Having a flat tire on an important journey can be inconvenient and annoying, especially for those not using a run-flat tire. One thing is the time wasted fixing it; another is spending money you could have channeled to other things.
However, a damaged tire should be repaired. Else, using it could result in additional damage such as damaging the wheel rims and difficulty handling the car.
Others include reduced fuel economy since the tire would be using additional force to move the car. If replacing the tires is more expensive, you could opt for tire patching. So how much does it cost to patch a tire?
How much to patch a tire?
Tire patch cost could be anywhere between $6-$40. But this will depend on whether you’re doing the tire patch yourself or taking it to a mechanic.
Doing a tire patch yourself could cost as little as $6-$20 since you will need simple tools, gear, plugs, and a sealant that costs less than $0.10. If you, however, get more kit, tire sealants, and pumps to inflate tires, you could spend around $6-$50.
On the other hand, taking it to an auto repair shop could cost within $30-$40 since most auto shops charge based on the time spent on the job. An average mechanic will spend 15 minutes to patch a tire. This makes sense since many mechanics charge $120 per hour.
If the tire needs to be rebalanced, which is often recommended, be looking at an additional $13. Other things that can stack up the price include a new TPMS sensor or valve stems.
The thing about tire patches is that the job looks simple and would naturally not cost much. But to a mechanic, the time used to do this could mean higher pay for other jobs–the reason why they go with the hourly rate.
Patching a tire with a tire sealant
To carry out tire repair via tire patch, follow these steps listed below
- Take off the tire from the vehicle
- Separate the tires from the rim
- Use sandpaper or anything likewise to clean the inner tire liner
- Locate the puncture hole and clean with a drill or any other long object
- Lay the tip of the patch through the hole, then pull until the patch’s base is flat like the tire
- Put in the right amount of tire sealant to the patch’s base
- Remount the tire on the rim and rebalance
- Put back the tire to the car
Tire plugging is another easy and inexpensive way of repairing tires–cheaper than a tire patch. However, many people, including mechanics, don’t like using the plug method.
Their reason is this process doesn’t fully seal the leak. Nonetheless, many private individuals and private shops still utilize this process.
To do a tire plug, push the plug strip with the T-handle as much as it can go in. Next is to pull out the handle as fast as possible using all your strength. Doing this will plug the tire; all you need to do now is cut out the excess strip.
As stated, you can do this yourself in your garage or driveway; otherwise, call any independent repair shop near you. Inquire if they can patch or plug your tires. If they plug, it will be better as they will usually charge half of what they would for a tire patch.
When to patch flat tires at home or take them to a tire shop
Before you set out to plug or patch tires yourself, check if you can conveniently do it. Because while doing it yourself could save you a few bucks, it could also mean extra time and money. You may end up taking your car to a mechanic after wasting time at home trying to fix it.
Ideally, if it’s just a puncture near the middle of the tread face, you can repair it using your plug kit. In some cases, if the tires are totally flat, use your spare and plug the damaged tire when you get home. If you see that the tire still leaks after this, you may need to visit a tire shop.
In other cases, locating the leak can be a hard task, even after spraying the whole tire with soap. Most shops even have special machines for locating leaks which sometimes fail. This is to tell you that locating leaks could be difficult even for experts. So if you’re finding it difficult to locate leaks, visit a tire shop.
What causes a flat tire?
Flat tires mostly stem from sharp objects such as a nail, knives, screws, broken glass, industrial waste, or sharp sticks. Overinflation, collisions, or a tire hitting a curb could also result in flat tires. Unfavorable weather conditions, failed valve systems, and even portholes can result in a flat.
What to do if you have a flat tire
Different tires and driving conditions will call for different reactions to a flat tire. So here is what to do in those situations
If you’re using run-flat tires
If you experience a flat tire on run-flats, you may not need to stop your journey. Run-flat tires allow you to drive your vehicle an extra 50 miles at 50mph. This allows you to get to your destination and later go home or an auto shop to fix this.
If you’re on low speed on regular tires
Suppose you experience a tire puncture while at low speed, turn on your hazard lights, and pull over to the side of the road. Running on flat tires, even for a short while, could cause irreparable damages. The thing is, when you drive an underinflated tire, the vehicle’s weight crashes the tire quickly.
Next is to locate the puncture and see what caused it; some are visible. If you can’t see, run your hands through the tire’s tread to see the location of the sharp object. Most times, it is caused by a nail pierced through the middle of the tread.
Also, check for the tire pressure remaining; here, a pressure gauge would suffice. If your car has a tire pressure sensor, you can check the air pressure via your onboard computer.
