Best Tire Repair Kits: Get Back On The Road Quickly After A Flat
Prevent a flat tire from dampening your road travels with these top kits
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BY Austin Fracchia / LAST UPDATED ON July 21, 2020
Flat tires are just a part of automotive life. Some people experience them more than others, but almost all drivers will have to deal with a drive-ending puncture at some point. When this happens, a good tire repair kit is a great alternative to just swapping the deflated rubber for a spare tire or trying to run on tubeless tires. Some kits even make it easy to permanently fix the tire so you don't have to buy replacements. Check out our reviews and recommendations for the best tire repair kit.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy a Tire Repair Kit
- Create a temporary tire fix. In most cases, tire repair kits are designed for a temporary fix, meaning the puncture repair should hold long enough to get the car to a garage for a permanent replacement. This makes a kit a good alternative to a traditional spare, especially when multiple tires are flat.
- Save money on replacements. A puncture isn't necessarily the end of a tire. While larger holes tend to require an actual replacement, smaller punctures can be effectively sealed with the correct kit. When done right, the permanent fix can be more than enough to keep the tire running until normal wear warrants a replacement.
- Learn a new skill. Tire repair isn't a skill just for drivers. Anything with rubber tires, from bikes to wheel barrels, can experience a flat. In most cases, the repair process is the same. This means the skills you learn by using a simple repair kit can be applied to different types of vehicles.
Types of Tire Repair Kits
String Plug/Tire Patch
Repair kits that come with string plugs and tire patches make up the bulk of what's available on the market. A string plug is literally a piece of string that goes into the hole. Using a special insert tool, you can position the string so it’s soft body fills in the gaps and blocks air from escaping out of the tire. Tire patches work in a similar fashion by covering the entire span of the puncture. Both of these options tend to be very effective for larger punctures.
Using a liquid sealant, this type of repair kit is extremely user-friendly. The sealant is often designed to dry out of the bottle so it creates a physical barrier to block the hole. Most sealant formulas work well for smaller punctures.
Top Brands of Tire Repair Kits
Unlike some automotive accessory manufacturers, Slime is a company focused solely on tire repair. Well-known for its bike tire sealant products, Slime specializes in liquid tire repair using a liquid sealant that dries on contact with air. Beyond bike tires, the company makes a few options for automotive use like the Slime 1034-A Repair Kit.
As a company with a lot of experience in creating automotive parts, Smittybilt is no stranger to making products that are reliable and effective. While the bulk of the company's product line is centered around upgrade and offroading parts, the company also makes several accessories that are helpful to anyone driving on the road. The company's tire repair kit options include the 2733 Repair Kit.
Tire Repair Kit Pricing
- $25 and under: Budget tire repair kits tend to be small and focused on the most important components needed to fix a flat. Typically, these include a few string plugs and a couple of T-handle tools to insert the plug into place without doing more damage to the tire.
- $25-$50: Larger kits tend to make up the bulk of this price range. These kits come with either more string plugs or additional tools like hex keys, set screws, and pliers for different types of tires and repairs.
- $50 and above: Any kits above $50 tend to come with higher-quality components and additional accessories that can make tire repair quicker and easier. Air compressors, for example, are a common addition that often needs to be purchased separately with more affordable kits.
The most important part of any heavy-duty tire repair kit is the air safety seal itself. Plugs and liquid sealants are the most common types that can effectively handle small or medium punctures in a tire. The right choice will depend on the size of the puncture and the durability of the fix you need. Liquid sealant is a good temporary solution for anything really small, but larger punctures needing a more permanent fix are better served by string plugs.
To apply a sealer, specialty tools will be required. For string plugs, a basic insert tool (normally a T-handle needle-like tool) is needed to position the string into the hole to seal up any spaces where air could escape. A good set of pliers is also necessary to remove the source of the puncture. Higher-end kits often come with extra accessories like air compressors and a pressure gauge as well.
Multi-piece tire repair kits require a case to keep everything together. Basic plastic cases with molded interiors to keep each tool in place are very common. The price of the kit tends to reflect the quality of the case. Budget kits, for example, tend to have low-quality, flexible plastic cases that offer only basic protection.
- Size: The size of a tire repair kit depends on the number of included components or pieces. More pieces offer more versatility in general, but there is always the risk of having tools you will never use for a higher price. As a result, smaller kits are great to start with if you don't have a tire kit or much experience with one. Choose something larger only if you know you need the extra tools.
Best Tire Repair Kits Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Tire patches tend to offer a good balance between string plugs and liquid sealants in terms of effectiveness and user-friendliness. The main thing that influences how well a patch works is the adhesive (i.e. glue, rubber cement, etc) it uses to stick to the tire. Poor adhesives can allow air to escape, especially as the sticky part begins to wear off with use.
- Inserting a string plug into a tire can take a bit of strength. If you can't gently force the string into place, get somebody weight over the plug if possible. Make sure you push it in slowly to get the proper position.
- Practice makes perfect when using a string plug. If possible, try repairing some old tires ahead of time before you find yourself in an emergency roadside situation.
- Rotate the tire before you apply the sealant. Liquid sealants need gravity sometimes. They tend to work the best when the puncture is at the bottom of the tire where the liquid can pool up and solidify.
Q. What tools do I need in a tire repair kit?
A. Insertion tools like a plugging tool or sealant bottle are generally required to apply the sealer to the puncture site. A pair of pliers is also important to remove whatever caused the puncture in the first place.
Q. What is the best flat tire repair solution?
A. Fixing a puncture with a plug and a patch tends to be the safest way to restore a tire. A tire plug kit is a great temporary fix, but unless you replace the tire when you get to your destination, a patch does a better job of getting a permanent seal over the hole.
Q. How long do car tire repairs last?
A. This depends on the type. Liquid sealants tend to last long enough to drive back home or to your destination after a flat. Plugs and patches, on the other hand, can last tens of thousands of miles when applied properly. Always periodically check the repair and the tire pressure gauge to make sure it continues to perform well.
For the sheer amount of string plugs, tools, and other accessories you get with the Boulder Tools 56-Piece Kit, this kit wins our top slot.
Focusing on just the bare essentials, the BETOOLL 22-Piece Tire Repair Kitis our top value pick.