Most drivers will have to deal with the problem of a tire puncture at some point in their vehicle’s life. When a puncture occurs, the vehicle has to be taken off the road and the flat tire replaced with a functional spare tire, allowing the puncture to be repaired so that the vehicle is roadworthy again.
All vehicles should carry a spare tire, but if you’re caught without one and the puncture looks minor then it can be temporarily plugged in order to allow the car to make it to a garage. A good quality repair job should be carried out by a professional at a garage or tire outlet to prolong the life of the tire.
It is extremely dangerous to drive a car with a damaged or weakened tire. When subjected to high speeds, the tire could malfunction causing the driver to lose control. This could easily cause a traffic accident which may injure not only the driver but other passengers and other road users.
The tire manufacturer has no control over the standard of the work carried out or the amount of damage caused to the tire, so although a tire can technically be repaired, even a good repair will not prevent the tire losing its speed rating.
The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association give a step by step guide to fixing a tire puncture, which is followed by all quality repair shops.
Firstly, the tire should be taken off the wheel and carefully inspected. Usually the puncture is caused by a small sharp object like a nail. If the tire tread has suffered a puncture of more than 0.25 inches in diameter, then the tire is generally considered to be beyond repair. It is important to remove the tire from the wheel in order to see any deeper cuts, for example in the sidewall, which could not be fixed but would otherwise not be seen.
The next step is to work with the tire’s inner liner. This should be treated by being cleaned, scoured, cemented, and then a patch or coating applied in order to make it air-tight. A plug would not be sufficient.
The plug should be attached to the tread of the tire over the punctured area in order to close the torn part. Each tire contains reinforcing steel belts within it which may rust if subjected to moisture, so the plug acts as a preventative measure.
More and more cars are being fitted with steel belted radials. A puncture here must be fixed with speed, otherwise it could cause long-term damage. The ideal technique for a repair of this king is a mushroom-patch in conjunction with a plug.
The mechanic doing the repair has a specialized drill which works to remove rust and alter the size of the cut in order to make the rubber stem of the patch fit. The stem is then cemented and it vulcanizes with the tire, creating a seal.
It is always worth investing in a good quality fix for a puncture to avoid long term problems in the future.