As you may already know, patching can be an option for fixing a flat car tire or motorcycle tire. But does it work on ATV tires? After all, ATV tires are typically used in much rougher conditions when going off-road. Like with so many other problems you can stumble on as an ATV owner, no one answer fits all.
ATV tires can be patched, depending on the size, shape, and location of the puncture. Minor to medium holes in the threaded area of the tire can be patched using a traditional patch or preferably a plug patch. More extensive tears or sidewall damage cannot be permanently fixed, but temporary solutions are available for emergency repairs.
So how do you know whether your specific puncture can be patched? And when should you choose to patch over other alternatives such as a string plug, tire slime, and others? Here are some guidelines to follow.
Different Types of Tire Punctures and How to Fix Them
Not all tire leaks and punctures are the same. This is important because the type of leak you face dictates the best method for fixing the leak.
Just as there are different types of tire leaks, there are various ways of fixing them. Not all holes can be patched; other methods may be better suitable.
There is also a difference between repairing a car tire and a slow-speed, such as an ATV tire. For car tires, you are only allowed to repair a tire if:
- The puncture is in the threaded area of the tire (not the sidewalls).
- The puncture is smaller than ¼ inch (6mm).
- The repair cannot overlap with a previous repair.
- Patching or plugging by itself is not considered safe.
ATV tires for off-road use are not subject to the same regulations, but they still make for good guidelines, especially if you do a lot of high-speed trail riding or racing.
Sidewall Tears and Punctures
The sidewalls are the weakest part of any tire. Because the sidewalls of a low-pressure tire need to be flexible, they have less rubber and lack some of the steel or nylon enforcement used in the threaded area for puncture resistance.
The flexible nature of the low-pressure tire sidewalls makes them more prone to tears and harder to repair. While you might be able to patch a tear in the sidewall, it may not last too long, especially if you run the tire at low pressure. As soon as you go over a rock, the sidewall will flex, making the patch the weakest link.
There is no proper way of permanently repairing a sidewall tear or puncture. However, there are a few aftermarket options to consider that will get you by if you’re in a pinch.
Note that products such as sidewall repair kits or sidewall slugs are not meant as permanent repairs but simply emergency repairs until you can replace the tire. They are only for slow-speed, off-road use and should never be used on high-speed or on-road tires.
There is no safe or legal way of repairing the sidewall of an on-road tire. Your only option is to replace the tire with a new one. If your other tires are worn, you may need to replace them as well to prevent driveline wear or damage, especially if you ride a lot on paved roads.
Minor Punctures up to ¼ Inch in Diameter
Your typical minor puncture happens from running over a nail, a piece of wire, or any other small and sharp metal object. The air may leak out over a few hours or a few days if the protruding object is still stuck in the tire.
These punctures are typically easy to fix, both temporarily out on the trail or permanently when you get back home to your garage or a tire shop.
Can You Patch a Small Puncture?
Most small punctures up to ¼ inch in diameter in the threaded area of a tire can be permanently repaired from the inside using a plug patch. However, the angle of the puncture should be at least 45 degrees or more to the tire.
Patching from the inside is the recommended method for fixing smaller punctures, and it’s the only one that is considered by the industry as a permanent repair if done correctly. An inside patch plug will more than likely outlast the remaining lifetime of your ATV tire.
Related: How to patch an ATV tire – Illustrated Guide
Are There Other Ways of Fixing Small Punctures?
If you’re out on the trail or just looking for a quick fix, you can fix most small punctures using what is commonly referred to as a string plug kit or rope plug kit—more on the pros and cons of string plugs vs. patches further down in this post.
Other alternatives include Tire Slime, which injects the tire with a slimy substance that covers and seals small leaks. While this method is effective on most small leaks, it leaves a mess inside the tire and may bring it out of balance if not installed correctly.
Medium Punctures, From ¼ to ½ Inch in Diameter
Next, you have the slightly more severe punctures from hitting a dry branch, a piece of rebar, or something in that category. The hole is typically between ¼ of an inch to ½ inch in diameter.
This type of puncture will cause your tire to deflate in seconds and may or may not be so easy to repair.
Can You Patch a Medium Puncture?
As long as the puncture has a round shape and is not larger than the diameter of your thumb, you will likely have a good chance of fixing it using a tire patch. However, it is not recommended to patch a hole bigger than ¼ inch in diameter for on-road or high-speed use.
Are There Other Ways of Fixing Medium Punctures?
Any puncture larger than a small screw or nail should be patched for a proper seal. While a sting plug may be able to seal the leak enough to bring you home, it needs to be replaced with an appropriate patch plug as soon as possible.
Large Punctures, Tears, or Slices
With large punctures, we refer to holes bigger than the diameter of your thumb. This type of damage typically happens from tearing or slicing rather than a clean poke-through.
Tears or slices typically occur when spinning the tire on a sharp rock, dry branch, or a pointy or sharp metal object.
Can You Patch a Large Puncture, Tear, or Slice?
Most tire manufacturers don’t recommend patching larger punctures or tears because of the permanent damage to the tire’s inner structure that cannot be repaired with a patch.
Are there other ways of fixing large punctures, tears, or slices?
Before discarding your torn or severely punctured ATV tire, consider looking into products such as Glue Tread External patch kit (link to Amazon).
Leaks Around the Tire Bead
Leaks around the rim’s bead are commonly caused by corrosion, debris, or a damaged rim. This type of leak typically drains the tire slowly over several hours or even days.
Products such as tire slime or similar work in many cases but will leave a mess when it’s time to replace the tire.
Check this post to learn more about properly fixing this type of leak.
Plugging vs. Patching
String plugs or any other style of tire plug where the plug is installed from the outside are only recommended as emergency repairs to get your ATV back home or to the nearest tire shop.
While string plugs are not intended as a permanent repair, a properly placed plug will likely last the tire’s lifetime. This type of repair can be sufficient for off-road or at slower speeds.
For on-road or high-speed use, it’s always recommended to replace the string plug with a permanent patch as soon as you get the chance.
As speed increases, the rubber in the tire expands, increasing the chance of the plug coming out of the tire.
Traditional Patches vs. Plug Patches
Traditional patching is when a rubber patch is glued to the inside of a tire using rubber cement. While traditional patches are more reliable than a tire plug, they are not considered safe for on-road or high-speed use. They may, however, work well with slow-speed off-road tires, such as most ATV tires.
When used at a higher speed, the problem with traditional patches is that the glue that keeps the patch in place will lose some of its bonding power as the tire heats up, and the patch may come off.
Plug patches combine the benefits of traditional patches and tire plugs in one product. The glued-down patch keeps the plug from detaching from the tire, and the plug helps the patch stay secure to the tire.