Even for the most careful driver, flat tires are a hazard. Though spying a nail embedded in one of your car's tires can be a deflating experience, it doesn't have to mean hours spent in a waiting room during an expensive visit to an auto repair shop. With the purchase of an inexpensive tire-repair kit, you should be able to take care of most such punctures yourself, in a matter of minutes.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Protective eye wear
- Car jack
- Lug wrench
- Tire plug repair kit
- Utility knife
Engage your car's emergency brake to prevent it from rolling, and then use a lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts on the wheel with the flat tire. Raise your vehicle using your car jack, being sure to refer to the vehicle's handbook for specific instructions and safety precautions.
Remove all lug nuts from the wheel assembly and gently pull the wheel away from the vehicle. Inspect the tire to find the exact location of the nail. This might be obvious if the nail is large, but a smaller nail might be difficult to find. If this is the case, apply a little water to the tread of the tire. As air escapes from the tire, bubbles will form at the puncture point. Mark this area with chalk or a piece of tape so that you'll easily be able to locate the hole after the nail has been removed.
Remove the nail from the tire and discard. Depending on how firmly embedded the nail is, you might be able to do this with your bare hands, but if not a set of pliers will do the trick. Then, take the rasp tool from the tire plug kit, insert in into the nail hole and then remove. This tool acts like a small file that cleans the rubber and roughs up its surface. This will allow for greater adhesion and a better seal with the plug.
Cover a plug with the supplied cement and thread it through the insertion tool. Then, push the insertion tool firmly into the tire. Leave about half an inch or so of the plug protruding on the outside of the tire and then pull the insertion tool back out, leaving the plug firmly embedded in the tire.
Cut off the protruding end of the plug with scissors or a utility knife so that it sits almost flush with the tire surface surrounding it. The remainder of the exposed plug will wear down quickly when you resume driving. Test the repaired area for leaks by pouring a little water on it and looking for bubbles. If all is well, remount the tire, making sure that all lug nuts are securely tightened and the tire is inflated to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer.
Tips and warnings
- If your tire gets punctured by a nail, there's always the chance that more objects might be embedded, too. While your tire is removed from the vehicle, take the opportunity to thoroughly inspect it for more leaks.
- If your tire appears to have damage to the sidewall or has very little tread wear remaining, it's a better idea to discard the tire and buy a replacement. If you do plug the tire, consider it a temporary repair that enables you to get to a mechanic for professional assistance.
- If the puncture happens while driving on a busy road, drive slowly onto the shoulder or a quiet side street. Attempting to fix the tire too close to passing traffic could result in serious injury.
- Use caution when working with tools and don't attempt tire repairs without protective eye wear. If you're attempting this repair at home, be aware that rubber cement products contain harmful inhalants, so use only in a well-ventilated area.
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