Last week, I took the leftover junk metal parts from all of my car projects to the scrapyard to make a few bucks. Unsurprisingly, there was metal on the ground, and a small shard sliced a hole right through my beloved Jeep’s tire (note to self: don’t drive in a metal scrapyard). But I fixed it in a couple minutes for less than $5. Here’s how.
Over the past three or four months, I’ve had over 400 pounds of scrap steel parts in the back of Project Swiss Cheese. It was mostly old XJ suspension and brake parts, and I was planning on sending it to the scrapyard, but I never got around to it, so my poor Jeep had to do some endurance heavy lifting.
Eventually, I did get around to the scrapyard, dumped my fifth-ton of steel, and before I could collect my beaucoup bucks (13 dollars), I realized I had forgotten my I.D. So I went back the next day with my white Jeep and I.D. to grab my bounty, but just as I left, the scrapyard bee stung my poor XJ’s tire:
I noticed the flat tire almost immediately, as the car started to wander hard to the left. I managed to limp my XJ back home, where I grabbed a pair of needle nose pliers and yanked that stinger out.
To bring my XJ back to health, I spared no expense. I drove to the store with my other Jeep and bought the crème de la crème of tire plug kits for an insane $4:
I had seen shops plug tires with such kits before, but I had never actually tried doing it myself. Many might think it’s pointless, since some tire shops plug holes for free, but having a kit like this at your house lets you not only avoid having to drive on a flat tire (or donut), but it also means you don’t have to wait in line at the shop.
Plus, this job is dirt cheap and takes no time at all.
The first thing I did was slap a bit of grease on the reaming tool (I actually used a better, sharper reamer than the one in the kit above, as the hole was really small), and shoved that sucker into the hole:
After a bit of reciprocating motion, the reamer left a nice, clean hole. Then I simply threw a plug onto the eye tool (with half of the plug hanging off either end), and forced the tool into the hole in the tire.
Getting the plug into the hole required a herculean effort, I will admit. I basically had to put all my weight on the thing. But she went:
Lastly, I just yanked the tool straight out, which left what looked like a pair of alien tentacles hanging off my tread.
I sliced off the tentacles flush with the tire:
And then I pumped up my Jeep’s 30-inch all-terrain tires with the loudest cigarette tire inflator in history:
But it worked, and my fix was complete. After a bit of driving, the plug started to flatten, and the tire holds air beautifully.
The whole shebang took about ten minutes, and if you don’t count the tire inflation part, it was less than five.
So if you don’t have a tire plug kit at your house already, just go to the store and spend five or six bucks. The job is dirt-simple, and I even did mine while the wheel was still on the car. Plus, nobody wants to wait in the lobby of the tire shop and watch the cooking channel—there are few things in life as miserable.
NOTE: I’ll add a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, generally you don’t want to conduct a plug fix this close to a sidewall—repairs should be made only the the center section since sidewall damage can spell danger. Also, a preferred method is to patch the tire from the inside, in part because it lets you see if there was any damage done to the tire’s sidewall (again, sidewall damage = danger). The “string-plug” method shown in the post is generally considered a “temporary fix,” though independent shops around the U.S. do exactly this, and the repair often outlasts the tire.