Ultimate Guide to Tire Plug and Patch Repair

In the US, where around 7 tires puncture every second, keeping a tire repair tool kit is your savior. It eliminates the need to call AAA or wait for a mechanic to come and fix the fault. However, vehicle owners may get confused when choosing between a tire plug and patch, as both methods are used widely.

We’ve covered you if you are one of those and looking for the best method to repair punctured or flat tires. In this tire plug vs patch guide, we’ll discuss the practicality of each method and the cost associated, helping you narrow down your choice. 

What is the Difference between a Tire Plug and Patch? 

While both are used to fix the holes or cuts in tires, their application process and appearance make them different. A tire plug is a long rubber thread or strip inserted to fill the hole in punctured tires. In contrast, tire patches are circular rubber pieces with sticky sides covering the entire punctured area.

How Do Tire Plugs Work?

Tire plugs let you work outside the tire following these steps. 

  • Roughen and clean the punctured area using a reamer or rasp.
  • Insert the strip into the eye of the insertion tool.
  • Apply lubricant on the tip of the tool for smooth flow.
  • Push the installer into the hole, leaving only half an inch of strip outside.
  • Pull the tool quickly with the strip remaining in the tire.

How Tire Patches Work?

The installation process for tire patches is entirely different. You need to separate the tire from the rim to access the inner part, clean the hole, lubricate it using rubber cement, and apply a patch from the inside. 

Is a Tire Plug As Good As a Patch: Comparative Analysis

Tire Plug and Patch Repair

Whether you should use a tire patch or plug depends on many factors. Let’s compare some features of tire plugs and patches to decide the best one. 

Tire plug vs. patch durability: 

Since tire plugs are installed from outside, they wear faster with temperature, road friction, etc., increasing the risk of leaks and blowouts. In contrast, patches seal directly with the inner lining of the tire. Hence, they are vulnerable to external wear and tear. 

Plug vs. patch performance: 

Tire plugs are ineffective for even quarter-inch holes, irregularly shaped holes, and punctures close to sidewalls. In contrast, patches can cover a large area, making them best for large punctures. 

Plug vs tire patch installation process:

Plug repair is easy. But, with patches, you’ll have to remove tires from vehicles and break the beads, making tire patching a hectic task. 

Tire plug vs patch cost:

In the case of DIY plug tire repair, you’ll be paying only for material, i.e., kit, which can cost you a maximum of $20. However, a patch repair kit is relatively expensive, and adding the labor cost, you must have a budget of $40 to $50 to get a tire patched. 

Features PlugPatch
Durability/Performance Temporary Permanent
Reliability in severe conditionsLess reliable More reliable 
Effectiveness for big punctures Not ideal Suitable for 6mm holes 
Sidewall punctures repairability Not effective It can be used for “nearby” sidewall holes
Risk of leakage/blowoutHigh Less
Affordability Cheap Relatively expensive 

Can You Both Plug and Patch a Tire? 

Yes. Nowadays, auto mechanics use plug-and-patch systems to fix tire leakages. It’s called a tire plug and patch combo. It’s one of the best methods to repair punctured tires, according to USTMA. Let’s see how it works. 

Plug/patch combination tire repair:

A plug-patch combo involves plugging the hole from the outside and patching it from the inside using a plug-patch kit. The kit contains an umbrella-shaped patch with a tail and head. 

The tail acts as a plug, and a broad head covers the hole from the inside like a patch. That way, there’ll be no chance of leaking out, a common problem in plug repair. Moreover, the outer punctured surface will get additional protection, which is a concern in tire patching.

How to Install a Plug Patch Combo?

  1. Remove the punctured tire from the vehicle and break the bead. 
  2. Highlight the punctured area and remove the object causing a hole using pliers or tweezers.
  3. Roughen and clean the inside punctured area with a rasp or a scraping tool. 
  4. Buff that area using a buffering tool at 5000 RPM to ensure a smooth texture.
  5. Apply rubber cement in the hole and surrounding area.
  6. Let it dry naturally for 3-4 minutes. 
  7. Take a plug patch and coat its tail with rubber cement. 
  8. Insert the tail into the hole from the inside of the tire.
  9. Pull the stem/tail of the plug patch from outside using pliers until the patch sticks evenly to the hole. 
  10. Move the roller to the inside patched area to remove trapped air.
  11. Trim the plug from outside and coat the patched area with rubber cement. 
  12. Reinflate the tire and inspect for any leakage. 

Cost of Plug/Patch Tire Repair

A plug/patch combo kit is more expensive than individual kits. Moreover, the price can vary from brand to brand. For example, the Steelman patch/plug combo costs $30. On average, you can expect to pay as low as $20 or as high as $50 or more for a plug patch tire repair in case of DIY. 

Legal and Safety Considerations for Tire Repair

  • NHTSA recommends repairing punctured tires using a plug patch technique.
  • Repair only when damage is limited to tread only. 
  • Don’t plug patch sidewall punctures.
  • Avoid plug-patching tires with holes greater than 6mm.
  • Repairing tires thrice is not safe.


That’s all you may need to know when choosing between tire plug and patch. A tire patch tool kit is more reliable than a plug repair. However, for an even better experience, consider buying a tire plug and patch combo. It’s cost-effective, safe, and provides long-lasting performance, possibly throughout the tire’s lifespan. 

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