How to Safely Fix a Punctured Tire*

Fixing a Punctured Tire

If your car experiences a flat tire (see picture) as a result of piercing, your course of action is dictated by your location at the time of the occurrence, the position of the punction (tread vs sidewall), the tool kit at your disposal, membership to AAA, Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage (if purchased beforehand), and your expertise.

If you are a member of AAA, or if your insurance company offers Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage, it is the opportune time to avail yourself of their services, if the coverage was purchased beforehand. Your car tire will be replaced on the spot (if you have a spare), or your vehicle will be towed to the nearest tire repair shop to get it fixed.

Replacing the tire (if you have a spare) would be your first resort solution (the easiest), and have the punctured tire fixed at the earliest. Fixing the tire yourself would be a solution of last resort, if you are stranded with a dead cell phone, you don’t have a spare tire, and there is not a tire repair shop nearby; or, if any, there is, driving the car to the repair shop would damage the punctured tire and the rim beyond repair. If you must do the job yourself, this tutorial will come in handy. To that end, here are the tools you need:

Punctured Tire Muscle Power
Wheel Chock Air Compressor
Lug Wrench (Lug Wrench Extender to loosen tough lug nuts)Tire Plug Kit or Tire Repair kit
Pliers (Channellock or Slip Joint)Phillips/Slotted Screw Driver
Scissors, or Blade, or Sharp Knife Jack and Jack Stand
Soapy WaterPen or Marker

Punctured Tire

Punctured Tire as a tool? How bizarre! Well, we’re going to use the location of the punctured tire (front vs rear) as a shortcut to do the job. If the tread (the horizontal part that makes contact with the road for traction: see picture) of the front tire is punctured by a nail, a screw, or something else, we may not need to wheel chock the opposing tire, to loosen the lug nuts, to jack up and jack stand the car, and to remove the tire.

Just turn the steering wheel to the left or right (inward or outward- depending on which front tire is punctured) to expose the offending nail, screw, or puncturing object. Once spotted (by slightly moving the car back and forth), remove it with the pliers, plug the hole, inflate the tire, and drop water or spray soapy water on the plugged puncture to detect any bubbles. No bubbles? You are good to go.

But if a rear tire tread is punctured, the aforementioned chores (wheel chocking, lug nuts loosening, etc.), which we have skillfully avoided in the preceding paragraph, are dead set on getting done. We will gladly (reluctantly, really) perform those tasks and pass with flying colors.

If the sidewall (“the vertical part of a pneumatic tire between the edge of the tread and the rim of the wheel”: see picture) is punctured, it may be patchable or pluggable (Warning: Tire Plug Kit manufacturers advise against any repairs on the bead, sidewall or shoulder area of the tire. Doing so (if you do) is at your own risk and peril. Better be safe than sorry.), or the tire may be beyond repair. Seek the tire repair shop expertise to find out whether the tire is safely fixable. If not, replace.

Muscle Power

Even though plugging a punctured tire is not brain surgery, it does, nevertheless, require physical strength to loosen the tire’s stubborn lug nuts, to jack up and jack stand the car, to remove, fix, and put the tire back on.

Unless you own a 12V Electric Jack and Impact Wrench (2 Ton 12V Electric Scissor Car Jack + 1/2″ Impact Wrench), which would have made jacking up and loosening lug nuts much easier, it is a tough task, ill-suited for women. So, ladies, use your feminine assets (charm, tenderness, sweet talk, smile, etc.) to leverage a man’s muscle power to get the job done, if you are stranded, there is no alternative, and if it is safe to do so.

Wheel Chock

 Safety is of utmost importance. Before you jack up the vehicle, pull the hand brake and wheel chock the tire (front vs rear). Clarification: if the rear of the vehicle is jacked up, wheel choke the front tire, and vice versa. If you don’t have a wheel choke (see pictures), a rectangular brick or a piece of wood will substitute nicely.

