Can You Patch ATV Tires? Plug vs. Patch Explained

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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 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 a patch over 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

Different types of tire leaks and punctures require distinct repair methods, so identifying the type of leak is crucial for effective repair.

Not all holes can be patched; other methods may be more suitable.

Type of Leak
Can It Be Patched?
Minor Punctures (up to ¼ inch)
Yes, with plug patch (permanent)
Medium Punctures (¼ to ½ inch)
Yes, for round-shaped punctures
Large Punctures, Tears, or Slices
Not recommended due to structural damage
Sidewall Tears and Punctures
Not as a permanent solution; temporary fixes are available
Leaks Around the Tire Bead
Not a permanent solution; temporary fixes are available

There is also a distinct 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 portion 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. The patch becomes a weak spot when you go over a rock, and the sidewall flexes.

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 also 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, sharp metal object. The air may leak out over a few hours or days if the protruding object is still stuck in the tire. 

These punctures are typically easy to fix, temporarily out on the trail or permanently when you return 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 service life 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, patching a hole bigger than ¼ inch in diameter is not recommended 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 like the “External Patch Kit” from Glue Tread.

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.

string plug kit

Although string plugs are meant for temporary repairs, if installed correctly, they can often last for the remaining life of the tire. This type of repair can be sufficient for off-road or at slower speeds. 

For on-road or high-speed use, replacing the string plug with a permanent patch as soon as possible is recommended. 

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. 

remove tire patch backing

Wrapping Up

ATV tire repairs vary based on the size, location, and type of puncture, with options ranging from patching to using string plugs or tire slime.

Understanding these repair methods ensures effective and safe fixes for your ATV’s tires, keeping you ready for off-road adventures.

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

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