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Plugs vs patches for tubeless bike tires what’s better and for what sizes

Plugs and patches are always there to save the day when things go south on trails or on roads when you are biking and the sealant is failing you as well but both of these are different and each of them is good for a certain size and certain time.

But patches are not relatively famous or liked by people and they prefer plugs which I do not consider more effective than patches for the long term. As a long-term solution patches are much more efficient than plugs and a combination of both is much better.

Here is the outline of the topics.

How big of a cut/hole can plugs and patches cover

How to apply patches to a tubeless tire (The right way)

How big of a cut is too big for plugs and patches and what to do if that happens

Are tubeless plugs better than patches

Can you use tube patches on the tubeless

Are there specific patches for the tubeless tires

how long do the patches last

Major Conditions when plugs fail and patches are used.

Which Is Used In Emergency Conditions?

The lifespan of tire plugs?

Here are all the questions I think that you should know if you run into troubles like this or if you are in one already.

How big of a cut/hole can plugs and patches cover in a tubeless tire :

There is a limit to how big of a cut or hole that you unfortunately got can patch and the plugs can close after that we need to use other methods to punch those bigger holes, to be exact

Plugs can cover holes from 3mm to 6mm trying to patch holes larger than that will make the tires weaker in long term usually for 5 mm holes or larger we would utilize plugs, sealant, and patches as the best and long-lasting solution.

Relying on plugs to seal cut longer than 5mm is not a very wise choice the sealant will constantly leak from that spot and as the tire gets older that crack will keep on increasing so this is not the most effective way it’s only a very good temporary solution though.

Plugs donot work on the tubeless sidewalls the best way to seal big gashes on the side walls is to use patches on them not the plugs.

But a patch will slow down that process so they are much more efficient course the hassle is bigger you have to take the tire off and remove the sealants etc but it’s worth it.

And the thing that bugs people the most or what they fail at is the way to apply the patches it’s fairly simple but a lot of people make the mistake of it being too simple and they don’t do it the right way which brings us to the next topic.

How to apply patches to a tubeless tire (The right way) :

When I say the right away there are certain things that you tend to ignore and here are those things.

  1. All types of glues or adhesives don’t work with patches
  2. the patch must always be 2 to 3 times bigger than the puncture
  3. and last but not least you can’t just slap on the patch there’s a certain way to do it.

Super Glues don’t work with the patches :

super glues don’t work with the patches there are two reasons for that.

  1. they harden too quickly and may not seal the whole area completely if supplied incorrectly
  2. they are to some extent water-soluble or lose their efficiency in the presence of water

and about water, it even clearly says on the glue packs like this

picture of super glue

as the picture shows super glues effect lessens if they come in contact with the water

and sealants have plenty of water in them and they won’t stick very well.

glues or adhesive materials like rubber cement is better to apply with patches because you can easily spread them on the patches so that they cover the whole area and stick well to the tire surface.

picture shows tire patches


Next when you have both of these here’s the correct way to apply them.




How big of a cut is too big to be covered with patches :

Any cut exceeding 7mm would be too big for a patch to cover on its own there are lots of things you can do about it if in case you come across something like this.

The most effective way would be to apply car patches instead of bike tire patches if the cut is bigger than that then use a piece of the old tube but before doing that make sure that you plug the tire as well and try if you can cover the maximum area with plugs and sealant after that apply the tube patch on it from the inside.

To apply it cut the tube piece and shave some rubber off the tire as well as the patch that you prepared otherwise it won’t hold better than patch it as a regular puncture as I have explained above.

Tube patches vs tubeless patches :

tubeless patches usually come with the whole kit and they are basically pieces of latex rubber and same with the tube patches they are latex rubber as well tubeless patches are much denser than tube patches.

But as far as efficiency and usage are concerned tubeless patches are best for bigger slashes in the tubeless while tube much is much better for the smaller punctures 3mm-4mm.

How long do tube or tubeless patches Last :

tubeless and tube patches both last pretty long in almost every case they last longer than the tires themselves if applied correctly that is.

Other than that they have a very long life span on their own and they won’t tear down or dissolve inside the tires due to sealants or other things, but they do tear down if the same spot gets pinched by a thorn or a piece of glass but usually sealant will take care of it.

Major Conditions When Plugs Fail And Paches Become Necessary For Tires?

When plugs fail then patches are the second option for tubeless tires, these patches are not used on the first try on har and aggressive terrains, the reason is that using these patches, you have to uninstall tires from the rim, and also the tools of the unmounting of tires are much heavier, most riders avoid them to carry on the trails, and plugs are much lighter, their function is also easier and not much complicated for recovering tubeless punctures and flats, but there are major conditions in which these plugs fail, continuous failing of these plugs on same puncture place would not be repaired through these plugs and then tires need patches.

If the tire is constantly puncturing from the same place and you have used tire plugs almost 4 to 5 times, and these fail and do not perform better in filling leakage holes of tires, then patches become necessary for those tires.

Which Is Better Plug Or Patches In Emergency Situations?

The plugs process is done on the surface of the tires without uninstallation of the tubeless tire and saves a lot of your time in emergency conditions, that’s why riders mostly carry plugs with them on the trails due to their less weight and quick response.

Although plugs are good only in emergency situations these are not long-lasting when you compare them with the patches of tubeless tires, plugs are just for temporary use, and these can hold air for small mileages, that place which has been punctured on the tire, you have to use patch further when you have reached your home or any mechanic shop. even on the plug kit which you have your own, you can read the instructions carefully, it is written about the plugs that these are only for temporary use.

Basic Concept of Using Plug or Patches Depending On Puncture Types:

it is important to be aware of each and every type of puncture due to which air started leaking through the flat places, there are 2 types of punctures, cut line punctures and deep hole punctures.

For cut line punctures we cannot use plugs because the cut is many millimeters long from one head to another, because the puncture is bigger than a simple hole, patches are used for these cut line punctures to cover them thoroughly.

Another puncture type is small tiny holes in which any nail or thorn penetrated deeply within the tire and the punctured area is small, which confirms that plugs would totally cover this flat hole and there is no need for patches.

Lifespan Of Tire Plugs?

There is an appropriate method and skill for using tire plugs on puncture holes, but if it is done wrongly then after a few rides you will notice the exact puncture place would also start leaking air.

 The exact lifespan of tire plugs is even more than 10 years if you have used them accurately if you want to make plugs life much longer even many years then use 2 plugs instead of one in a punctured area.