Taking Care of Your Tires
Taking Care of Your Vehicle’s Tires: The Best Ways to Repair a Flat Tire
Tires, like any car component, need proper care to perform and last as designed. The good news is that proper tire maintenance is quite simple.
It is important to follow the tire rotation schedule in your owner’s manual. For most vehicles, a tire rotation is recommended at every oil change interval. It is also important to have an experienced tire professional (or equivalent) inspect the condition and tread wear of each tire at every rotation. Catching and correcting the cause(s) of abnormal wear early can prevent rapid tire wear out. Accelerated tire wear is not only expensive, it can also be dangerous.
Another important item is a monthly check and adjustment of each tire’s air pressure. Failing to maintain proper tire inflation can decrease the life of the tires by up to 25 percent. Under-inflation can also decrease the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Driving on seriously under-inflated tires can also ruin them and create a real risk of a dangerous blowout. Fortunately, because of the safety hazard implications, all vehicles made since 2007 come with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) to help remind us that our tire pressure needs attention. If your vehicle is equipped with TPMS, make sure that your regular service facility has the training and equipment to properly service these systems.
Even with good care, flat tires happen. Drivers need to know that there is only one way to properly repair a flat tire. Improperly repaired tires have caused blowouts, serious accidents and fatal injuries. Many consumers are misinformed about tire repairs. The quick stick-a-plug-in-it fix is not proper and is dangerous.
In the past, many auto maintenance providers repaired tires with string or fabric-based plugs. Alarmingly, some still do so today. Plugging a tire might only cost $10-$15 and take 10 minutes. This might seem like a great “deal” to a car owner looking to save time or money. If consumers where aware of the risks involved, most would quickly see that it is a scary “deal.”
The Proper Method – Patch the Tire:
The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association is very clear about the proper procedure for tire repairs. The tire should be carefully inspected, inside and out, by a trained, qualified technician. If the damage meets the specific industry criteria that is suitable for repair, the tire should be patched and plugged from the inside-out, as opposed to simply plugged from the outside-in.
A proper tire repair will normally take about 30 minutes and cost $20-$30. If a tire cannot be safely repaired, it should be replaced. Tire replacement is a much better option than risking serious vehicle damage and potential serious or fatal injuries.
Advice for Proper Tire Repairs
- Rely on an experienced technician to repair the tire.
- The repair must be made between the tread shoulders and never on the sidewall.
- The puncture must be no more than ¼” diameter and a straight through puncture.
- There can be one preexisting repair; but a tire cannot be safely repaired a third time.
- The repair should be made from the inside of the tire; this ensures the damaged tire is inspected thoroughly for any secondary damage to the inner-liner and plies.
- Do not use a tube or sealant.
- A patch may repair a damaged tire as long as the repair meets all criteria for a properly repaired tire.
- String/Fabric-based plugs are not recommended.
- All repairs must conform to the tire manufacturer’s instructions.