How to Put a Patch on a Punctured Tire

Getting a flat tire can put a damper on your day and your wallet.

Tires can go flat due to many issues including:

  • Glass or metal shards
  • Hitting a pothole hard
  • Impact with a curb
  • Leaking valve stem
  • Nails or screws on the road

The most common cause of a leaking tire is a puncture from a nail or screw.

When a nail punctures a tire, it can either stay embedded in the tread or can enter and come straight out. The tire pressure leaks from the puncture hole and the tire eventually goes flat.

In either case, a puncture can be repaired if it occurs in the tread section of the tire.

  • Tip: If you have a slow leak in your tire, have it repaired soon after. If you top up the tire pressure without repairing the puncture, rust and corrosion can form in the steel belt layer, causing further damage such as belt separation and steering wobble.

  • Note: A proper tire repair includes removing the rubber tire from the wheel rim. While kits are available on the market to plug a tire from the outside, it is not an approved repair method and does not meet Department of Transportation (DOT) standards.

A proper tire repair can be done in one of two ways:

  • A single repair with a combination plug and patch in one
  • A two-piece repair with a filler plug and a covering patch

  • Note: A two-piece repair is seldom used unless the puncture is on an angle greater than 25 degrees to the tread. It is a repair done in professional settings.

Here’s how to perform a tire repair with a combination patch.

Part 1 of 4: Find the tire puncture

Use the following steps to check your tire for any leaks and determine the location of the puncture.

Materials Needed

  • Soapy water
  • Spray bottle
  • Tire crayon

parts of tire tread

Step 1: Spray soapy water over the tire with a spray bottle. Focus on areas that are likely to have a leak such as the bead, the valve stem, and the tread section.

misting tire with spray

Coat the tire a little at a time with soapy water. You’ll know where the leak is when you see big or small bubbles forming in the soapy water.

bubbling leak spot

Step 2: Locate the leak. Mark the location of the leak with a tire crayon. Mark the location of the valve stem on the sidewall as well so that you can orient the tire properly when you reinstall it.

Part 2 of 4: Remove the tire from the rim

You will need to remove the tire from the wheel rim in order to be able to fix the puncture.

Materials Needed

valve stem core

Step 1: Deflate the tire completely. If your tire still has air, remove the valve stem cap, then remove the valve stem core with the tool.

  • Note: Air will start to hiss out quickly when the valve stem core is loose. Be careful to control the valve core and hold it so you can reuse it after the tire is repaired.

The tire will take less than a minute to completely deflate with the valve core out.

If your tire is already completely empty of pressure, skip to the next step.

Step 2: Break the bead. The smooth lip of the tire seals tightly to the rim and needs to be separated from the rim.

Lay the tire and rim flat on the ground. Place the bead breaker bar snugly under the lip of the rim on top of the tire and pound on it with a heavy hammer, wearing eye protection and work gloves.

Continue around the whole tire bead in the same fashion, moving along once the bead begins to move. When the bead is fully unseated, it will sink loosely downwards. Flip the wheel over and repeat the process for the other side.

person prying tire bead

Step 3: Pry the tire off the rim. Place the end of the bar under the lip of the tire and against the rim and pry the tire upwards. A section of the rubber lip will be above the edge of the rim.

Using a second bar, pry around the rest of the bead until it is fully above the edge of the rim. The second lip will come easily off the rim with a bit of wiggling. Use a pry bar to lift it above if it’s not coming off easily.

Part 3 of 4: Perform the tire repair

Apply the patch and plug into the puncture to fix your flat tire.

Materials Needed

  • Combination patch
  • Patch roller
  • Rasp or diamond-grit sandpaper
  • Reamer
  • Rubber cement
  • Utility knife

Step 1: Evaluate the tire’s condition. If there are black pebbles or dust inside the tire, or if you see cracks or cuts on the inside of the tire, that’s an indication the flat tire was driven for too long. In this case, discard the tire and replace it.

If the inside of the tire is shiny and free from debris, continue with the repair.

t bar tool being used

Step 2: Ream the puncture hole. Locate the hole inside the tire opposite the mark you made on the tread. Insert your reamer into the hole from the inner side of the tire, pushing it deeply into the hole and back out at least six times.

  • Tip: The hole needs to be clean so the plug part of the patch will make good contact and seal the hole.

Step 3: Rough up the inside of the tire at the hole. Use a manual rasp or a piece of diamond-grit sandpaper to rough up a spot just larger than the patch area. Brush away any loose rubber that may have formed.

Step 4: Apply a generous layer of rubber cement. Brush the cement over an area just larger than the patch. Let it set according to the instructions on the container.

pushing plug patch into hole

Step 5: Push the plug part of the patch into the hole. Pull the protective backing off of the patch, then insert the plug into the hole. There is a stiff wire at the end of the plug. Insert it into the hole, pushing it through as far as you can.

  • Note: The plug needs to go deep enough that the patch rests fully on the inner tire liner.

