Flat Tire 101 - what to do, what not to do (discussion)
First off - if you have cans of "FIX A FLAT" spray, get rid of them! You will need to trash the rims you use it on, even if it works, once you have used it in them. The stuff stays wet inside the tire and wheel, and will destroy the rim from the inside out.
I strongly suggest you get yourself a tire plugging kit, IF you have load range E or below tires. LR-D is safe for a tread plug, "E" is questionable because of the high pressure of the tire, but it just might get you home. Any 'E' range tire (above 50PSI) with a plug in it should have a patch put inside it as soon as possible, because a plug may not hold.
For higher pressure tires, a patch is made that is applied to the inside of the tire once it is dismounted, or the bead is broken so that the spot can be reached between the rim and tire.
YOU CAN NOT plug a hole in a sidewall. Holed sidewalls can be temporarily plugged to limp to the next town, but sidewall flexing will open the hole back up. A hole in a sidewall is a tire that is done for and needs replacement.
Tire Plugging kits have directions that are easy to follow, and are the fastest and easiest way to deal with trouble on the road. You don't even have to jack up the car, truck, or trailer in most cases - just roll forward until you find the leak, pull the nail (or cactus needle, or whatever), and follow directions in the kit.
It will look like you are doing more damage when installing a plug - YOU ARE! But it is necessary, and it is effective. A properly installed plug in a tire rated for it is an approved repair that will last the life of the tire.
You WILL need a way to air up the tire, and I recommend a small 12 volt air compressor made for tire inflation. They don't take up much space, and are life saving goodies to have around. If you can find a pair of small battery clips, CUT OFF the cigarette lighter end plug, and put the battery clips on in its place. This is more versatile - cigarette lighters get cruddy, or are in a bad position sometimes. You can pull out a battery if you have to, bring it closer and clip on to it when you need to. It's better than adding a mile of wire to the compressor...
"Hmmm... battery is in the left front, flat is on the right rear. DAMN! I need two more feet of length!"
Using plugs depends on your skill with them, the quality of the installation tool, and the actual damage to the tire. You are right, I wouldn't use one on a tire over 50psi, but they can be a quite permanent repair. The old tires that were on my truck, all had at least one plug, the left rear had six that I put in. It was age that finally killed the tires, combined with being P type tires that I tried to carry 3300lbs of scrap on.
On the other hand, while I really don't recommend this use, I have one in the sidewall of one of the tires on my car, and it has held for 12,000miles. The hole was very clean, looked like someone stabbed it with an ice pick or nail, no cord damage at all. I used a smooth spiral reamer, and very carefully put the plug in so no cords got damaged, and I have kept an eye on it. I do occasionally loose air out of that tire, but all four loose air at about the same rate anyways-
These were also very expensive old tires, and I have been planning on replacing them since I bought the car.
Cigarette plug is more versitile in my application I can't just pull out the jumper cables every time I need to fill a tire, and my cable can easily reach from one side to the other, but WON'T reach if I go directly to the battery. And when the gooseneck blows a tire, first off it'll take a decade for that little pump to fill it back to 65psi, and if I'm in the driveway I'll just pull another vehicle up to the tire to "top off" the load. I looked into getting a 12v plug installed near the axles and they wanted $150 for it. Ouch! I don't have the time right now to fool with it myself, unfortinately.
While I'm not going to come out and recomend anyone patch a sidewall with a plug; I did once see a van with about 80 plugs quilled into the sidewall of a front tire. It was a plug kit salesman at I service station I was working at some years ago, and an effective sales tool - he was riding around on the highway with it like that, and had been for some time with no trouble.
Tim, that's what I do Put on the spare, get the original fixed, but then I reinstall the original rather than use it as a spare. That way I can have a non-matching spare if I need it (ie my truck, which didn't come with a spare when I bought it, so I had to purchase one seperately and it doesn't match. Neither does the tread...) On the terms of tread, I like to keep the tire's tread similar (not all that important with a trailer, VERY important with a 4x4 truck), which is another reason I keep the spare a spare, and the main tires the main tires.
I always make sure I have a good spare. I dont see any reason to mess with a plug unless I was going out into the middle of nowhere for a while. The other thing is I always have a hyd. jack and keep some blocks under my toolbox. Sometimes you have to jack and block and rejack to get the spare on.
greywolf, any recommendations on a small compressor. The ones I've seen look very cheap and look like they're made of plastic.Also when I read their capacities it looks like it could take a long time to get the tire pressure back to where you need for it to be.
Do not get the 10 dollar made in china compressor at walmart. That thing will not pump up a tire off the vehicle much less on. I know you get what you pay for but it is the only one they had when I bought it.
There is no difference pumping up a tire on or off a vehicle. Air pressure is air pressure. Putting a vehicle's weight on a tire does not change the volume of the tire, it just re-arranges it, therefore, no change in pressure.
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