You just either rolled up to a tire shop on a flat, were towed in, or drove in with your spare on the car and the flat in the trunk. You have important things to do today, and since you can clearly see there is a nail in the tread, you expect to be told that the nail can be pulled out and the tire fixed quickly. However, after a quick glance, the tire shop says, “No can do, Bubba.” They are not just trying to sell you a new tire. There are real reasons why many flats cannot simply be patched.
Reason 1 Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired – You Drove On The Flat
Modern tires have an inner structure of the sidewall that is not designed to support your vehicle when uninflated. You can usually get away with a flat tire rolling without air for a short distance – think yards, not miles. However, if you just drove 10 minutes on the flat, you destroyed that important sidewall structure and the tire cannot be repaired.
Related Story: Tire Shortages and Delays: Not Just For Tesla Owners Anymore
Reason 2 Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired – Your Puncture Is In The No Repair Zone
Modern tires also need to be puncture-free along the sides and in from the sides about 20% on both sides of the tire. If your puncture is near the sidewall you are out of luck. Tire shops need to keep customers safe, and they follow the standard industry guidelines and will not repair a puncture too close to either sidewall. They should err on the side of caution to protect your safety and protect themselves from liabiility. Most do.
Reason 3 Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired – Your Tire Has Other Issues
If you have a bubble, a tear, or a big honking carbuncle on the side of your tire, it is unrepairable. Even if that is NOT why your tire went flat. If you have any area of the tire worn beyond the tread wear indicators, your tire is not repairable. If your tire is older than the internet, your tire is not repairable. If your tire is unevenly worn and any of the metal parts inside are visible your tire is not repairable. We can keep going. Basically, if your tire was not safe before the puncture, your tire shop would be crazy to try to repair the puncture. According to NHTSA, hundreds of people are killed each year due to tire failure. Your tire shop does not want you to be killed due to tire failure with the receipt for the repair sitting in the cupholder.
Reason 4 Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired - You Have Run Flat Tires
Many shops will not repair a run-flat tire that has had a puncture. Although run-flats are designed to get you to a shop or home when you have a puncture, they may not have been designed to then be repaired and continue in service after having been driven when deflated. This is one reason we give run-flat tires like those on BMW vehicles a thumbs-down.
Reason 5 Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired - The Puncture Is Too Large
If the puncture in your tire isn't just a normal nail or screw, but rather a chunk of metal, your repair shop will tell you to buy a new tire. Sometimes the metal bruises or gouges the tire either inside or outside and the plug and patch method of repair is simply not safe to perform.
Reason 6 Why Your Tire Cannot be Repaired - It Was Struck By A Meteorite
We recently had a puncture that we surmised was a meteorite strike. Yes, it sounds crazy, but read our story and tell us if you have a better guess.
Take care of your tires and they will take care of you. If you have a tire-repair story to tell, feel free to offer it up in the comments below.
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
Images by John Goreham. Use with permission only.