Plug and Play, or Pray? | Answers

Tire plugs: temporary or permanent fix?

By Jerry Smith, Photography by Marc Cook


Great article in MC Garage in the March issue about plugging flat tires. But you didn't say whether this is just a temporary fix to get to the shop to put on a new tire or if the plug is good to the end of the tire's life. I ask this because I've had two flats on my two cross-country trips. Each time I opted to put on a new tire because I didn't feel safe going the distance on the plugged one, even though some people told me they used them as a permanent fix. What's the deal?

Kelly Sweet, Los Angeles, CA


Tire plugs inserted from outside the tire aren't designed as a permanent fix. They're made to get you to a shop where you can have the tire repaired properly—with a patch plug inserted from the inside of the dismounted tire—or replaced, and no farther. At least that's the company line. In the real world, if a plugged tire holds air many riders put off further action unless the plug is in a problematic spot, such as close to the sidewall, or in the case of a large or irregular hole that took more than one plug to do the job.

Some of us here at Motorcyclist have ridden thousands of miles on plugged tires with no problems. Whether you follow our dubious example depends on your tolerance for risk. While some plugs last the life of the tire, others can develop slow leaks over time by the flexing of the tread's underlying plies or come out because of improper installation. At the very least ride conservatively on a plugged tire, stay alert for the signs of deflation, and check the air pressure often.

By Jerry Smith
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I have easily ridden 100,000 miles on plugged tires, on motorcycles with the type shown. Never had the slightest problem. Nor did I take it easy on them. Usually forgot they were there. Took one tire off and found I had 3 in it, in different places. Probably gone even farther on plugged car tires. Personally I trust plugs vulcanized thru and to the inside of a tire much more than a patch just glued to the inside. :-)
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