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How to Fix a Nail in Your Tire: A Step-by-Step Guide

Get back on the road quickly with this easy-to-follow guide on fixing a nail in your tire, perfect for beginners and everyday drivers.

Car tire with a nail sticking in it

Ever had a nail in your tire? It’s a common yet frustrating issue that can happen to any vehicle owner. Not only does it pose a safety risk, but it can also lead to more significant tire damage and extra costs if not addressed promptly. In this “How To” guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to quickly, safely and effectively fix a nail in your tire, ensuring you’re back on the road with minimal downtime and without having to pay for a tow truck. 

It’s an easy fix too, anyone can do it!

The Risks of Driving with a Nail in Your Tire

Driving with a nail in your tire is risky and can lead to further damage:


  • Air Pressure Loss: The most immediate risk is the loss of air pressure, which can lead to a flat tire and potentially a dangerous situation while driving.
  • Tire Damage: The longer you drive with a nail in your tire, the more you risk irreparable damage.
  • Safety Hazard: A compromised tire affects vehicle handling and braking, posing a significant safety risk to you and others on the road.


Understanding Your Options: Professional Help vs. DIY Repair

When you notice a nail in your tire, you essentially have two choices: seeking professional help or tackling the repair yourself.


  1. Professional Help: Visiting a tire repair shop or your local mechanic is often the safest choice. Professionals can assess the damage accurately and decide whether the tire needs repairing or replacing. They have the expertise and equipment to ensure the repair is done correctly, which is crucial for your safety on the road. If your tire is already getting flat and you don’t feel comfortable repairing or changing the tire yourself, call a tow truck instead of driving to a repair shop as driving with a flat tire can be dangerous and might cause irreparable damage to the tire.
  2. DIY Repair: For those who are comfortable with basic car maintenance, a DIY approach can be a quick and cost-effective solution. However, this requires the right tools and a basic understanding of the repair process. Keep in mind that DIY repairs are temporary and should be followed up with a professional inspection.


With these considerations in mind, let’s move on to the steps you can take to fix a nail in your tire, whether you choose the DIY route or opt for professional assistance.

Step 1: Assessing the Damage Thoroughly

Identifying the location and extent of the damage is crucial. Not all punctures are repairable, and the tire’s condition will dictate your next steps. Here’s how to assess the damage accurately:


  • Locate the Nail: Visually inspect the tire and look for a nail or any other object that might have caused the puncture.
  • Assess the Damage: If the size of the hole is over 1/4 inch, it’s better to replace the tire instead of trying to plug it.
  • Check the Puncture Location: The repairability of your tire depends significantly on where the puncture is. If the nail is in the tread area, you’re likely in the clear for a repair. However, if it’s in the sidewall or near the edge of the tread, the tire’s structural integrity might be compromised, necessitating a replacement.
  • Evaluate Tire Condition: Besides the puncture, assess the overall condition of the tire. Look for signs of wear, such as low tread depth, which might indicate the need for a new tire regardless of the current puncture.

Step 2: Gathering the Right Tools and Materials

Having the correct tools and materials on hand is essential for a successful repair. Here’s what you’ll need:


  • Tire Repair Kit: These kits typically include a rasp tool, insertion tool, and rubber repair plugs. Ensure you have a quality kit that is suitable for your tire type.
  • Rubber Cement: Not all kits include rubber glue, also called rubber cement, but it’s a good idea to have some on hand to better seal the repair so the plug bonds permanently with the tire and can’t come out.
  • Pliers: You’ll need a pair of pliers to extract the nail or object from your tire, so make sure to keep a pair with your tire repair kit at all times. Most kits don’t include pliers, but they’re useless without.  
  • Tire Inflator or Air Compressor: You’ll need this to re-inflate the tire after the repair.
  • Gloves and Safety Glasses: Always prioritize safety when performing vehicle maintenance.

Step 3: Removing the Nail

The removal of the nail is a delicate process that requires care:


  • Position the Tire: If possible, remove the tire from the vehicle. This provides better access and visibility.
  • Remove the Nail: Gently extract the nail using pliers. If the nail is wedged tightly and won’t budge, twist it back and forth gently while applying pulling force. It’s important to remove it without causing additional damage to the tire or wheel.
  • Inspect the Hole: Once the nail is out, inspect the hole for tears, debris or irregularities.

Step 4: Preparing the Puncture Area for Repair

Once the nail is removed, the puncture area needs to be prepared, this is critical for a successful repair. Here’s how to do it right:


  • Clean the Area: Start by removing any debris from the puncture hole and the area around it. This ensures a clean surface for the repair materials to adhere to.
  • Use the Rasp Tool: The rasp tool in your tire plug kit is designed to roughen and slightly enlarge the puncture hole. This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s essential for ensuring the plug can be inserted and adheres properly. Insert the rasp tool into the hole and move it up and down a few times to create a rough surface inside the puncture.
  • Apply Rubber Cement (if available): If your kit includes rubber cement, apply a small amount to the rasp tool before inserting it into the hole. This helps to lubricate the tool and prepares the puncture for a better bond to the repair plug.

