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Repairing today's tires... Beware of tire plugs!

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Repairing today's tires... Beware of tire plugs!

Well it finally happened - you walked outside to get into your car and you noticed that one of your tires is going flat. You've spotted a nail in it. What do you do now? No, don't pull out the nail!

Whether you pump up the tire to get to a tire repair shop, mount your spare tire, or call AAA, you still have to deal with correctly repairing or replacing that tire. With today's economic climate, let's look at what constitutes a proper repair.

Fixing a flat tire

Tires have evolved over the years, and we no longer remove the nail and patch the inner tube like your grandfather did or maybe you did with your bicycle tire when you were a kid. Perhaps you remember that you could have a tire plug put in your tire from tubeless tire, which was better, but more is required for today's belted radial ply tires. Tires have changed, and repairing any tire with a "plug" is a potential disaster waiting to happen! In fact, the tire industry as a whole warns against making any "string plug" or tire plug repairs for any tire repairs today.

Today's highly developed tires require a specific procedure to ensure a proper repair and to protect the integrity of the tire's belts. Also, because many people drive on a flat or nearly flat tire for some distance before they realize they have a problem or can safely pull over, they can do a considerable amount of internal damage to the tire. The damage can be mechanical damage or heat damage because an under-inflated tire can become extremely hot due to excessive flexing when being driven. Careful inside inspection by a properly trained technician is required to detect damage.

The Rubber Manufactures Association (RMA) and the Tire Industry Association together represent the majority of tire manufactures, endorse the following repair. The RMA procedure specifies that the tire be removed from the rim and inspected from the inside to determine what damage may have occurred internally from running the tire while flat and possibly damaging the inside of the tire. This procedure also specifies the maximum size, location, and angle of injuries that are repairable. The RMA procedure calls for the wound channel to be reamed out to remove damaged material and the repair to be made from the inside out with a plug and patch combination that seals the wound channel and also seals the inner liner to retain air. The RMA specifies what can and cannot be done to a tire when repairing it.

 Tire repair kit  Plug and patch
This is a tire plug kit that service stations and some repair facilities are using to patch a hole in your tire. This plug kit is fast but NOT the proper way of fixing a flat tire.
This is a plug and patch. This is the only plug I recommend to repair any flat tire. It will plug and patch at the same time. It is more time consuming to install but the job is done right the first time.

The item of most importance to us in the RMA procedure is, "Never repair a tire that has an existing, improper repair (non RMA). The tire must be scrapped." That would preclude the use of "string type" tire plugs because any reputable tire shop will refuse to use them or repair a tire that has already been repaired with plug.

If you are stuck with a flat, don't have a spare, and need to do an emergency repair, then the use of a tire sealant is preferable to ruining any possibility of repairing the tire with a plug. In fact, some manufacturers are equipping new cars with a can of sealant and an inflator instead of a spare tire to save space and weight. It is possible to wash out the tire sealant and repair a tire properly with the RMA approved method, although getting all of the sealant out can be difficult.

As an important reminder, today's vehicles are required to have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on the every tire rim. Due to the design of the TPMS, adding sealant will void the factory warranty on the sensor and it will need to be replaced and re-programmed.  In the case of an emergency situation, you may have no choice but to use the sealant and deal with the consequences at a later time.

Finally, if your tires are fairly old, six years or older, and need a repair, perhaps you should err on the side of caution and replace all of your tires because of potential age related issues.

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