Tire Plug Vs. Patch: Which Is the Most Ideal for Your Tire?

A tire that is punctured among the most frustrating things you can deal with on a drive. You must get your hands dirty and fix the pressing issue before proceeding with your journey. You should not drive with a tire that is flat as it may lead to a blowout or damage to other car parts, mostly the suspension system.

On the positive, you can easily fix a puncture, which introduces us to our subject, which is the main plug vs. patch. A tire plug is a fix that is quick a damaged tire, though it may not last as long as a tire patch. Nevertheless, you must consider factors that vary in picking between the two tire fixes. Let us comprehensively discuss tire plugging and patching to determine the solution that is best for a beat tire.

tire plug vs patch cost

What Is A Tire Plug?

A tire plug is a sticky, rubbery object that you insert into a tire puncture hole. It is suitable for tire problems caused by nails, screws, typically small punctures. The plug is usually cylindrically shaped and expands for easy fixtures.

Tire plugs are part of a tire repair kit, offering a temporary solution for a tire that is ruptured. It is an solution that is easy and you don’t have to be a professional to use it. The tire repair kits have instructions on how to fix the tire, which you should follow for a job that is clean.

The most tire that is common are the strip types, a length of sticky rubber or rope ideal for smaller ruptures. The mushroom plug is ideal for tubeless tires and resembles a mushroom with a head that is large a stem.

While relatively more expensive than regular tire plugs, mushroom plugs offer a fix that is durable as they seal the tire’s inner lining and the pathway. This type of plug is suitable for tubeless tires.

Spear plugs are a type that is special of plugs that are perfect for small holes and smaller tires, like those of motorcycles. There is also the plug that is internal which, as its name suggests, you attach from the tire’s inside. It is the most tire that is reliable, but it is costly. Furthermore, you have to remove the tire to fix it.

tire repair plug

How Tire Plugs Work

Tire plugs work by sealing the puncture caused by a object that is penetrating such as a nail. It expands and adheres to the hole when inserted, ensuring air does not escape. Regarding its functionality, it would help if you knew how to fix it. Here are the steps to follow when plugging a tire that is punctured.

Find the Leak

You should locate the leak to fix it. Start by pumping the tire then lift it with your jack. For safety, the tire should be removed by you before working on it.

The other way of identifying leaks is by spraying soapy water evenly on the tire surface. Turn the wheel around to easily locate the area to work on, identifiable by the production of bubbles.

Prepping the Puncture Area

Prepping requires cleaning the affected spot to remove moisture and dirt first. Next, you ream the rupture using the reaming tool. This action widens the hole and makes it rough for proper adhesion with the plug. For small holes, you may need a drill or a similar tool to enlarge the hole before bringing in the reaming device. Be gentle during this step to avoid expanding the puncture to unmanageable limits.

Preparation and Insertion of The Plug

The tire plugging kit must have an insertion tool to help insert the strip. You put the strip into the slit at the tip of the insertion tool and dip the strip into a sealing agent, ensuring that it is well coated. You should also apply the sealant to the puncture.

Insert the insertion tool with the coated strip into the tire hole. You should be gentle yet firm during this stage for the perfect attachment of the plug. Press the tool deep into the tire, and don’t twist it. Remove the tool, and as you pull it out, the strip will detach itself from the instrument, plugging the puncture.

You can let the plug rest in for a few minutes for proper adhesion.

Inflate the Tire

You should deflate the tires before working on them. Attend to the low tire pressure and listen for any air leaks. If all is good, you should carefully trim off the part of the plug sticking from the tire’s surface.

Can I drive long distances with a plugged tire? While auto pundits advise against the extended use of tire plugs, some can serve for a considerable time, such as mushroom and internal plugs. Regular plugs are a temporary solution that should hold down your tire until you get to the service station for professional attention.

When You Need to Use A Tire Plug

You should know when and when not to use a tire plug to avoid any unexpected eventuality on the road. The following are some situations that call for tire plugging.

  • When your tire has a small puncture, such as those caused by screws or nails, basically less than 1/8 inches wide
  • If the puncture is far from the tire sidewall
  • For temporary situations, as you look for a more stable solution to the tire problem
  • If you have a tubeless tire

Do not use tire plugs if:

  • You are dealing with a damaged sidewall
  • For irregularly shaped holes
  • The tire has a large puncture
  • If the tire has an existing plug, unless in desperate situations

You should also only use the tire plug as a long-term solution if you have the unique types, such as an internal or mushroom strip.

