Proper vehicle safety involves keeping a fully stocked emergency toolkit. A vital part of this kit, especially if the journeys you take are long or the roads you travel are often lonely, is a tire repair kit.
They are inexpensive, thoroughly effective, and require merely a few steps to use.
Needless to say, they should be present in every overlanding rig.
What does a Tire Plug Kit Contain?
A good tire plug kit consists of three elements: two tools and the patching material itself.
The tools are a combination rasp/awl, to punch deep and smooth the sides of the original hole, and a T-handled insertion tool, used to insert the material thoroughly in the puncture and to leave it in place when the tool is withdrawn.
- Rasp/awl tool
- T-handled insertion tool
- Patching material
The patching material is an adhesive, fibrous, rope-like substance, narrow enough to fit the tool but sturdy enough to block all basic punctures.
Also useful in a tire repair kit is a case to hold it all and the potential additions of a pocket knife, a small light in case of night accidents, and a pair of pliers.
Some kits also contain rubber cement, which helps lubricating the location of the puncture, making the process much easier. However, this part is not absolutely necessary.
How to use a Tire Repair Kit?
The first step in using a tire plug kit is finding the location of the hole.
The tool for this is simple: water. If you lack a bottle of water or rain, simple spit will do if you have none other handy.
With this moisture on your fingertips, rub around the suspected surface until escaping air forms a bubble.
Now you know where to make use of the tire repair kit and insert the awl tool. Between the following steps, it is helpful to leave the awl tool in place so as not to lose the location.
The awl tool needs to be worked deep inside the puncture. This can take significant effort at first.
The process might take as few as a couple of applications of pressure, or as many as a dozen or more, depending on the original size of the hole and the amount of force being brought to bear.
The raspy sides of the awl tool help prepare the way for the filler material to be applied next, deepening and broadening it for the patch.
Next, withdraw a strand of the fibrous patching material from the packaging, careful not to waste any for future applications.
Here is where the T-handled insertion tool comes into play. Rather like threading a sewing needle, insert the patching material into the T-handled tool with its open end.
This can be difficult to start and require a bit of manipulation, mashing the tip to a flat end that can be fed into the insertion tool and forcing it into the somewhat narrow opening.
Once begun, grab the exposed end with your fingernails, or with a pair of pliers if you happen to have some handy, and draw the material until half of it is left on either side.
This equal distribution is important in the final step, which is insertion of the fibrous patching material. Withdraw the awl one last time and press in the insertion tool.
Use steady, firm pressure, working the material back and forth and from side to side, slowly inching it into place.
This can be a difficult measure taking quite a lot of force and patience, but is vital in using a tire plug kit and ensuring the material is pushed deep enough to plug the puncture and stay put.
When a little less than an inch remains outside the hole, you may begin to withdraw the tool. Now, despite being threaded like a sewing needle, the insertion tool is open at the end.
This allows it to release the fibrous patching material and be pulled free of the tire, leaving the sticky ropy substance in place.
Here the pocket knife comes in quite useful for trimming off the ends of the material. It can potentially be left free, but this runs the risk of the material snagging on something and being forced from the puncture, recreating the problem after re-inflation.
When you’re re-inflating your tire, make sure you pump the tire back to the correct pressure. While you’re at it, you can check the pressure in all 4 tires!
Once you solved the issue, and got home safely, it’s best to take your tire to the next tire shop for an inspection and potentially a proper fix or even a replacement will be needed.
Recommended Tire Repair Kits
We’ve collected the best tire repair kits in the following table. If you’re an overlander, make sure you don’t leave on your trip without one!
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