Step-by-step guide: Fixing flats with tyre plugs

ByDean MellorJanuary 28, 2021
5 MINUTE READ
Step-by-step guide: Fixing flats with tyre plugs

If you run tubeless tyres, the quickest and easiest way to repair a flat when you’re driving in the bush is to plug it. Sound complicated? It isn’t. Here’s our step-by-step guide to using tyre plugs…

Just about every modern 4X4 runs tubeless tyres which means if you get a flat when you’re out bush, you should be able to dig out the tyre plugs and have it fixed and reinflated in a jiffy. But you know how to use your tyre repair kit? Check out Unsealed 4X4’s simple step-by-step guide.

Can’t be bothered reading on? Check out this video summary:

A tyre plug, as it’s called, is a self-vulcanising repair cord, and if you get a puncture through the tread area of your tubeless tyre, it’s the ideal quick-fix to get you going again quickly and easily. It should be noted at the start, however, that tyre plug repairs are not considered permanent, and any puncture should really be repaired with a patch from the inside of the tyre as soon as practicable. Having said that, many plugs have been left in place for the life of the tyre without failing, but who wants to be that bloke whose tyre explodes and covers the road in rubber and steel belts? Yeah, I thought not; so maybe just throw on a patch when you get back home, eh?

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You will need a tyre puncture repair kit like this ARB one.

Oh, and notice how we mentioned a tyre plug can be used if you get a puncture through the tread area? If you have a damaged and split sidewall, there’s not much chance a plug is going to seal it, and even if it does, the plug repair will likely fail as the sidewall flexes, which could result in rapid tyre deflation and loss of vehicle control.

 

Here’s what you’ll need to plug a tyre:
  1. A quality tyre repair kit
  2. An air compressor
  3. A jack and wheel brace (on the odd occasion the tyre needs to be removed from the vehicle to perform the repair)
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You will also need a quality air compressor.

Step 1 – Finding the puncture point

When driving on sealed roads you’ll probably feel the effects of a deflating tyre before it’s damaged beyond repair. A puncture can be more difficult to detect when driving off-road, but if you have your window down you’ll occasionally be able to hear the air escaping from the tyre.

The best way to detect a deflating tyre is to run a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) in your rig; these cost a few hundred dollars but that’s money well spent if just one tyre is saved by early puncture detection. For more information, check out Wes’ Everything you ever wanted to know about TPMS story.

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In this case the puncture point was easy to locate… because I created it with my drill and this self-tapper…

Once you’ve determined it’s safe to pull over, get out and have a look for the puncture point on the deflating/deflated tyre. Sometimes the object that caused the puncture will be easy to find (think: nail, screw, stick or some other sharp object) while at other times it will be impossible to spot (too far under the wheel arch or between the tyre and the ground), in which case you’ll need to listen for the escaping air. If you can’t see it or hear it, make sure everyone is clear and have someone slowly move the vehicle while you’re examining (looking at and listening to) the tyre.

Once you’ve found the puncture point, decide whether you’ll need to remove the wheel from the vehicle to make the repair or if you can do it in situ. Make sure the vehicle is secure (in gear with handbrake applied and a wheel chock) before jacking it or repairing the tyre on the vehicle.

 

Step 2 – Add some air
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If the tyre is deflated you will need to inflate it before making the repair.

With reasonable pressure in the tyre, remove the object that caused the puncture using pliers (supplied in the repair kit), and then insert the reamer tool as soon as possible to prevent too much air escaping. Move the reamer tool in and out several times until it moves freely, ensuring the puncture hole is big enough to insert the plug plug. For now, leave the reamer tool in the tyre.

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Remove the offending object…

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… and insert the reamer tool.

Step 3 – Add lube

Apply some lubricant (supplied in the tyre repair kit) to one of the plugs (self-vulcanising repair cords) and thread it through the eye of the insertion needle tool, then coat it cord with more lubricant. If there’s still plenty of air pressure in the tyre, you can now remove the reamer tool and quickly insert the loaded insertion needle into the puncture hole.

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Lube the plug and feed it through the needle insertion tool.

Sometimes you’ll be able to force the loaded insertion needle into the tyre quite easily and sometimes it will require a fair amount of effort. Remember, the more air pressure in the tyre the easier it will be to insert the loaded insertion needle. If you’re struggling to force the plug into a tyre that’s still on the vehicle, you might have to remove it so you can exert more force by standing right over the tyre.

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Add more lube…

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Force the plug into the hole.

Step 4 – Remove needle and check for leaks

Once you have inserted the plug into the tyre, hold down the collar on the insertion needle and then pull the needle out. That’s it! The tyre plug is in. Trim any tyre plug excess off with the blade supplied in the kit.

Tyre Plug Collar

Remove the needle insertion tool but hold down the collar so the plug stays in the tyre.

You’ll now have to listen for air air leaks to make sure the repair has been effective. Then coat the area in soapy water (or saliva) and look for bubbles. If you spot any, you may have to insert an additional tyre plug, and sometimes more.

Once you’re sure there are no leaks, inflate the tyre to the desired pressure, refit the wheel to the vehicle (if it was removed) and you’ll be on your way. If your vehicle is fitted with a TPMS, monitor it to make sure the tyre is holding pressure and, if you don’t have a TPMS, pull up after a few minutes and check the air pressure with a tyre pressure gauge.

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Check for air leaks using soapy water… or saliva.

Step 5 – Fix it properly

As mentioned at the start of this guide, tyre plugs are not considered to be permanent repairs, so as soon as practicable you should remove the tyre from the rim and inspect it for internal damage.

While the tyre is off the rim, check it thoroughly for any other signs of damage; if the puncture wasn’t detected early enough, there’s a chance the tyre may have suffered damage around the sidewall.

If the tyre is suitable for repair, a patch or mushroom plug/patch should applied to the punctured area from the inside. If you’re not confident you can perform this type of inspection/repair, take the tyre to a specialist to have it inspected and repaired/replaced.

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Check the pressure after 10-15 minutes to make sure the puncture repair is effective.

That’s it! Unsealed 4X4’s simple step-by-step guide to using tyre plugs. Keep an eye out and we’ll show you how to easily remove a tyre from the rim when you’re in the bush, and how to perform a repair from the inside using a vulcanising patch.

Thanks to ARB for supplying the Speedy Seal Puncture Repair Kit used in this guide.