Patching a tire on your car will usually cost you less than $50, but the exact amount depends on a number of factors. You will have to consider just how broken the tire is and if you need to use a tire plug or tire patch to fix it. If you have the right tools, you may be able to save some money by patching the tire yourself.
There is no better example of a collective gasp followed by a collective sigh than puncturing the tire of your vehicle. On top of that, what if you don’t have a spare tire inside? Everyone in the car knows that the current plan for the journey has been completely upended.
Firstly, the tire will take some time to patch, assuming it’s a workable solution for your flat tire. Secondly, you are going to have to shell out at least a bit of money to have it fixed. However, not to worry. In most cases, patching a car tire won’t set you back all that much, especially compared to replacing a whole tire. We’ll explain the multiple factors involved in the cost so you can decide which method is best for you.
Cost of tire patching
The cost of patching is relatively straightforward — usually about $17-$35, which we break down further below — but can also fluctuate depending on a number of factors:
- How deep is the puncture?
- Does it affect the sidewall?
- Are you using a tire plug or a tire patch with tire sealant?
- Will you fix it yourself? Do-it-yourself tire patches can be very inexpensive.
- Will you take it to an auto repair shop? If you do, the bills can rack up.
You also need to make sure that your tire just needs a patch and not a full-on replacement. Trying to make a fundamentally flawed tire work with just a patch can be a dangerous game. Tire patching is something to execute with the utmost precision.
What does a tire consist of?
In order to know if your tire can be patched, you need to understand what makes up the components of a tire.
Beads are the component that holds the tire to the rim. Beads prevent the tire from sliding out of place and are typically made up of copper, brass, or bronze.
The radial cord is located on the inside portion of the tire. It gives the tire strength and helps with the transmission of corner forces.
The inner tire liner is made of rubber and is attached to the inside of the cord body. This is the “innertube” section of the car, similar to floating devices.
Belt plies are an additional layer of cord located under the tread area of the tire. They can help with tire mileage and strength in holding the tread together.
Also known as the side of the tire. It covers the cord body and can also be punctured in the event of a flat tire. This is important to note because if your sidewall is damaged, then a simple patch will fail to comprehensively address the problem.
Tread is the only element of the tire that comes in direct contact with the road while driving. Most patches will cover up a puncture or opening in the tread part of the tire. You can see the tire tread bar as the lines zigzagging through the outside of the tire.
Ways to test your tire for patching
Once you know that there is an issue with your tire, there are several tests you can perform to try and diagnose the problem. Some simple tests are as follows:
You can perform an edge test to make sure the puncture in your tire is not affecting the sidewall. An easy way to do this is to find the puncture and put your thumb in the distance between the puncture and the sidewall. If the distance is greater than your thumb, then you can go ahead and patch it. If, on the other hand, it’s less than a thumb’s length, you are out of luck. You can forget about the patch, as you will need a full-on tire replacement.
What is the width of the puncture in your tire? If it’s less than 2 ½ inches, you are in the clear. Anything greater than a 2 ½-inch diameter and you are out of luck. A patch will not work for a puncture of this small size.
Methods to patch a tire and cost breakdown
If you determine that your tire’s problem can be fixed with a patch, there are two ways to go about patching it. Either do it yourself or take it to an auto repair shop. Not surprisingly, doing it yourself is going to be cheaper. Although patching the tire at a shop will cost more, it’s typically considered a better professional standard. Here is a breakdown of the methods for fixing your damaged tire.
If you have the proper materials to patch the tire yourself or would like to buy some in case an untimely event like this occurs, here is the cost:
Tire patch: $2
Most tire patches will cost around $2. You will be able to find tire patches at most auto-specialized stores and even more general retailers such as Target.
Tire jack: $0-$15
Although you might see lower prices on the internet, a solid tire jack is going to cost you at least $15. You might already have a tire jack in your car — sometimes they are included in the car purchase. However, for those without a tire jack, it’s a must if you don’t want to round up all of your friends and try to lift the car yourself.
If you perform the tire patch yourself, then labor is the least expensive part, as it’s free. Obviously, you lose time; however, it would probably take just as much time or more to go to a dealership.
Total tire repair cost for DIY with the jack: $2-$17
If you go to a repair shop to patch a tire, the cost obviously increases, but so do the chances of getting a high-quality job. Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to sue a repair shop for liability should something happen than to sue yourself. Here is what you will be looking at spending should you go the repair shop route:
Tire patch: $5
Most repair shops don’t tell you what it costs for just the patch. However, based on average labor costs and markups, it’s safe to assume you will pay around $5 for a patch at a repair shop.
Labor costs $75-$120 per hour for most mechanics, depending on where you live. It takes about 20 minutes to patch a tire, so at an assumption of $90 per hour, you are looking at $30 in labor costs.
Total tire repair cost to patch at a repair shop: $35
Potential extra costs
While a tire patch is relatively inexpensive, just be aware that a few other costs can come up, depending on your individual situation.
If the tire is badly punctured and it needs to get to a repair shop ASAP, you will probably need to tow it. Tow trucks can cost up to $7+ per mile (or even higher in some cases) plus a minimum call charge, so expect to pay at least $100 if a tow truck is involved.
It’s easy to get in over your head trying to patch a tire yourself or even just trying to put on the spare so you can drive to a repair shop. In that case, you might need to call an auto club like AAA or some type of roadside assistance. The costs vary depending on your location and circumstances, but these services are usually around $10 per month or less.
If a flat is just the beginning of your car trouble and you’re ready for an upgrade, check out our auto loan reviews.
To patch or to plug, that is the question.
If your tire is punctured, you could fix it with a plug instead of a patch.
You can insert a tire plug similarly to how you would insert a nail, using a special tool that costs about $7. Once inserted, the plug folds into two parts. You cut the excess plug away, leaving the portion of the plug in the tire there to block the puncture. Plugs are ideal for when you run over a single object, like a nail, and you want to repair the tire in one quick go. With a plug, you don’t need to dismount the tire from the rim, making it a much easier and quicker fix.
A patch is more consistent and considered to be a higher quality option. With a patch, you’ll need to remove the tire from the rim and use a die grinder (about $75 if you don’t have one) to sand down the surface where you will patch. This is generally considered a stronger and more comprehensive method of fixing a leaking tire.
How long can you drive on a patched tire?
Most patches on a tire will last up to five years.
Is patching a tire worth it?
If the damage is minor and a patch is enough to hold it, then it is definitely worth doing. The cost of replacing the tire would be significantly more, into the hundreds of dollars.
Is it safe to drive on a patched tire?
Yes, as long as the tire has been properly patched and the tire sidewall is not damaged.
Can you patch a tire on your own?
Yes, you can patch your own tire. But you will need to jack up the car, remove the tire, and grind the area around the hole, which requires some equipment and skill. Or, you can plug it using an inexpensive kit.
- Flat tires can be fixed with a tire patch that you apply yourself or have professionally applied at an auto shop. It costs between $17-$35.
- Make sure the sidewall is not damaged on the tire. If so, you may need to replace the whole tire.
- A DIY patch will be cheaper than having an auto shop patch your tire, particularly because of the labor costs.
- A tire plug is cheaper and quicker, but a tire patch is considered more secure.