How to Patch a Tire?

how to patch a tire

Key Takeaways

  • Inflate the tire to find the leak, usually a nail or screw
  • Wet the tire in soapy water and watch for bubbles to form (Easier with the wheel off the vehicle)
  • Remove the object and use a tire patch kit to plug the hole

It doesn’t matter if your tires are brand new or needing to be replaced, a puncture can happen to anyone at any time. It’s obviously much more annoying if your tires are brand new because you don’t want to have to replace it again. After all, its brand new!

So we are going to give you the break down step by step in how to patch a tire. By the end you will know everything you need to know to patch a tire yourself, as well as the tools you will need.

Patching a tire is an easy enough job to do yourself. You just need to make sure that you have the right tools and a tire patch kit and you’re ready to go. Here are the basic steps!

  • Finding the Leak:
    • Inflate the tire to the correct pressure and visually inspect the tire for damage.
    • If leaking from the sidewall, replace the tire. Listen for a hissing noise indicating a serious puncture.
  • Removing the Wheel:
    • Find a safe location away from traffic and apply the parking brake.
    • Set up warning triangles and wheel wedges.
    • Break the lug nuts loose and jack up the vehicle.
    • Remove the wheel by fully undoing the lug nuts and popping the wheel off the hub if corroded.
  • Finding the Leak Continued:
    • Mix water and dish soap, pour over the tire to locate the puncture or air leaks.
    • If needed, cover the valve stem and tire seal to identify air leaks.
  • Patching the Tire:
    • Remove debris from the puncture and prepare the hole with a tire reamer.
    • Apply rubber cement (if available) and insert the plug into the tire using a plug pusher tool.
    • Cut off excess plug, let it dry (if using rubber cement), and check for leaks with soapy water.
  • Putting Wheel back on your vehicle:
    • Mount the repaired tire back onto the vehicle, secure lug nuts hand tight, and lower the vehicle.
    • Fully tighten the lug nuts, remove wheel wedges, and refill the tire to the correct PSI.

How to Patch a Tire

It can be extremely annoying to find that your vehicle has developed a puncture or a flat tire. This is especially true if you have just recently purchased a new tire for your vehicle. Punctures can affect anyone at any time, and the usual culprit for this is a nail in the road

Luckily, the majority of these punctures can be repaired with a simple Tire Repair Kit available at most good outlet stores, and using simple tools that come with your vehicle. 

Editor's Choice
AUTOWN Heavy Duty Tire Plug Repair Kit
10/10Our Score
  • Easy to use and suitable for all size car and truck tires
  • Made of refined high-quality steel
  • Full instructions included
  • Portable and practical size
  • Tire pressure gauge included
  • Include 40 plugs to repair up to 40 tires

Tools you will need to patch a tire

The first thing to check before getting started, is that you have the tools required. If your vehicle is equipped with a spare wheel, we will be using the standard tools which you should find in the trunk of your car along with the spare wheel. The tools needed are :

  • Tire Plug Kit
  • Tire inflator or pump
  • Wheel Wedges
  • Lug wrench/ Tire Iron
  • Locking wheel nut key – If applicable
  • Vehicle Jack
  • Jack Stands
  • Warning Triangle (Optional – if by the roadside)
Editor's Choice
AstroAI Portable Tire Gauge and Inflator
  • Complete Package
  • Digital 
  • Multi Function
  • Top of the Range
  • Attachments for all tire types
  • Buttons for easy use in all weathers
Premium Pick
Airmoto Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor
  • Digital Tire Pressure gauge
  • Portable
  • Inflate tires up to 120PSI
  • LCD display with Built-in LED flashlight
  • Measure in PSI, kPa, BAR, and KG/CM
  • Powerful battery with fast charging
  • Attachments for all tire types
Budget Pick
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Digital Air Compressor
  • Powered from 12V socket
  • Affordable price point
  • Supports all car and bike tires
  • 4 Display Units: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM
  • LED torch 
  • Prevents over Inflation with auto shut off 

Finding the Leak

I have written this complete guide on “how to patch a tire” for tires that are on a wheel and also on the vehicle. If you already have the wheel off your vehicle, you can skip the “Removing Tire” section. 