Tire Plug Usage Safety Precautions

Like most vehicle repair and maintenance practices, safety is crucial when plugging your tires. The following are safety precautions to adhere to when working on your damaged tires.

  • Have safety gear with you, such as gloves or goggles. However, many people may not have the safety gear with them when the tire gives away; in such a case, you should maintain proper distance when fixing the tire and be careful with the tools.
  • Remove the tire before working on it to prevent the car from accidentally moving. Additionally, ensure you secure the vehicle as you work on the tire by parking it on level ground.
  • Don’t plug tires with a beat sidewall
  • Deflate the tire before working on it

What Is A Tire Patch?

The next part of our discussion focuses on the tire patch, which is a thin rubber disk that you attach inside the tire to fix a puncture. Patches come in different sizes for different puncture sizes and are ideal for more significant ruptures. Moreover, they offer a permanent solution and can serve you for a long time.

Plugs are ideal for tubeless tires, but patches work with both tubed and tubeless tires. There are numerous types of tire patches, each serving a specific purpose. Cold patches work well with tubeless tires and don’t require heat application. Instead, it relies on chemical bonding to provide a firm adhesion and last longer.

Vulcanizing or hot patches require heat application and provide a strong bond. It is ideal for larger and more widespread punctures. A combination patch has properties of both cold and hot tire patches. Heat enhances the chemical bonding capability of this type of patch.

best tire patch

How Does A Tire Patch Work?

You fix the tire patch internally, where it works like a permanent valve; the air inside presses on it, preventing escape. The firm adhesion provided guarantees longevity and resiliency. 

The following are the steps for using a tire patch.

Identifying the Affected Area

You should identify the punctured spot on the tire. Use soapy water to identify the leak, noticeable by bubble formations. Mark the hole using chalk or any marker, and remove the tire from the rim to repair it from the inside. The mark will guide you on the area to work on.

Prepping the Spot

Next, you prep the spot using a scuffing tool or sandpaper. These tools rough up the site for the patch to stick correctly to the surface. Scuff the site as much as you can in a crosshatch pattern. Remove the rubber pieces and dirt on the spot you want to fix.

Apply the binding agent (rubber cement) on the surface, spreading it evenly to cover the entire puncture. You may also apply the binder on the patch.

Fix the Patch

Gently remove the backing on the patch, being careful not to touch it as it is sticky. Apply it on the treated tire area and press it firmly for adequate adhesion. You can fix the patch in any direction if you have radial tires. However, the patch should be aligned to the beads for bias tires.

Let the cement cure, which takes a few minutes, then check if it is still leaking. You can reassemble the wheel if everything is all right.

Tire patches are the best fixes for a damaged sidewall. On how to patch a tire sidewall, you follow the highlighted steps. However, sidewall damages are tricky and indicate that it is time to replace your tires.

When You Need to Use A Tire Patch?

The following are some situations where it is wise to use a tire patch.

  • If dealing with large and widespread punctures
  • If the tire was previously damaged
  • If looking for a permanent solution to a damaged tire
  • For puncture near the sidewall

Please note that patches can be more expensive than plugs; many people may start with plugs before they add a patch to the affected surface. The result is a plug-patch hybrid that is very reliable and will support your tire for a long time.

Tire Patch Usage Safety Precautions

Please abide by the following precautions when patching up your tire.

  • Have safety gear like gloves and eye protection to shield you from debris and the tools
  • Carefully handle the tools and the tire, especially if wires are protruding
  • Don’t use an inner tube as a fixture for damaged tubeless tires
  • Seek professional help if necessary when patching your tires, as the process can be quite tricky

Tire Plug Vs. Patch Differences

Tire plugs and patches are worthy solutions to a tire puncture. There are many differences between the two fixes, which you should look at to determine the most ideal depending on the situation. Let us look at the various contrast points of these two solutions.

Tire Plug Vs. Patch Cost

Many people opt for tire plugs due to their affordability. A tire plug kit can cost as low as $9, though you may have to part with as much as $55 for a reliable kit. Patching kits are costlier, with roughly a $10 margin. The issue is that you must hire someone to do the job if you are not experienced, further hiking up the tire puncture repair costs.

