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Here’s Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired

Many vehicle owners feel frustrated when they have a nail in the tire and are told by a tire shop that the tire cannot be repaired. Here are a few common reasons why it can’t be fixed.

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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.
Tire image with cracks by John GorehamReason 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.
Tire bubble image John GorehamReason 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.
BMW run-flat tire image by John GorehamReason 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.

Meteorite tire puncture image by John GorehamReason 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.

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Janab (not verified)    June 29, 2020 - 10:43PM

that no repair zone is a scam. Tire manufacturers need to be very clear about the no repair zone. They are not on purpose. These days it seems like 60% of the surface is no repair zone.

Mike (not verified)    June 30, 2020 - 3:04PM

In reply to by Janab (not verified)

The no repair zone is not a scam. The closer you get to the sidewall the more flex you will have, risking the repair to fail prematurely. Also, a plug alone is not an effective repair. Tires need to be patched on the inside.

Revington Chase (not verified)    September 22, 2021 - 7:24PM

In reply to by Mike (not verified)

I have plugged tires everywhere and never had a leak. Thats all that can happen, a leak!!! That's what you now have, what do you have to lose? It's a scam too sell tires, fight the scam!

Demetrius Clot… (not verified)    August 11, 2022 - 5:24PM

In reply to by Revington Chase (not verified)

No scam, Bubba. If the repaired tire blows on ya on the freeway and ya end up like ground beef on the highway, they don't want to be liable. Simple as dat.

Bob (not verified)    September 6, 2023 - 3:41PM

In reply to by Mike (not verified)

tow truck driver for the last 30 years and have seen it over and over again and it has gotten worse. You even said it your own article it’s up to their discretion and they’re trying to sell tires, so do you really think they’re gonna put five dollar plug into a tire when they could sell The whole thing ? I just today witnessed this in action. The nail was a ball 2 inches from the edge of the tire. It was in the tread. There was no reason why I couldn’t safely be plugged in, but I can tell you why they refuse to do it because it was an all wheel drive so then he passed another scam on him and said well you need four new tires I can’t sell you just one. Why don’t you talk about that myth? In order not to damage the transfer case the treads on the tire must match but that doesn’t mean you have to buy four new tires.

Mike (not verified)    August 25, 2022 - 9:44AM

In reply to by Janab (not verified)

It not a scam ( well not completely). They are liable if it fails and there's a wreck. I just took my car to a repair shop yesterday and they refused to plug it. They said I need to pay $50 for a used tire. I have fairly new Michelin tires. The puncture is off center, an inch from the side. It's still on the bottom. So, I went home and pulled the nail out and just put a plug in it Now, it's fine. I have another car that I plugged and the plug is actually closer to the side of the tire. It's still holding after 3 years. It depends on how much money you have and how how fast do you drive. In today's inflationary market, you got to save some money. The $5 repair kit has lasted 3 years and has plugged 3 cars so far.

JohnB (not verified)    June 30, 2020 - 12:56PM

That's why I usually just plug it. Tire shops have insurance thus they have a narrow repair criteria.
Have plugged so many nail holes over the years and not one has ever leaked. As long as the hole is a simple puncture and has not ripped thru a band then why not plug it?

James Pilkington (not verified)    August 16, 2020 - 4:10AM

Are the Puncturesafe methods good. ie: (liquid inserted into tyre that seals punctures immediately) and tyre is supposedly as good as new.

Connie Boogaard (not verified)    December 1, 2020 - 3:29PM

My inflation indicator light came on. I stopped and put air in the tire. It is a run-flat tire. 3 days later, the pressure was again down by 10 pounds. I filled it and drove to a garage, and had the tire switched out with the spare. The run-flat tire was never driven on when flat. It has a nail in the flat part of the tire. Can it be repaired?

UNKNOWN (not verified)    March 12, 2022 - 6:58AM

In reply to by Susan Mason (not verified)

It's unfortunate that it happens, some BMW tires are run flats...therefore they shouldn't be repaired. Or you got a puncture in a no repair area. Run flat tires is designed to only get you to a shop safely for a short distance. A plug is not recommended.

Carman (not verified)    October 6, 2023 - 3:32PM

In reply to by Susan Mason (not verified)

When you have an expensive car they assume you are rich and they will take you to the cleaners, Some shops do a half-ass plug. The real tire shops can vulcanize a patch the old-fashioned way and seal the hole from the inside as long as the tread is good and it is a permanent repair.

UNKNOWN (not verified)    March 12, 2022 - 6:54AM

Whoever thinks the no repair area is a scam is foolish to think so. I've seen petty outside patches leak. Just because you think it won't leak, would you want to be responsible for someone's accident or even death? Shouldn't even be a thought, the thing is you don't think it'll happen to you...but what IF. Smh. Do it the correct way and you're fine.

Nam Spam (not verified)    August 1, 2022 - 10:34PM

In reply to by UNKNOWN (not verified)

I don't see how a leaky patch could lead to accident or death ... it was already leaking before the patch now just reverts to the original problem ... air leak ... not explosion or roll over .. air leak ... you should not be throwing away tires because no repair area scam.

Steve (not verified)    October 11, 2022 - 12:43AM

I cant believe the idiot comments, its not the tyre people making the rules, would you just throw a cheap repair in a parachute? cause a dodgy repair that take stress on a corner can fail, just as a dodgy repair can cause a parachute to fail think about it HARD before making risky assessment that can have an effect on other people on the road

Toren Orzeck (not verified)    November 27, 2022 - 8:25PM

I’ve had BMWs with runflats since 2006 and I’ve always gotten them patched.
This author is just wrong and dealing with a bad tire shop.
For those that don’t love runflats , they’ve gotten much better and they’re about ten thousand times better than not having a spare. And often better, as you can get safely off a busy highway and two a tire shop with little effort.