If your vehicle has a spare tire and you have come out to your vehicle to find you have a flat tire, I would recommend taking a look at our “How to change a tire on any car” guide first, as this will help you with getting going quicker 

Inflate the tire

The first step is to try and find where the puncture is. When trying to find where the air is leaking from, we first need to inflate the tire to the correct pressure. This should help make the signs of where the air is leaking out more obvious to us. It will also give you an idea of how fast the tire is deflating

Visually inspect the tire

Once the tire is inflated, take a look at the tire tread and the tire sidewall to see for any obvious visual damage to the tire. This should be your first indication of where the damage to the tire may lie. This will be easier when we take the wheel off the vehicle

If you see that the air is leaking from damage to the tires sidewall, sadly this is not able to be patched or repaired and the tire will need to be replaced. We would recommend putting on your spare tire and taking your wheel to your local shop for a new tire.

Listen for a hissing noise

If once you have inflated the tire, you are able to hear a hissing noise of the air escaping from the tire, this is usually a sign of a more serious puncture or hole. Make sure to follow this guide and have the tire patched before driving on it again. 

If the cause of the puncture is not obvious and you have still not been able to locate it, do not worry. It will be much easier for us once we take the wheel off the vehicle. 

Removing the wheel

If you have already removed the offending tire from your vehicle, you can skip ahead to the “Finding the Leak Continued” section further below.

Check out our full guide on how to change a tire here.

Step by step guide below. 

1 – Find a safe location away from traffic

2 – Apply parking brake, put car in park and turn off vehicle

3 – Set up your warning triangle and wheel wedges

4 – Break the lug nuts loose

5 – Jacking up the vehicle

6 – Removing the wheel

Find a safe location away from traffic

It is important to make sure that you are in a safe location when you plan to take your tire off your vehicle by the roadside. Make sure that before you begin you are in an open space such as a car park or a wide stretch of quiet road.

It is also recommended to be on a level piece of ground before you attempt to remove your wheel. 

Apply parking brake, put car in park and turn off vehicle

Before we are able to begin taking the wheel off, we need to ensure that the vehicle is secure. Go ahead and apply the parking brake, put the gearbox into park and make sure that the vehicle is turned off. For stick vehicles, put the car in neutral.

Set up your warning triangle and wheel wedges

If you are parked on a road with oncoming traffic, set up your warning triangle a safe distance away to alert other drivers of your presence. Then go ahead and place your wheel wedge behind the wheels you will not be changing.  Now we are ready to begin taking the wheel off the vehicle. 

Break the lug nuts loose

While your wheel is still on the ground, take your lug wrench or tire iron and break the lug nuts loose by turning in a counter-clockwise direction. These are likely to be stiff and require a decent amount of force to break loose. Use your body weight if necessary to help.

Don’t forget to use your locking wheel nut key if your vehicle is equipped with locking wheel nuts. This can be usually found in the trunk along your other vehicles tools.

Jacking up the vehicle

Now that the lug nuts loose, we can jack the car off the ground. Take your vehicle jack and find the specified jack mounting point under your vehicle. You will find where this is in your vehicle hand book.

Jack the car up until the tire is 2 inches off the ground and place your jack stands underneath the car at the mounting points for extra protection.

Removing the wheel

Now that the wheel is off the ground, fully undo the lug nuts with your lug wrench or tire iron and remove the wheel from the wheel hub. If the wheel hasn’t been removed in an extended period of time, the wheel may be corroded onto the wheel hub. To remove the wheel, you may need to firmly hit the tire with your fist to help pop the wheel off the wheel hub.

Finding the Leak Continued

With the wheel off the vehicle, it will be much easier for us to find the puncture in your tire if you haven’t already found it.

To find the puncture, mix water and some dish soap together and pour over the tire. You can also fill a spray bottle and spray the soapy water over the tire. This will allow us to see any points at which the air is escaping the tire as the soapy solution will bubble up at the point of the puncture. 

