If we find ourselves with a damaged tire, the first question that arises is whether we need to repair or replace it. Of course, the simpler and more cost-effective option is to repair it. But, arriving at a technical service center, the specialist tells us that the repair is impossible and all we can do is replace the tire with a new one.
How do we know if tire damage is so serious that the tire can no longer be repaired? In which cases does the repair make sense and in which cases does it not? When do we understand that it is time to look for a new tire instead of the old one?
You certainly don't have answers to these questions. But I do have them and I am willing to share them with you in this article. Indeed, there are scenarios in which tire replacement is inevitable. However, in some cases, the tire can be saved, after which it performs as well as usual. How to understand the difference between these scenarios? You will find out in the following article.
Is it repairable or is it not? That is the question
Saving the tire through repair or its definitive replacement depends, in fact, on the severity of the impact on it. Imagine a tire that was only punctured and another that was severely cut. Of course, the chances of successfully repairing both of them are different.
In the same context, there is a little trick that many car enthusiasts don't know about. The area of the tire damage plays a significant role in its further repair or replacement. Let's assume that road debris has punctured your tire. If the puncture is on the tread face closer to the outermost circumferential tire grooves, then consider yourself lucky because the repair is more than possible.
Another beneficial area for a potential repair is the area that is no closer than about 5 cm (¼ inch) from where the sidewall meets the tire shoulder, for tires that do not have circumferential grooves.
At the same time, another factor that speaks about a potential tire repair or replacement is the puncture diameter. As a rule, the technicians decide on the repair if the puncture is not larger than 1/4" in diameter. Since tire cuts usually exceed this diameter, tire replacement is often unavoidable. Technicians can still try to save the tire if its cut is not so deep as to affect the steel belts from within the tire. But if the technician confirms that they have been affected, replacement is inevitable.
The different tire damage scenarios leading to tire repair or replacement
As I mentioned before, the decision to repair or replace the tire depends a lot on the affected area and the severity of the condition. Let's first see what scenarios exist in the context where the puncture affects the tire sidewall. This guide is not necessarily a fixed instruction, but rather an estimate of possible situations. For this reason, keep in mind that the final decision to repair or replace your tire is in the hands of the expert technician who will decide according to your individual case.
According to specialist statistics, tires are replaced when there is a sidewall puncture. Matter-of-factly, you can try a repair, but its result will not last long. The experts explain that the tire sidewalls have the property of increased elasticity during the ride. Consequently, the repaired area undergoes a continuous process of expansion and contraction, which inevitably leads to the reappearance of the initial problem.
Another physical effect that occurs during driving is the air pressure that stresses significantly on the tire sidewalls. Taking into account the weight of the vehicle that falls on the tires, it is unlikely that the sidewalls will keep the repaired area in a safe condition. As a result, you can expect a tire blowout sooner than you might have expected.
The conclusion is that you will most likely end up changing the tire, even if you try to save it with several repair attempts. However, you must confirm with a technician if your assumptions are correct.
So sorry to disappoint you, but if the puncture affects the tire shoulder, the prognosis is not at all more positive than in the case of a sidewall puncture. The verdict is most likely, you will have to replace the tire unless you come across a magician.
The explanation lies in the fact that tire shoulders are the ones that withstand the greatest pressure. At the same time, the flexes to which they are subjected make them sensitive to potential repair. Even if the technician suggests a plug or patch to repair the puncture, it will not remain fixed for long. So the repair attempts will all fail. In conclusion, prepare yourself to replace the tire, only after you confirm your assumption with a professional technician.
Gashes and cuts
As you already know, the diameter and depth of gashes and cuts matter a lot when the technician decides the fate of the tire. With a large depth, the rubber steel cords are sure to be affected. In such circumstances, the technician could only block the air exit through the gash or cut. But will he be able to restore the resistance of the rubber? Of course not. For this reason, replacing the tire is, again, inevitable.
Driving with a flat tire... What are the consequences?
The consequences for the tire are drastic. Of course, the distance you traveled with the car while the tire had low pressure is very important. But either way, the impact on the tire condition is never positive.
Such scenarios usually lead to a replacement of the tire, only if the distance covered is very small. The explanation lies in the fact that the contact patch between the tire and the road is much too large in the context of the deflated tire.
At the same time, the tire sidewall will be subjected to drastic damage because the edge of the rim directly damages the inner sidewall liner.
It is very important to understand why the tire pressure drops. The reason can be a nail or a puncture with another object. Better identify the reason and remove it before the low pressure irreparably affects the condition of the tire. As a general suggestion, specialists and manufacturers recommend and even insist on checking the tire pressure once a month.
Replacement vs. Repair: when being at the borderline
You may sometimes find yourself in situations where the tire damage is not quite serious. But, while the technician can solve it by repairing it, he still recommends tire replacement. How do you proceed in such cases? I recommend you opt for the safest option and replace it.
If you have the opportunity to choose between a replaceable and repairable tire, choose in favor of safety. Once the tire is repaired, there is always the risk that the damage will reappear, causing inconvenience on the road. But with a tire replacement, you are more likely to have a safer ride with minimal risks.
Repair or Replace: Pros and Cons
You already know that when it comes to punctures and cuts, tire replacement is the right way to go in most scenarios. And what happens when it comes to minimal damages, such as sidewall cracks or thin tread depths? Is tire replacement also recommended? Well, it depends on how deep or shallow they are and how strongly they influence the stability of your ride. Let's see when a repair or replacement is welcome in less serious cases.
Many car enthusiasts consider the patching technique when it comes to less severe tire defects. The good part of this solution is that it is very cost-effective. At the same time, you continue to use the same set of tires (with one of them patched) and they continue to wear evenly.
On the other hand...
Patching certain tire damage cannot guarantee safety, as replacing a tire does. At the same time, tire patching is a "single-use" solution because you cannot apply it several times because it affects the general condition of the tires. So balance these arguments in favor or against patching and opt for what offers you the most safety.
When we still decide to opt for the replacement of new tires instead of the damaged ones, we always opt for good and quality tires (at least that's what I hope you do). And what happens when the car has quality tires? That's right, performance increases considerably. This means that a new tire will be much more beneficial for the vehicle's traction. At the same time, you will feel a firmer grip at any turn, acceleration, or braking.
On the other hand...
With the decision to change the tires, prepare to spend some money. Buying new tires is not exactly a cheap pleasure.
Another negative aspect refers to the fact that if you replace a single tire in place of the affected one, it will wear unevenly in relation to the other 3. This phenomenon negatively affects the stability of the car on the road as well as its overall performance. An ideal solution would be to replace all 4 tires. But this solution is even more expensive.
Balance the advantages and disadvantages of tire replacement wisely. Personally, I think that when we decide to buy a car, we assume certain compromises, expenses, and concessions. Respectively, I opt for what ensures comfort and stability in the long run, even if the solution is more expensive.
While both scenarios have benefits and downfalls, I never recommend making the decision alone. When you find yourself with a punctured or cut tire, it is mandatory to visit a technical center. This guide is an estimate so you know what to expect more or less when your tire ends up being damaged. But the final decision of repair or replacement belongs directly to the technician who will evaluate the tire and decide what is best for your safety on the road.