Most Police Tires Are Fixed Wrong

Hendon Media Group recently did a survey of tire stores, gas stations and police garages. We asked them how they fixed a tire with a nail in the tread. Of these, 52 percent fixed the speed-rated flat tire in such a way that either the speed rating was lost, which means a maximum certified speed of 85 mph.

The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association sets the standards for the tire industry. The RMA leaves the tire repair policy and the resulting speed rating up to the individual tire manufacturer. Goodyear has published a very specific procedure to repair a speed rated tire. If the procedure is properly followed, Goodyear is clear: The tire will retain its original speed rating. The H-rated tires remain H-rated, and the V-rated tires remain V-rated. However, Goodyear allows only one properly performed puncture repair for the speed rating of the tire to be maintained.

For their part, Firestone recommends exactly the same repair procedure. However, with an uncertain risk of internal damage caused when the tire went flat, even when the procedure is followed, these repaired tires would no longer maintain their speed rating. After a repair, the maximum speed would be 85 mph, no matter what the original speed rating was.


Survey of Repair Centers

Just because a tire company recommended repair procedure exists does not itself justify a flat to be fixed and the tire put back into normal police service. We contacted 26 tire repair facilities, in equal numbers of tire retailers, service center / gas stations and police garages. The puncture was shown or described to the tire repair centers as a nail in the tread portion of the tire. Not a bolt, or some other large object, but a nail.

Some tire companies classify repair procedures by the size of the damage. In this case, an ordinary nail was the problem. The puncture was also described as being in the center of the tread, i.e., where a repair would properly engage the belts. Most tire repair centers, but not all of them, know that tread shoulder and sidewall repairs should never be performed.

If asked by the repair center, the tire was described as a Goodyear Eagle RS-A, size P225/60R-16. We didn’t volunteer this information because the staff at most tire repair places considers that a tire is a tire. Of all the repair facilities, virtually none asked about the tire. If really pushed for details, the tire was described as from a Ford Police Interceptor used for patrol work. Again, this was not initially volunteered because we didn’t want special “police” treatment. You simply cannot reliably depend on “special police use” attention when your flat is mixed in with three dozen other flats in the stack.

Of the two-dozen repair centers, virtually none asked for details about the end use of the vehicle. Why would they? They are going to fix a flat on a Crown Victoria exactly the same way they will fix a flat on a Buick Regal, a Dodge Neon or a Toyota Camry.

At least two of the repair outfits (one garage, one general tire retailer) knew this was a police tire since the flat was pulled out of the trunk of a fully marked patrol car by a uniformed police officer. It is also fair that the police garages assumed it was a repair to some kind of police tire for some kind of police car.


Survey Results

Of the kinds of repair centers you and your officers are likely to use, 40 percent said they would repair the tire with a plug. Another 12 percent said they would repair the tire with a patch. Another 4 percent said they would repair the flat with a plug followed by a patch. Finally, 44 percent said they would use a one-piece plug-patch combination. That means when it comes to properly fixing the pursuit-rated tires found on virtually all police sedans, 52 percent of these answers are wrong. 

According to both Goodyear and Firestone, the tire should be fixed in one of two ways: 1) with a plug followed by a patch or 2) with a one-piece plug-patch combo-unit. Either way is equally valid. The repair must seal the inner liner. A patch does this. A plug alone does not do this. The repair must also fill the puncture. A plug does this. A patch alone does not do this.


Half of Police Garages Wrong

The police garages were split 50-50 on the use of a plug-patch combo and a plug-only repair. That means half of the police departments’ own garages fix a flat the wrong way. Specifically, they fix a flat tire in a way that limits the tire to a top speed of 85 mph. The unified word from a panel of tire specialists from Goodyear, Continental (General), Bridgestone (Firestone) and Michelin (BFGoodrich) at a recent Police Fleet Expo: “A plug is not a proper repair!”

The tire retailers (not counting the factory franchise stores) are also split at 67-33. One third of the new tire retailers fix a flat the wrong way by using a patch only. And the overwhelming majority of gas stations and service stations, a whopping 87 percent, fix a tire the wrong way with a plug only.

