Imagine you just couldn't get out of the way of that pothole or some other obstruction in the middle of the road, and now you have a damaged tire with a hole in it. You might be able to keep driving on a damaged tire for a little while, but that puncture is going to cause the tire pressure to drop over time and create unsafe driving conditions for you. You can try topping the tire off with more air at a local gas pump, but the safest idea is to just get your vehicle off the road and get the tire repaired or replaced as soon as you can. Buying a brand new tire is of course a bit more expensive, but it might be possible for a local tire repair shop to fix your issue with a simpler option. Here's what you need to know about "plugging" and "patching" when it comes to fixing a tire puncture.
Plugging is the Easiest and Least Expensive Fix
A tire repair kit at the local auto parts shop may allow you to fix a small puncture without the tire needing to be removed from the car. These kits typically include a strip of leather or rubber that is coated with adhesive. You then put the strip on top or into the puncture hole. The adhesive will harden once the tires warm up as you drive, creating a hopefully permanent seal that will stop air from leaking out.
Patching Requires the Tire to Be Fixed From the Inside Out
Patching a punctured tire is a bit more involved, and you might want a local repair shop to take care of it for you. The process is roughly similar to plugging, but the "patch" is usually larger than that leather or rubber strip and it goes on inside of the tire instead of being shoved through the hole you see on the exterior. Patching may provide a tighter seal and hold up better over time than plugging alone.
Pay Attention to the Price
It's also possible to request that the tire is both patched and plugged. This will use a rubber patch with adhesive for the inside of the tire like with "patching" but the mechanic will also string some rubber directly through the hole so that it comes out the other side, fully plugging the puncture and providing a seal that goes from the inside of the tire to the outside. Going with a patch and a plug may drive up the repair cost though, so be sure to ask around or talk to an expert about your options. After a certain point price-wise, it might make more sense just to get that new tire after all, but your local tire center or repair expert can lead you down the right path.