  • Tip: The fit will likely be tight, and you may have to pull the plug the rest of the way with a pair of pliers. Pull on the wire part to fit the plug correctly.

Step 6: Seat the patch with a roller. With the combination patch all the way in place, seat the patch in the rubber cement with a roller.

  • Tip: The roller looks like a toothed pizza cutter. Roll it with moderate force, ensuring that you contact every part of the patch.

Step 7: Cut the protruding plug flush with the tire tread. Use a utility knife to cut the plug flush with the tire surface. Don’t pull on the plug when cutting it.

Part 4 of 4: Reinstall the tire on the rim

After repairing the puncture, you need to put the tire back on the wheel rim.

Materials Needed

  • Compressed air
  • Pry bar
  • Valve core tool

Step 1: Orient the tire in the proper direction. Use the valve stem marking to line it up on the correct side and position in the rim.

Step 2: Install the tire back onto the rim. Press the tire over the rim and wiggle it into position. The bottom side should drop easily into place. The top side may take some effort like twisting the tire or putting pressure around the bead.

If necessary, use a bar to pry the rubber back under the rim.

Step 3: Install the valve stem core. Make sure the valve core is snug to prevent leaks.

Step 4: Inflate the tire. Use a compressed air source to put air into the tire. Inflate it to the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, found on the driver’s door placard.

Step 5: Recheck the tire for leaks. Spray the tire with soapy solution to confirm the leak is repaired and the tire is seated on the bead.

Even though a tire plug might be sufficient by itself, national road safety agencies caution against using only a simple plug.

In some situations, relying on a plug might be less effective.When the puncture hole is near the tire’s sidewall, many experts recommend a patch as a simple plug may not be enough to completely seal the damage. When the puncture is diagonal and not straight, a patch will need to be applied. A plug-patch is the ideal solution to such situations involving a flat tire.

If you find that your tire is not inflating properly even after repairing the puncture, get a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to inspect the tire and install your spare tire instead.

Next Step

Schedule Spare Tire Installation

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Spare Tire Installation. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Spare Tire Installation reviews

Excellent Rating


Rating Summary


12 years of experience
691 reviews
12 years of experience
Toyota Camry V6-3.0L - Spare Tire Installation - Knightdale, North Carolina
Nicholas finished an earlier appointment which enabled him to come by earlier than originally scheduled. I'm very grateful he chose to reschedule. While replacing a flat with my donut spare, he instructed me on how to safely drive to the tire shop for the repair. More importantly to have the shop add air to the donut spare. Nicholas did an excellent job. He as very professional. Thank you
Ford E-150 Econoline - Spare Tire Installation - Durham, North Carolina
I was VERY pleased with Nicholas' expertise and was more than delighted that he was so prompt. He was very polite and friendly, and he did a marvelous job. If I ever need any repairs to my vehicle in the future, I would definitely ask for Nicholas.


16 years of experience
157 reviews
16 years of experience
Toyota Prius C L4-1.5L Hybrid - Spare Tire Installation - Saint Petersburg, Florida
This service is so convenient! Jean is awesome, helpful, and has gone above and beyond on each visit!!


20 years of experience
1104 reviews
20 years of experience
Honda Accord L4-1.5L Turbo - Spare Tire Installation - Edison, New Jersey
I was glad that Atilla could service my car a little earlier than expected. He was prompt in taking care of my cars needs.


22 years of experience
1277 reviews
22 years of experience
Mazda 3 L4-2.0L - Spare Tire Installation - Santa Clara, California
Pardeep was flexible to meet me earlier and very professional when he worked on spare tire installation. He was so efficient and accurate with checking my engine oil and battery as well. Thanks Pardeep!!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

How Do I Prepare My Car for Summer?
Summer's Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic will take their tolls on your vehicle. Follow these tips to ensure optimum wellness of your car: Air Conditioning: Have your air conditioning inspected ( by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin...
A Guide to Tire Safety
When When sitting behind the wheel of a car, there are two things that most drivers want: to reach their destination, and to do so as safely as possible. This means having a car that is in good condition, and...
Signs You Need New Car Tires
Car tires can leak, wear unevenly, and lose contact with the road, all of which make driving unsafe. Rotate your car tires and inspect them regularly.

Related questions

What does it mean if the Low Tire Pressure Light on the dash comes on?
Your car is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). It checks that each of your tires has the right amount of air. If it notices a drop in pressure, it will turn on the Low Tire Pressure Light...
Faulty low air pressure sensor.
The tire pressure monitoring system will only trigger a warning light for three reasons including a low tire pressure. The other two reasons are if the computer does not detect a signal from a sensor due to it being missing...
What could be the reason the front shakes when I go over 60mph.? Thank you for your help.
Hi...unbalanced wheels and tires, tire defects and bent wheels, and loose, worn out suspension parts are the typical causes of vehicle front end vibration at speed. It is also possible that loose, or defective, motor mounts can be a cause...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 ·