Can a Car Drive Far on a Patched Tire?

I remember as a kid who was very conscientious when it came to my main mode of transport (my mountain bike) that I always had what I needed to fix it. I had a few simple tools to remove wheels and tighten nuts as well as a full well stocked puncture repair kit.

I grew up in the country and I lost count of the number of huge thorns I pulled out of my bike tires over the years. Rather than buy a new inner tube every time I would patch that sucker till it was nothing but patches.

You might be surprised to know that you can also patch car tires as well. In this post we will discuss tire patching and how long it can last you.

Why Patch a Tire?

So your tire has a puncture and no longer holds air. You have two options: buy a whole new tire or patch it just like you would your bike when you were a kid. Well not just like your bike because it is a little more difficult than that but you get my point.

If you decide to replace your tire completely then this can likely cost between $80 -$800 depending on the type of tire you buy. You may also have to replace multiple tires at the same time to avoid uneven road handling.

Well then how much does it cost to patch a tire? This depends on whether you do it yourself or have professional help. If you go to a tire shop then you're looking at probably less than $50 and of course you don’t have to potentially buy a second tire.

If you have the skills to patch your own tire then your costs are even lower and only extend to the purchase of the patch kit. It’s really a no-brainer if the tire can be patched. Why wouldn’t you opt for a patch rather than an expensive new tire?

When Won't a Tire Patch Work?

There are limitations to what you can patch in terms of tire damage. A nail hole for example should be no problem as long as it’s in the right place. However there are hole sizes and locations that you should never even bother to try and patch.

Most patch repair kits are rated for holes less than ¼ inch or 6 mm in diameter. Anything larger than this isn’t worth patching as it might not hold. Also it is advised that you do not patch a puncture within ¼ to 6 mm of the tires sidewall.

The sidewall is the part of the tire that you will generally find the writing denoting the various rating of the tire and the manufacturer’s name. It’s the part of the wheel that does not contact the ground so is built differently.

Sidewalls, unlike the tread, the part that does contact the road, do not have cords running through them. These cords are required for the strength of the tire so this is why we can patch the tread but not the sidewall.

A puncture in the sidewall then essentially means you will need a new tire and likely at least two tires one for each side to maintain balanced handling.

Plug or Patch?

Tire Plug

A tire plug is a small rubber plug that can be inserted into the puncture either externally or internally depending on if the tire needs to come off the rim for repair. This is the quickest puncture repair method.

Tire patch

A tire patch works in conjunction with a plug and is a flat piece of rubber glued over the inserted plug. This offers an extra level of protection and stability. Ultimately it takes a little longer but is the best option to ensure a good result.

Are There Any Safety Risks to Patching a Tire?

If the manufacturer's instructions are followed to the letter and all directions adhered to there is no reason to worry about the patch failing. It isn’t an overly difficult task although it is much larger than a bike so this may require some muscle.

Those who are not confident to do the repair themselves should not hesitate to hire a professional to make the fix if needed. Theoretically there should be no risk but if the job is done improperly then there is always a chance that the fix doesn’t take.

It should be noted again that you should not try and patch the sidewall or holes bigger than a ¼ inch in diameter. Patches will not hold up in these situations so there will be inherent safety risks in doing this.

How Far Can You Drive on a Patched Tire?

So to the main question: how far can you drive on a patched tire? Well essentially as long as the patch was done correctly you should be fine for the duration of the tire's life. Failing a more severe puncture you can use that tire until it reaches its minimum allowable tread level.

Again this all depends on the repair being done correctly and the damage not being too large or in the wrong location for an effective repair. Poor patching or more severe damage can lead to a patch failure and the tire going flat on you.

Tips for a Good Home Repair

  • Buy a good quality home repair kit. This will likely cost around $10
  • Ensure the puncture is no more than ¼ inch or 6 mm in diameter
  • Ensure the puncture is in the tread section of tire and not the sidewall
  • Use a single repair kit and do not substitute elements from a different brand's kit. They are designed to be used together so a patch from one kit with a plug from another and different adhesives may not work well.
  • Follow the kit instructions to the letter and if they are too daunting don’t hesitate to take the repair to a licensed tire specialist.

Conclusion

Patching a car tire is a very efficient way to extend it’s life after a minor puncture. It might save you hundreds of dollars and if done correctly will last the remaining lifetime of your tire.

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