Step 5: Inserting the Repair Plug

The repair plug is what seals the puncture, and its proper insertion is crucial:


  • Prepare the Plug: Take a repair plug from the kit and thread it through the eye of the insertion tool, ensuring it’s centered.
  • Apply Rubber Cement to the Plug: If you have rubber cement, coat the plug with it. This improves the repair by bonding the plug with the tire to make a secure air-tight seal.
  • Insert the Plug: Push the insertion tool and plug into the hole until about two-thirds of the plug is inside the tire. It should be a tight fit – this is normal and necessary for a good seal.
  • Remove the Tool: Pull the insertion tool out with a quick motion. The plug should remain in the tire. The goal is for the plug to fill the hole and seal it from the inside.
  • Cut off Excess Plug Material: Any part of the repair plug that isn’t flush with the surrounding tire rubber needs to be cut off. Take care not to cut into the tire surface!

Step 6: Re-Inflating the Tire

Proper tire inflation is essential for vehicle safety, tire longevity and optimal fuel consumption:


  • Check Tire Pressure Specifications: Refer to your vehicle’s manual or the information sticker on the driver’s side door jamb to find the correct tire pressure.
  • Re-Inflate the Tire: Using a tire inflator or air compressor, re-inflate the tire to the specified pressure. You want to be precise, because over- or under-inflation can affect driving performance, tire wear and fuel consumption.
  • Inspect the Plug: Once the tire is inflated, give the plug a final check. It should be flush with the tire’s surface or only slightly above.

Step 7: Checking for Leaks and Ensuring a Secure Repair

After repairing the puncture, it’s crucial to verify the integrity of the fix:


  • Visual and auditory Inspection: Initially, inspect the repaired area visually and listen closely for any hissing sounds that indicate air leakage.
  • Soapy Water Test: Spray or apply soapy water over the repaired area if available. If not, saliva will also do the trick. Bubbles forming would indicate a leak. This is a tried-and-tested method used by professionals to detect even the smallest of leaks.
  • Repeat the Inspection After a Short Drive: Sometimes, leaks are only apparent under the tire’s full weight. After a short drive, recheck the repair to ensure no air is escaping and confirm if the tire pressure is still at the same level.

Step 8: Monitoring the Tire Post-Repair

The first few days after a repair are critical for ensuring long-term success:


  • Check Air Pressure Regularly: For the first few days, check the tire’s air pressure daily. A consistent pressure level indicates a successful repair, while a decrease might suggest a slow leak.
  • Be Alert to Changes in Driving Feel: Pay attention to any changes in the vehicle’s handling or any unusual vibrations, as these can be signs of a problem with the repair.
  • Professional Inspection: After a plug repair, which is a temporary fix, have the tire repaired by a professional at your local repair shop or tire shop as soon as possible. Over time, the plug hole could promote water ingress between the tire layers and cause structural weakness that can potentially result in catastrophic tire failure because the tire’s internal steel belts corrode and weaken. This might not be immediately apparent from the outside though. That’s why you want to have your tire repaired permanently before tire rot and corrosion gets a hold.

Step 9: Considering a Long-Term Solution

A plug is a temporary fix, a long-term solution is essential:


  • Consult a Tire Professional: Discuss with a tire specialist at a repair shop whether a more permanent repair, like a patch from the inside, is needed.
  • Understand the Limits of a Plug Repair: Plugs are considered a temporary fix. Depending on the tire’s condition and the nature of your driving, a replacement might be the safer option.
  • Plan for Tire Replacement: If your tire is older or has significant wear, use this opportunity to plan for its replacement. This ensures your vehicle maintains optimal safety and performance.


Dealing with a nail in your tire can be an unexpected challenge, but with the right approach and tools, it’s a manageable one. This comprehensive guide has walked you through each step of assessing, repairing, and monitoring a punctured tire. Remember, while a DIY repair can be a quick fix, it’s always a temporary solution. Regular monitoring post-repair and consulting with a tire professional for a long-term resolution are crucial steps to ensure your safety on the road.

It’s also a good opportunity to think about tire maintenance and care. Regular checks for damage, maintaining proper tire pressure, and understanding when to opt for tire replacement over repair are all vital aspects of vehicle upkeep. By staying proactive about tire health, you can prevent many common issues and extend the life of your tires, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable driving experience.

Stay curious, and until next time, keep exploring the incredible world of automotive wonders!


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