Tire repair works are demanding, and it is logical to hire a professional to handle it for the best outcome.

The Fixing Process

Plugging is more straightforward than patching, and you can do it yourself, provided you follow the instructions. Patching is complicated, as you work from the tire’s inside. It may take a long time, and you cannot afford to make mistakes, as you can mess the entire repair process.


Patches are permanent fixtures guaranteed to serve you for a considerable period. On the other hand, plugs are temporary solutions, which you bank on as you organize for a stable fix, like getting a patch. Nevertheless, some plugs, such as mushroom and internal plugs, can match the resilience of patches.

A tire plug patch hybrid, which calls for both solutions, will lengthen your tire service life. First, fix the plug, then place a patch atop the plug from the inside. It is an intricate process, best done by experts.


Tire plugs are effective for small punctures and temporary situations, while patches are suitable for larger holes. Patches are more effective than plugs due to their permanency essence.

Tire Plug Vs. Patch Pros and Cons

We shift our focus to tire plug vs. patch pros and cons, which are crucial in pointing out the appealing attributes and setbacks associated with each tire puncture solution.

Tire Plug Pros

A tire plug is an excellent temporary fix for a damaged tire. The plug kit is cheap, and fixing the puncture is hassle-free, with instructions guiding you on how to pull it. As a hands-on person, you don’t need expert help with tire plugging.

It is perfect for small holes, like the ones you get from nails and other random metal pieces. While plugs are short-term fixes, they can last you reasonably long as you look for a long-lasting solution. Mushroom and internal plugs are robust, and you can use them as permanent fixtures for a ruptured tire.


The main setback of tire plugs is that they are short-term solutions. You must upgrade them to a durable fixture as soon as possible. You cannot use plugs on large or irregular punctures or beat sidewalls. Despite plugs being cheap, types like mushroom strips can be relatively costly.

Furthermore, plugs are not suitable for tubed tires.

Tire Patch Pros

Patching up your tire is a lasting answer to a nagging puncture problem. The adhesion is firmer, and air won’t escape, as the patch acts like an unmovable valve.

Tire patches are versatile and handy for several situations. You can use them for both tubed and tubeless tires, plus they work well for more prominent and irregular ruptures. A tire patch is the answer to a damaged tire sidewall.


Patching up a tire is quite costly and time-consuming. It is also complicated and requires an experienced hand. While patches can help with a ruptured sidewall, they are a temporary fix.


Is It Better to Plug or Patch A Tire?

Whether to plug or patch a tire depends on the situation at hand, but patching is usually the most practicable approach due to its longevity. You can plug the tire as a short-term fix, like when you are on the road and want to get to a service station.

How Long Will A Plug Last in A Tire?

A tire plug is a transitory fit for a damaged tire that you use as you plan on getting a durable solution. Regular plugs can last up to 8 miles and are typically cheaper. Heavy-duty variants, like the internal plugs, are more resilient, and you can use them permanently.

Is Plugging A Tire A Permanent Fix?

Plugging a tire is generally a fill-in, but there are plug types designed to last you for a long time. The internal plug is an excellent example; you fit it the same way you would a patch from the inside. Mushroom plugs are also sturdy and long-lasting.

How Many Times Can You Plug A Tire?

You should plug your tire as minimally as you can to maintain its integrity. According to vehicle repair professionals, you should not fill a tire more than three times. It is time to get new wheels once you get to the three-plug mark.

Can I Drive with A Tire Plug?

You can drive with a plug on your way to fix your tires permanently. Mushroom plugs are more vital than standard ones and can serve you for extended periods like tire patches.

What Lasts Longer, Plug or Patch?

Patching is a long-lasting solution for a ruptured tire, while plugs last a shorter time. Plug types, like internal and mushroom, are robust and can serve you as good as tire patches. You may also combine plugs and patches for a sturdier solution.

Final Word

A punctured tire is common problem, calling for your preparedness to easily deal with the inconvenience. A tire patch or a plugging kit is a sure way of handling the rupture, with each working differently. This discussion reviews the two fixes, bringing to light their respective functionality.

You use a plug for tiny holes found along the treads. You patch your tire for more pronounced issues, like larger tears, and damaged sidewalls. You may also combine the two fixes for a sturdier outcome. Regardless of the solution you go for, you should always have a repair kit in case of an emergency.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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