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What to Do if You Have a Nail in Your Tire

Have you ever gone somewhere, then as you were leaving – saw a nail in your tire and weren’t sure what to do next? Maybe you used a few four-letter words first, then thought, “can I drive home on this?” Here’s the low-down on if that answer should be yes or no.

This scenario is probably not too far out of a concept for anyone who has driven anywhere, at anytime.

Nails happen. And they happened to me. Only I wasn’t sure how to deal with it.

I pulled up to my in-laws house and saw a nail (actually a screw) in the tread of my rear tire, situated pretty deep.

I had no idea about what to do but luckily my father-in-law did.

He said what I needed was called a “patch-plug” from a tire specialist, which is where they place a plug inside the tire and join it with a patch from the outside. He thought it would typically run around $20.00 or so.

After testing it first to see if it would be safe enough to drive to the tire repair shop, I took it into Big O Tires.

I was shocked in a good way to find out this service is free. When I asked them why they said “because they love their customers”.

Sweet! I like being loved and free is always the best price.

Talking to friends of mine, they mentioned that this service is free at numerous other tire repair shops.

Just call ahead to make sure there is no cost, and to make sure they can fit you in – the service takes about 40 minutes or so if they can work on it right away.

While this patch-plug method CAN survive the rest of the life of your tire, it is considered a temporary fix and your tire may need to be replaced sooner than it would have before the puncture happened.

If your tire meets any of the criteria for needing to be replaced right away, do NOT drive on the damaged tire, switch it out for your spare:

  • Air is leaking out quickly (hissing noise)
  • Nail/screw is in the sidewall
  • 3 repairs on tire already
  • Overlapping puncture from an existing puncture fix
  • Puncture is greater than 1/4 inch

How to Assess the Damage if you have a Nail in your Tire

Step 1screw in tire

• Check to see where the nail is located. If the nail has gone into the sidewall, it cannot be repaired and the tire will need to be replaced. Patch-plug will only work if the nail is in your tread.

• If you have already had 3 repairs on the tire, or if the puncture overlaps on an existing puncture, you will need to replace the tire.

Step 2screw too big to fix in tire

• Check the puncture size. A puncture greater than 1/4″ in diameter cannot be patch-plugged.

Step 3soapy water to find leak in tire

• Determine if you have a leak or not by listening for hissing noises close to the nail. If a lot of air is escaping quickly do not drive your vehicle with that tire, replace it with your spare and take the tire to a tire repair place to have it assessed or switched out.

• Check your tire pressure with a pressure gauge and refill it with air if needed.

• If no air seems to be escaping, you can verify that you have no leak by spraying soapy water on the area with the nail and checking for bubbles.

Step 4Tire Repair Shop

• Take it in for repair to your local tire shop (have it towed if it isn’t drive-able).

• If you feel comfortable that your leak is contained enough for the drive to the tire repair shop, you should be okay for a short distance drive. Mine was less than a mile away, on low-speed back roads to get there.

•  Avoid highways or long distance drives while the nail is still in your tire, as the tire might rupture while you drive and can cause damage to your car, yourself, or others.


ALWAYS ERR ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY – If you don’t know if the tire should be driven to the repair shop, don’t take the chance on doing it. Better safe than sorry.


nail in tire what to do

Did You Know Tire Repair was a Free Service?

What other free services exist? Please share!

  1. Thanks for the tip about how lots of hissing noises should indicate that I’m going to need to change my tires. I’ve already used up my spare tire when I first had a flat tire so I’m going to be needing to buy a replacement now. Hopefully, getting one new tire wouldn’t mess up the balance with the other three that aren’t damaged.

    • Hi Alice,

      Yes – that sounds like a problem for sure, tires don’t normally hiss unless there is air leaking. You can get the tires balanced if you’re taking it into a shop to fix the one tire – they just add weights appropriately to make sure they are all working evenly.

      Hope it all worked out for you!

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