Question: I got a flat tire last weekend when I was leaving the Cubs game, and the tire repair cost $40! Why was it so much? Didn’t patching a tire used to cost $10?—Flattened in Libertyville, IL
Answer: Well, times have changed. Gone are the days when patching a tire was a quick and easy repair job.
For safety reasons today, the Rubber Manufacturers Association and tire manufacturers require a plug-patch repair. First, a rubber stem (a.k.a., a plug) must be applied to fill the puncture, and second, a patch must be applied to seal the inner liner. A plug by itself is not an acceptable nor safe repair.
Repairing tires this way properly and safely seals the puncture on both the inside and outside. But it also means we have to remove the tire from the rim to access the damaged area. As you can imagine, this involves a lot more steps—and time—than it used to. (If you like a good technical read before bedtime, you can check out the Rubber Manufacturers Association Puncture Repair Procedures here.)
To repair a tire today, we need to:
- Use a tire machine to remove the tire from the wheel.
- Clean and prep the area around the puncture.
- Apply the tire plug from the inside.
- Remount the tire on the wheel—just like you have done when you buy a new tire.
- Rebalance the tire & wheel—also, what you have done when you buy a new tire.
So what used to be a 10-minute tire patching job is now a multi-step process that takes at least 30 minutes. And if you have alloy wheels, the auto repair or tire shop needs to have special tire mounting and balancing equipment that doesn’t damage the wheels. These two pieces of equipment cost about $25,000.
While $40 may seem like a lot for a tire repair, it’s the result of all the above. I hope this helps you understand why it costs more today than it did years ago. The good news is that you were able to save your tire. A client of ours recently had a nail in a tire and had to replace all four tires because she has an all-wheel drive vehicle. But that’s a blog post for another time.