I’m a Safety Girl: Plug or Patch?

Dear Bree,

I’m having an argument with my husband about plugging vs. patching when there’s a hole in a tire.  He says, “Just get the tire plugged.  It’s quick and easy.”  But I’ve been doing a little research and I’m not so sure about the plug long-term (or the patch!).  To quote Pretty Woman, “I’m a safety girl.”  Got an opinion?

Tiffany in Tampa

 

Hi Tiffany!

Of course I have an opinion!  I have an opinion about most things, and you happen to have hit upon a hot-button topic!  So, plug vs. patch, huh?  I have to say, Tiffany, that I’m with you and Vivian—I’m a safety girl!  Luckily, so are the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association) and the states of Texas and Florida.

Go back a blog or two to the difference between all-season and high performance tires (and snow/winter tires)—what it came down to in the end was the science behind the rubber compound, so let’s get down to the science of plugs and patches.

A plug is sticky and expandable, and it gets shoved in a hole in the tire from the outside and wedged in until the air stops leaking out.  Air leaking out is bad for a tire (and you!) so stopping the leak is great—but do you want to live your tire life on just a plug?  Some people say that a plug will live longer than your dog, but I don’t have any exact stats on that.  What I do know is this:  The plug is made from a different compound than the tire itself, so you should think about the properties of that compound and the rubber compound of your tires.  They may not expand and/ or contract at the same rate, so if you’re driving fast (creating heat) and your tires are expanding; will the plug expand with it?  If it doesn’t, or it expands at a different rate (faster or slower), what happens then?  What if the weather is cold, and your tire contracts but the plug is contracting faster?  You may end up with another leak and be back to square one but in the snow this time.

Patches are a little different because they are actually on the inside of your tire.  To patch a tire, you take the tire off the rim, apply the patch on the inside, seal it and remount the tire. The patch is bigger than the hole and will be pushed by the air pressure against the hole (outward).  A plug is just wedged in there, being pushed outward by air pressure and inward by the road itself.  Let’s hope the road wins.  There is also a Door #3 though, Tiffany, and this is where the RMA, Texas and Florida come into the story.

The RMA supports pending legislation in Texas and Florida to prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires.  Many used tires that are either worn out, damaged or otherwise unsafe are being resold every day all over the country; and two states, Florida and Texas, are working to stop that.  In conjunction with this legislation are guidelines for repairing tires, and here’s what’s recommended:  The Patch/Plug Wire Pull-Through.  This little device is a kind of combo of the patch and the plug with a pull-through wire that is used to guide the plug into place.  The patch/plug is inserted from the inside of the tire, so the tire has to be removed from the vehicle, the patch/plug inserted, and then sealed/cured so that the patch/plug essentially becomes part of the tire.  RNR welcomes this new legislation because this is the way that we repair tires already.  We use this method because it is the best and safest way to fix a damaged tire, and we want only the safest tires (used or otherwise) rolling along our roads everyday.  If your tire cannot be repaired from the damage, and you’re part of our Road Warrior plan, your tire will be placed (within the terms of your agreement).

Don’t roll around on borrowed air!  If you’re going to get your tired repaired, make sure that it’s being fixed in the safest way possible.  That traditional tire plug might live longer than your Chihuahua or it might not make it longer than a carnival goldfish—you never know.  Think about a road-side assistance plan, as well, like our Road Warrior plan that will replace a damaged tire.  You pay a little up front, but if you happen to have the bad luck to damage your tire in a way that can’t be repaired, you’re not shelling out a lot of money for a brand-new tire—you’re already covered.

When you’re faced with a leak in your tire, Tiffany, just remember why Richard Gere always insisted on the penthouse suite (because it’s the best!), and make sure your that tire is repaired in a reputable repair shop using the patch/plug!  Better yet, just come see us at RNR!

Bree