Once you confirm it’s flat, get in touch with the nearest auto repair shop. If there is none, you can call for a tow truck to pick up your car. Alternatively, change the punctured tire with your spare tire, then fix the bad tire later.
If you’re on high speed on regular tires
Here, don’t hit the brake because now, your car is shaky; hitting the brake can cause a crash. Rather, release the gas pedal while feeding the brakes gently to slow down the car.
If there is a need to switch lanes, use your mirror and turn signal. Once you get to the side of the road, put on your hazard lights to alert other drivers. Replace with your spare to continue driving, then fix the faulty ones later–at home or an auto shop.
Tire repair rules
Not all tires can be repaired. So you don’t waste your time fixing what shouldn’t be fixed, it’s ideal that you conduct a test to determine the degree of damage the tires have sustained. This will tell if the tire should be replaced or repaired. Interestingly, these tests can be done by you or an auto shop.
Tires whose punctures are close to the tire’s sidewall (particularly 2 inches close) are considered dangerous to patch as they could subsequently result in a blowout.
To note the distance of the puncture from the sidewall, deep your thumb into the hole. If the distance is your thumb’s width or more, you can repair it. If not, you may need a new tire.
If the hole is too wide (particularly 2 ½ inches more), repairing it will be impossible. Here you or any tire shop cannot do a tire patch–patches cannot hold air over a large area. The reason is the inner liner would not seal fully. This means you may need to replace it with a new tire.
What if you can’t use a tire patch?
Most times, if the hole is on the tire’s sidewall or shoulder, it is advisable not to patch, instead swap with new tires. Doing a tire patch here might cause internal damage. Also, confirm from your mechanic if you can’t get the degree of puncture using the edge and length test explained above.
If the hole is too wide or deep to be patched, your mechanic will let you know. Additionally, experts often recommend changing at least two tires when replacing flats.
For example, if your right rear needs to be replaced, also change the left rear tires. This is to ensure the tires do not wear unevenly. If, however, all four tires are still new, then replacing just the faulty one is fine.
A tire could cost anything between $80-$500. The exact price depends on whether it’s a cheap entry tire or a higher quality tire. Cheap ones can be anywhere between 80-200, whereas higher quality tires could be between $200-$500.
Ultimately, tires with wider wheels are more expensive. While some tire shops can offer free service for tire mounting, most shops charge between $15-$45.
Choosing the right tires
The region you drive, your driving habits, road conditions, and your budget play an important role in choosing your tires. If you experience more snow and ice, you may need a winter tire or snow tire. If dry, a summer tire will be most appropriate; otherwise, choose an all-season tire.
Also, understand that there are tires for specific cars; ensure you buy the right fit for your vehicle type. Outfitting your car with a wrong tire may cause fast tire wear.
The reason is the vehicle’s weight will crush the tires quickly. If you’re torn between buying a good tire, the best is to read customer reviews on such a brand.
Understanding your tires
One thing is choosing the right tires for your cars; another is knowing the conditions of use. Tires have different sizes, which means not all tires are made for all cars. There is what is also called speed rating and load index.
The tire size must equal the size of the wheel; anything higher or lower could cause many problems. While the speed rating tells how fast you can drive, the load index tells how much the car can carry. Use your owner’s manual to check for speed ratings and load index to see how fast you can drive or the amount of load your car can carry.
Maintaining your tires
Carrying out routine maintenance could keep your tires longer and prevent uneven wear on tire treads. This includes regular rotation and balancing.
Also, remember to check the air pressure; it is dangerous to drive underinflated or over-inflated tires. Overloading your cars is also bad for your tires. Lastly, avoid using different tires on one car; always replace faulty tires with the same brand.
While carrying out tire repairs yourself is cheap, it is often recommended you take them to a licensed tire shop. Moreover, you may be spending more than $9 to purchase a tire repair kit. In many cases, a mechanic easily understands when to repair or replace tires.
How much does it cost to patch a tire?
Tire patches cost between $6-$40. The amount depends on whether you’re doing the tire patch yourself or taking it to an auto shop. If you add balancing, you will spend an extra $13. Extra parts will mean additional cost.
Is it worth patching a tire?
Doing a tire patch is worth it; it’s cheaper than replacing it with new tires. However, ensure the damage is not severe. Patching a tire whose puncture is too wide (2 ½ inches) or close to the sidewall (2 inches close) is dangerous. As it could result in a blowout which could cause an accident.
If the tread depth is too low (below 3/32 inches), or the tires were unsafe before the puncture, you shouldn’t bother patching; just replace them. Tire failure has cost many lives.
How long can you drive on a patched tire?
If tire patches are done on tires whose puncture is not wider than 2 inches or deeper than 2 ½ inches, you can drive the tire throughout its remaining lifetime.