If this does not yield any results, also try covering the valve stem and the seal around the tire to the wheel in soapy water. These are also common areas for air leaks from a tire. However if air is leaking from these places, it means your tire does not need to be plugged and will need to be repaired at a tire shop

Patching the Tire

Once you have found the location of the puncture, the first step is to remove any foreign object that may remain in the tire. The majority of the time the puncture is caused by a nail or a screw and this can be removed with a set of pliers. 

Remember that any damage to the sidewall is not repairable and if this is the case, you will need to take the wheel to a local shop for a new tire.

With the puncture now clear of any debris, take your tire patch or plug kit and the first step will be to take the tire reamer to prepare the hole

I would recommend purchasing a tire patch kit that has a reamer with a T bar handle. This makes it easier to force the handle into the hole as this will require a large amount of force. Once the reamer is in, pull it up and down a number of times to remove any loose rubber and to smoothen the hole. This will help in prepping the tire for the plug which you will use to patch the tire.  

Your tire patch kit may also come with rubber cement, which you can apply directly to the hole and work into with the reamer. This will help get a better seal with the tire patch kit. The tire cement is not a necessity so do not worry if you don’t receive this with your kit. 

After you have prepared the hole, take your plug pusher tool and thread one of the plugs through the hole in the end of the tool until it is half way through. You can also apply some extra rubber cement if you so wish. 

Now take out your tire reamer and insert your plug pushing tool with the plug into the tire. This will also require a large amount of force and I would recommend using your body weight to help push the plug into the tire. Keep pushing until approximately only a quarter of the plug remains visible

Now that the hole has been plugged, firmly pull the plug pushing tool out of the tire and the tool should come out leaving the plug in the tire. If you have used rubber cement, leave the tire to dry for 10-15 minutes. 

The final step is to cut off the excuse tire plug that remains sticking out of the tire. This can be done with a pair of cutters. Once complete, take your remaining soapy water and wet the tire at the point of the tire plug you have just inserted to ensure that no more air is escaping. 

If done correctly, you should see no more bubbles meaning you have plugged your tire correctly. You can now re-fit the tire to your vehicle in reverse for how you removed the wheel originally. You can also see our guide here on how to change a tire, and follow the final steps. 

Putting Wheel back on your vehicle

Lift and mount the now repaired tire back onto your vehicle and secure with lug nuts hand tight. Then take your wrench or tire iron and secure the lug nuts as much as you can with the wheel in the air. You will need to fully secure them when you lower your vehicle to the ground

You can then remove your jack stands from underneath your vehicle and slowly lower your car to the ground. Once on the ground, fully tighten the lug nuts and stow away your wheel wedge and other equipment. 

The final thing to do is to refill your tire with air to the correct PSI for your vehicle. 


Can I patch a tire more than once?

Yes, a tire can be plugged as many times as needed. However make sure that the hold or puncture you are plugging is only in the tire tread, as it is not possible to patch a hole in a tires sidewall.

How long can I drive on a patched tire?

A patched tire is perfectly safe to drive on and should last the lifetime of the tire.

What other options do I have for repairing a puncture in my tire?

If you do not have a tire plug kit and are unable to purchase one to repair your tire, there are a few other options. These include fix-a-flat and also inflating your tire so that you can drive the short distance to your local tire shop to repair the tire.

Can I patch my tire without taking it off the vehicle?

Yes is it entirely possible to patch the tire without taking it off the vehicle. It may not be possible to locate the hole with the wheel on the vehicle which is why removing the wheel allows for easier access.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to patch a tire. Tire patching and plugging repair is not technically a permanent fix. We would still recommend taking your tire to your local tire shop where they will be able to patch the inside of your tire for you as well. This will ensure that the tire is safe for the remainder of its usable life. 

However there is no reason that a patched tire couldn’t be used for many more miles. It is a very cost effective way to repair an otherwise good tire and save you the cost of buying a new tire.

If you have any questions then please get in touch with us via email ([email protected]) or by leaving a comment below and either me or one of the team will get back to you. Have a good rest of your day! 


Leave a Comment