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Life Expectancy of a Tire Plug Repair

One week after purchasing four new tires for my Tribeca, I ran over a roofing nail. Great luck, right? I had the tire plugged and it’s running fine. However, given that Subaru’s all wheel drive system requires replacing all four tires if they’re not within 1/4 inch of tread-wear of each other, I’m wondering if I should go ahead and replace the plugged tire NOW while tires are new and the wear even. Essentially, can I expect the plugged tire repair to last for the entire life of the tire or will it require addition repair/replacement well before the tread is worn enough for replacement?

Where did the nail go in? Tread or side? What type of patch? Plug with patch inside, or just plug? Rocketman

Pretty near the middle, between the treads. Er…I’m not sure about the type. The mechanic had a worm-like plug, which he inserted with a tool while the tire was still on the car. The whole ordeal took about 5 minutes. So, I would guess just plug? Thanks!

I have been using externally-installed tire plugs for many years dating back to when all tires were of the bias ply type; saw the transition to bias belted type and then to radials. I have had almost no problems with plugs. I recall once that a plug started to leak but I replaced it and after that it held.

If you used a radial tire rope-type plug away from home, I suggest that later you have it replaced with a mushroom plug for a little more insurance. I get mushroom plugs from a local farm supply store. The plugs are easy to install. Remove the tire, wet the plug with tire cement and use the attached wire to pull the plug through the hole and then cut off the excess projecting to the outside. I recently did that with a $200 tire on our best car and have no plans to replace the tire. The mushroom plug has held for around 8000 miles to date.

It is better to replace the tire than plug it if the puncture is closer than about an inch to the sidewall as there is a risk of tire flex causing the plug to eventually leak.

The tire manufacturers consider that the only acceptable type of puncture repair is to remove the tire from the wheel, and to insert a combination patch/plug from the inside of the tire.

A plug by itself can sometimes work its way free, and an interior patch by itself can allow rainwater to damage the cords and belts inside the tire. The only type of repair that is considered permanent is the combination patch/plug, simply because it is anchored much better than a plug by itself, and because it protects that tire’s belts much better than a patch by itself.

If I were you, I would go to a real tire store–like Goodyear–and see if they can add a patch inside the tire at this point for more security.

Get the mushroom plug for peice of mind. The others are great but you want the best at highway speed. Have some plugs in farm trailers and they have held air for 20 years evan on side walls

Not to worry. If you should get a slow leak, spend $10-$15 to have a tire shop grind off the rope that is protruding into the tire and put a patch on the inside. 99%+ probability that you won’t ever get even a slow leak. No need to replace tire.

Thanks for the quick replies, all! Sounds like I’m okay with the plug. Excellent news!

I would have the tire removed and repaired with a combo plug/patch. They usually last for the life of the tire. If it was in the middle of the treads you should have no problems after the proper repair. A simple plug from the outside is a “temporary” repair only.

Done correctly, in the center of the tread, with a simple nail puncture, a plug will last the life of the tire.

Plugs got a bad name when sloppy repairmen used a probe to create a second puncture (they failed to follow the original puncture) and then they plugged the new hole they just created…Air could then leak between the ply’s and eventually separate the tire…

It should last forever. Only rarely will there be trouble. If the plug was a wick type, it will go on forever holding air. I have bought used tires with plugs in them and never had a problem.

“Sounds like I’m okay with the plug”

Actually, that is not what some of us told you.

The plug may be “okay”, but the combination plug/patch applied from the inside of the tire is better in the long run–especially since these are brand-new tires.

I have had almost no problems with plugs. I recall once that a plug started to leak but I replaced it and after that it held.

 Sort of sounds like Ford talking about their Ford Explorers with Firestone tyres.

I’ve had some trouble with external plugs developing a slow leak after a few years – two or three out of a dozen or more plugs, but it’s always been possible to plug the new leak which results in replacing most of the old plug. An internal patch would probably be better.

I also don’t believe the story that Subaru tires need to be within X inch of one another. As far as I can see, anyone driving twisty roads routinely would be at risk of destroying their drivetrain were it true. (I do believe that you better disable AWD if you put a limited duty spare tire on and drive any distance). But it’s not my vehicle that will be destroyed if I’m wrong about that.

My solution is not to buy Subarus.

I’ve used plugs many times over the years without ever having had one come loose. If it was properly installed it’ll last the life of the tire.

As can be seen, there are widely different experiences with plugs - which is why tire manufacturers not only NOT recommend the use of plugs, but they specifically warn against them.

Since you have a vehicle that is sensitive to differences in tire diameter, it would be best to get a patch/plug combination repair performed - and they almost never leak and ruin a single tire. It’s a “Pay me a little now, or potentially pay me a lot later.” situation.