A tire that is leaking air can really put a damper in your day. While a spare tire can always be a short-term solution, fixing the tire with a patch or plug can help extend the life of your tire.
The anatomy of a hole in your tire
A hole, rip or break in a tire could be caused by a variety of things. Most tires that are in otherwise good condition will start losing air when a nail, screw or other outside force breaks through the wall of the tire and causes it to lose air. These rips either have clean edges, such as a nail or screw hole, or the rips have ragged edges. If the tire is wearing out, then the pressure of everyday driving could cause a rupture. If your tire has ruptured, it should be replaced, not repaired.
Using a plug in your tire
Tire plugs were one of the first tire repair methods to appear on the scene, and they fell out of use as tire technology developed. New tire plugs have been created that work their way further into tires as you drive, creating a better-than-ever seal. A tire plug is best used when the hole you are repairing has relatively smooth edges. you simply sand or rasp the edges of the hole, place a plug into the installation tool, and insert the plug. When all is said and done, the more you drive, the more the plug works its way into the rubber of your tire and better the seal is. You should not plug the sidewall of your tire, only the section of the tire that actually hits the road. The benefits of a plug include that it is fast, cheap and easy to install, even when you are at the side of the road.
Deciding on a patch
If the hole in your tire has ragged edges or is more than a puncture, then a patch on your tire may be the best way to fix it. Patches require that the tire be taken off and the patch be installed on the inside of the tire. The rubber is roughened up, then a cement or glue is applied and the patch is applied using pressure to help seal the rubber together. Combined, a patch can cover a much larger surface area. Patches take longer to apply, but can deal with a much wider variety of damage to your tire.