Jack and Jack Stand

Before you jack up the car and place the Jack Stand underneath (for safety), loosen the tire lug nuts by unscrewing them slightly with the Lug Wrench (use a lug wrench extension if the lug nuts are stubborn). Note that, at this point, we do not advise removal, but loosening  of the tire lug nuts. They’ll be removed later.

Once the tire lug nuts are loosened, jack up the car a bit higher than the Jack Stand’s height, place the Jack Stand where (pressure point) it won’t damage the car chassis when the Jack is lowered a bit. So, in addition to the Jack, the car weight rests on and is supported also by the Jack Stand (see picture), for safety.

Lug Wrench

Without a Lug wrench, it’s quasi-impossible to loosen and remove the tire lug nuts, unless you have a 12V ½” Impact Wrench, which can turn the job into a stroll in the park. Over tightened lug nuts are, sometimes, difficult to loosen with the original short Lug Wrench, which is why we advise the use of a Telescopic Power Wrench to increase leverage.

If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can improvise by using a 1 to 2-foot long water pipe, or the like (see picture), as a Lug Wrench Extender (leverage cheat).

Tire Plug Kit or Tire Repair kit

The components of a complete Tire Plug Kit/Tire Repair Kit are:

T-Handle Insert ToolT-Handle Rasp Tool
Rubber CementValve Tool
PatchesTire Plugs
Tire GaugeValve Cores
Valve Caps, andInstructions

A basic Tire Plug Kit/Tire Repair Kit, however, has the bare minimum: T-Handle Insert Tool, T-Handle Rasp Tool, Rubber Cement, and Tire Plugs (see picture).

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The Pliers (Channellock or Slip Joint) are used to remove nails and screws (see picture).

Phillips/Slotted Screw Driver

Sometimes, the nail/screw is so deeply embedded in the tire that it cannot be gripped by the Pliers jaws. That’s where the Phillips/Slotted Screw Driver (see picture) comes in to turn the screw counter clockwise and/or to pry the head of the nail. The Pliers are then used to pull the nail/screw out.

Scissors, or Blade, or Sharp Knife

After insertion of the needled Tire Plug into the punctured tire and removal of the T-Handle Insert Tool, the excess plug material must be “cut off flush with the tire tread”. You can only do so (shave off the excess plug material) with either a pair of Scissors, a Blade, or a Sharp Knife (see picture).

Air Compressor

Once the hole is plugged, the deflated tire must be inflated again. To re-inflate the tire, you need an Air Compressor. If you own one of those Compact Multipurpose Emergency Power Supply Units (which, among other features, sport a work light and a built-in air compressor: see picture), and it is on board (in your car trunk), it’ll come in handy; re-inflating the tire will be a delight.

Before you inflate the tire though, read the tire pressure rating, expressed in kPa (kiloPascals) and PSI (Pound per Square Inch), and is displayed on the tire’s sidewall. Sometimes, recommended tire pressure rating and safety warnings are written in prints so small, they can hardly be read; in such circumstances, having a pocket magnifier on hand is a welcome relief.

For instances, you may read this on the sidewall: 44 P.S.I. Max. Press. That’s a tire pressure rating. Inflate the tire to the sidewall’s displayed pressure rating specifications (see picture), indicated by the Air Compressor Gauge.

Power Dome EX 2454

Power Dome 400 2354

Power Dome NX 2485

Power Dome EX 2454 Solarnia.com

Power Dome 400 2354 330x271 Solarnia.com

Power-Dome-NX-2485-3D-Front-Solarnia 300 x 282

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Soapy Water

While it’s unlikely that you’ll carry Soapy Water in your car in anticipation of a punctured tire, it is, nevertheless, a good idea to have bottled water (see picture) on board to quench your thirst and, in this case, to check for bubbles (by dropping water onto the punctured area), an indication of leaks, after the punctured tire has been plugged and inflated.

If any bubbles are noticed, it’s obvious that you either did a bad job plugging it (if so, plug it again), or the tire is beyond repair (if so, replacement of the punctured tire is the only and obvious solution). No bubbles? Congratulations! You did an excellent job. Pat yourself on the back.

