Tire Plug vs. Patch: What is Better?

We’ve all experienced a punctured tire at least once in our lives, and it’s certainly not a pleasurable experience. It takes up precious time, and it can be especially irritating if it happens in the middle of nowhere.

This inconvenience is all the more annoying in modern vehicles, most of which come with a tire sealant in the trunk. It’s easy to use, sure, but it’s not a permanent solution – you’ll still need to bring your car to a tire shop. And vehicles that don’t have a sealant kit usually come with a compact spare tire, that’s also a temporary solution. 

Older cars were much easier to live with, as they came with a regular-sized spare that you could use just as the tire you replaced. Still, you wouldn’t want to leave the punctured tire unrepaired, right?

Regardless of the solution in your car, you would need to repair the puncture at one point. And while a tire repair shop is convenient, it’s not always around, and today, most of them charge exorbitant sums for simple repairs.

Thus, I recommend keeping a tire plug or tire patch kit in your trunk, as they can help you hit the road again in no time without the need to visit the shop.

But which one is better, and what are the differences? Should you go for a tire plug or a tire patch? I’ll answer all your questions in my tire plug vs. tire patch showoff. Let’s dig in!

How Tire Plugs Work?


How Tire Plugs Work?

Tire plugs are as self-explanatory as it comes – you use them to plug the puncture in your tire. Inside a tire plug kit, you’ll find rubber plugs in the form of strings alongside rubber cement, a reamer tool, and an insertion tool.

Although there are some differences between manufacturers, the procedure is similar among most of them. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Find the puncture by applying soapy water over the tread of the tire with a sponge. If there is some pressure in the tire, you should see bubbles over the puncture.
  2. Put the reaper tool inside the puncture. By doing this, you’ll make the hole wider and make it easier for the rubber plugs to enter inside. However, the reamer tool also roughens up the edges of the hole, which helps with adhesion.
  3. Apply a small amount of tire cement to the rubber plugs – it helps them stay in place once inserted.
  4. Thread the rubber plug through the insertion tool and make sure it’s a similar length on both sides.
  5. Insert the tire plug with the tool inside the puncture without twisting – stop when there is ½-inch of the plug exposed.
  6. Twist the insertion for 90 degrees and pull it out.
  7. Air up the tire and cut the remaining rubber plug with scissors.

How Tire Patches Work?


How Tire Patches Work?

Patches are also self-explanatory and are similar to the ones you’d use on your bicycle, for example. They usually come in packs, some containing even 100 patches inside, and won’t take any place inside your car.

Still, the process of applying a tire patch is much more involved. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Use a jack to lift the side of your car with the punctured tire.
  2. Locate the puncture using soapy water and make sure to mark the spot – you’ll need that for later.
  3. Remove the wheel from the hub completely.
  4. Now you have to remove the tire from the rim – there are some handy tools you can use, but remember they will take place in your trunk.
  5. Once removed, use the marked spot to locate the puncture on the inside and mark it again.
  6. Use the provided scuffer tool to roughen up the surface to help with adhesion.
  7. Apply rubber cement to the area where you want to apply the patch.
  8. Apply the patch over the cement and use a buffer tool to remove any air.
  9. Remove the clear plastic from the patch and wait for it to dry.
  10. Put the tire back on the wheel – again, you will need special tools for this job.

Tire Plug vs. Patch – Advantages and Disadvantages

Tire Plug-vs-Patch

Tire Plug vs. Patch

Just looking at the process, it’s easy to see that tire plugs are much easier to install. With plugs, you don’t even need to remove the wheel – just turn the steering wheel to the side, and you can work on your tire. Thus, you can easily do this on the go, as it takes no more than 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, repairing a puncture with a patch requires removing the wheel but also removing the tire from the rim. Most people aren’t prepared to do this kind of thing, especially when on the road. Moreover, it requires special tools that you probably want to only keep in your garage.

However, a tire plug is a less safe and less durable solution. Although tire plugs can keep your tire aired up without an issue, the contact between them and the rubber might break down over time. So, you’d still want to visit the tire shop eventually, especially if you often drive on the highway or at higher speeds.

Furthermore, by using the reaming tool, you essentially damage some of the polyester casing and might even damage the steel belts. This could significantly worsen the tire’s strength, which might result in lower traction, worse stability, and shorter life.

Finally, tire patches can be used on much wider punctures, up to ¼ inches, while plugs are only good for holes up to 1/8 inches.


Although tire plugs and patches serve a similar purpose, their use cases are much different. I’d use tire plugs only when necessary and only on the go, as they are easy to apply and do a good enough job of closing off the tire. Then, I’d visit a tire shop to apply a patch on the inside for maximum safety and longevity.

However, if you have more time on your hand and the required tools, a tire patch is definitely a better solution. A tire patch is much safer; it can also last as long as your tire and can seal off much larger punctures. Just remember that you will need to combine it with a tire sealant or a spare tire, as patching a puncture on the go isn’t viable.

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