The pressure releases slowly when you drive at slow speeds, but it still puts pressure on the tires.
With such abuse, the rubber surface wears out quickly. You should not expect mechanics to bring your tire back to life because, in essence, their efforts make no change. The problem even worsens when the rim, sidewalls, and other parts fail.
A Tire Got Stuck By A Meteorite
How could this happen? But that is what occurred with our Jeep Grand Cherokee, so we have to mention this. At first, the strange object looked like a silver nail in the tread of the tire. However, after we took the tire off the rim and examined it, it was a worn-out stone.
The area around the puncture seemed to melt. The technician checked our Jeep and ensured that other parts were still in good condition. We also did not drive through any paved roads or construction.
So what’s the problem? We have not figured out the reason behind this situation and had no choice but to pay for a new replacement since the heat damaged the rubber surface around the perimeter of the rock. This is similar to an unrepairable nail in a tire which causes a large black hole.
Unfortunately, while checking for patching, the tire technician can detect several other serious problems, such as bulges, broken belts, dry rot, or tread separation. These symptoms prevent further repair procedures because the structure is no longer optimal.
What To Do If You’re On The Road Then?
A puncture on the road is a big inconvenience, but do not panic! It would be best to stay calm to consider the following next steps:
- Hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain the vehicle’s balance, and then turn on the hazard lights
- Find a safe place and slowly pull over to the curb. If you have a spare tire on hand and have gained enough mechanic expertise, feel free to change the tire. Otherwise, call for roadside assistance.
- Once you need to continue driving to reach your destination, go slowly. It is best to avoid aggressive manners such as hitting the brakes hard or accelerating.
How Do You Prevent A Tire Puncture?
To keep a puncture at bay, you should check the tire pressure frequently and invest in high-quality tires (like puncture resistance) and tire sealant. Also, plan your route in advance to avoid rough terrain or driving on sharp objects.
Pick The Right Tire
Having an item that is suitable for road conditions and weather is a good guarantee of a smooth driving experience. Consider products designed specifically for certain routes, such as winter tires for wet and snowy roads where you cannot see what’s ahead. These options often have thicker tread bands for increased traction and stability.
Invest In Tire Sealant
Adding a sealant to your tires that contributes to puncture protection is a great idea, as this material prevents holes of up to 15 mm in trucks and cars. It covers the inner tube and the main component – the particles that seal the spot as they get sucked in by the air pressure if your tire is punctured.
On the downside, these options are not easy to access and use. You may have a hard time finding them at your local parts store. Also, you must check its compatibility with the tires before putting it into use, especially with latex parts.
Follow The Proper Pressure Level
Over-inflation or under-inflation puts your tires at greater risk of punctures. This is because they are exposed to a lot of friction, thus affecting handling and causing damage to the other components.
You must check the pressure at least once a month to eliminate the risks promptly. Most manufacturers provide recommended pressure ranges on the sidewall, user manuals, or their official website.
As the name implies, tubeless tires do not use an inner tube but a membrane to trap air. This structure consists of airtight joints and sealants inserted into minor holes.
Therefore, it possesses a better ability to resist punctures when colliding with sharp objects. Plus, it lets you drive at low pressure since the available sealants help reduce the air leakage rate.
Plan Your Route Ahead
To prevent a puncture, the best thing you can do is to avoid hazardous areas such as construction sites, rough roads, etc. It would not help to drive through potholes, metal shards, rubble, or broken glass.
Steer clear from areas more likely to accumulate dirt and debris, like near curbs, hard shoulders, etc. All in all, keep yourself out of trouble and protect your tires.
Is It Better To Patch A Tire Or Use Fix-A-Flat?
Patches are more durable and efficient in most cases. They are also the best solution to deal with large punctures.
See more: How Does Fix A Flat Work?
What Are The Rules For Tire Patching?
Damages that can be repaired include:
- The puncture diameter is less than 1/4 inch
- The hole stays in the patchable tire area (e.g., the center of the tread)
- There are no overlapped patches or other signs of serious damage
- The hole angle is more than 45 degrees
Does Patching A Tire Ruin It?
No, a proper installation helps to prevent air leaks and prolong the tire’s lifespan.
If the hole is small, the experts can save your tire, but things get more complicated when the puncture is in a vulnerable area or too large.
Be prepared for the worst-case scenario if your tire manifests one or more of the signs above. Don’t insist on repairing to save a bit of money, or you will end up with worse situations, like a potential blowout incident.