Pen or Marker

Sometimes, after removal of punctured object, you can hardly identify the location of the punction. That is why it’s makes sense to circle the punctured area with a Pen or Marker, once identified. When it’s time to plug that barely visible hole, you won’t engage in a futile exercise of “looking for a needle in a haystack”, as it were.

Sum up

To fix a punctured tire, follow the outlined steps below.

If you must remove the tire, bring the vehicle to a complete stop on a level plane first, then 1)  Shift gear into park (automatic transmission) or into 1st speed (manual transmission). 2) Turn off the engine. 3) Apply the hand brakes, and 4) Wheel choke the opposing tire (front vs back).

  • Loosen the lug nuts, using the lug wrench (with lug wrench extender for tough nuts).
  • Jack up and, for safety, jack stand the car.
  • Remove the lug nuts, using the lug wrench.
  • Carefully pull the tire off (dismount) the axle.
  • Thoroughly examine the tire to determine the puncture. Once found, circle the punctured area with a pen or marker (if the puncture is barely noticeable, spray soapy water on the tire until bubbles are detected).
  • Identify the puncturing object (nail, screw, etc.).
  • Remove it with pliers and/or screw driver.
  • To clean and roughen the hole, insert the T-Handle Rasp Tool into it by screwing in and out (easy) and sliding up and down (difficult).
  • Symmetrically insert the tire plug into the needle eye of the T-Handle Insert Tool. Apply a coat of rubber cement to the tire plug.
  • Insert 2/3 of the needled tire plug into the puncture (difficult, push hard), then forcefully and swiftly, without twisting, pull out the T-Handle Insert Tool Needle.
  • Cut off – with a blade, sharp knife, or a pair of scissors – the excess tire plug flush with the tire tread.
  • Using the air compressor, re-inflate the tire to its pressure rating (kPa/psi) and according to the tire manufacturer’s safety warnings and instructions.
  • Spray fixed punctured area with soapy water or a few drops of plain water to detect bubbles. No bubbles, great job! Bubbles, repeat the process or replace the tire.

Mounting Tire

Mounting is the reverse of dismounting. To mount the tire back, just follow the reverse process.

Don’t forget to…

After the job is done, don’t forget to remove the Wheel Chock, to take back Jack and Handle, Lug Wrench and Extender, Tire Plug Kit/Tire Repair Kit, Soapy Water Bottle, Blade/Knife/Scissors, and Air Compressor (if you had the foresight to buy one prior to the occurrence), and to store them safely in your car trunk. As for the Air Compressor, if it is rechargeable, use its DC Charging Adapter to recharge it while driving.

Reality Check

Chances are, when your car is hit with a punctured tire, you’d have on board just the bare minimum, tools-wise: the traditional Jack (scissor or hydraulic) and its Handle, the original short Lug Wrench, and a Spare Tire. Make it a point to carry in your car, in addition to the traditional tools, the following:

  • Compact Multipurpose Emergency Power Supply Units (the work light and the air compressor are included)
  • Pair of Jack Stands (at least one).
  • Lug Wrench Extender (which you can buy or make yourself with a discarded water pipe or the like, about 2” diameter x 1 – 2ft long).
  • Wheel Chock. Buy a pair (at least one). If you can’t afford it, you can improvise with a 2×4 inches piece of wood, or a brick.
  • Empty Windex Bottle filled with soapy water, or any other bottle with a spray gun, or a bottle of potable water.
  • Basic Tire Plug Kit/Tire Repair Kit.
  • Blade, Swiss Army Knife, or a Pair of Scissors, and
  • Pen and/or Marker

The above outlined steps are meant to be just guidelines. Always follow the Tire Plug Kit manufacturer’s instructions, and heed caution and safety warnings.

Warning: Tire Plug Kit manufacturers advise against any repairs on the bead, sidewall or shoulder area of the tire. Disregarding the manufacturers’ warning is at your own risk and peril. Better be safe than sorry.

Don’t forget to read: Defensive Driving Course: Who Needs It?


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