The only good news from the entire survey was that every single factory franchise store, every one of the Goodyear and Firestone stores, repaired the speed-rated tire the right way. “Of the tires we repair after someone else has tried, 90 percent were repaired the first time with a plug,” said DeAnna Paschen, Store Manager at McCord Goodyear in Lafayette, Ind.


The Right Way

Goodyear’s Police Tires web link and Firestone’s Tire Safety web link both spell out the same, proper procedure for the repair of speed-rated tires. This is a long and detailed repair procedure, complete with step-by-step directions. It calls for specific cure times and mandates that the tire was repaired from the inside, the surface was properly roughened, the puncture and sidewall was competently visually inspected from the inside. Of course, t

he puncture must be confined to the tread area only. Unbelievably, repairs to punctures in the shoulder block of the tread and even the sidewall are still performed by some shops.

Restrictions on the number and on the size of the repairs must be followed. On H-rated and V-rated tires used by law enforcement, the tires may be repaired a maximum of one time and the maximum repair diameter is ¼ inch. The tire must still have at least 2/32-inch tread depth for a repair to be performed.

The tire must be removed from the rim. No on-rim fixes are permitted. After the removal of the object, inspect the inside of the tire for cracks, belt separation, or fabric splitting. This is more than just an inspection to be sure the puncture object has been fully removed from the tire. It is a check to see that the inner surface of the sidewall has not been scuffed and abraded too much for the tire to be used, even if the leak is properly fixed.

Use a pre-buff cleaner around the puncture, then a 7/32-inch carbide cutter (for ¼-inch repairs) to clean out the puncture. Always drill from the inside of the tire to the outside following the direction of the puncture. Buff the liner and the plug.

Coat the tire inner liner, the plug, the patch (or the one-piece plug-patch) with chemical vulcanizing cement, and allow the cement to dry. Install the plug and then the patch, or the one-piece plug-patch. Install the separate patch, or the plug-patch combo, with the tire bead in the relaxed (non-spread) position. If a plug is to be used (as opposed to a plug-patch combo) trim the plug 1/8-inch higher than the inner liner. In all cases, trim the plug 1/8-inch higher than the tread surface.


The Real Solution

Based on this survey, two practical solutions present themselves. First, and by far the best, have a “No Repair” policy for pursuit-rated police patrol tires. This can take the form of destroying the tire by piercing or cutting the sidewall. Or the policy can positively identify these take-offs and designate them for non-pursuit detective and admin work. The way most shops are run, however, the odds of this repaired tire ending up back on a pursuit-rated patrol car are pretty good. On the other hand, are you really ready to tell the chief that since he drives an admin car, his car gets once-flattened tires from a pursuit car?

The second solution is to be absolutely positive the correct tire repair is performed. Not just lip service but rigidly following the detailed repair protocol on both the day shift and night shift. Provide the factory documents to the repair facility and get it in writing that this procedure is followed. This is actually possible for the routine and scheduled repair of tires where a police department contracts exclusively with a local repair shop. On the other hand, this is virtually impossible for nearly every other tire repair situation. Keeping the tires repaired by two separate methods, one certified and one dangerous, is a significant administrative liability.


Puncture is Not the Problem

A much broader problem, a much more liability-oriented problem than “plug versus patch” exists with repaired police tires. Just exactly how much hidden damage was done to the sidewall when the weight of the car slammed it between the steel rim and the pavement? Exactly how much structural damage was done as the car was slowing down from freeway speeds with the inside of the sidewall chaffing and abrading the inside of the sidewall? How much internal damage can really occur without actually being visible? How reliable are 100 percent visual inspections?

No professional tire repair facility will repair even a pinhole in the sidewall, and yet your officer rolled the flattened sidewall over on itself. The sidewall was pinched between the pavement and the rim edge of a steel wheel. Gee, the pursuit car only ran with the sidewall abrading against itself for a mile or so slowing down from 100 mph.

In the final analysis, “Is the sidewall OK?” may be a much more serious question about repaired police tires than, “Does the repaired tire hold air?” And, according to quality control experts, a 100 percent visual inspection of anything (like the abraded sidewall) is only 85 percent effective. These are some of the reasons behind Firestone’s reluctance to all the original speed rating to be maintained.

Certified repair procedure or not, the repair to a police pursuit tire remains both a risk management issue, and an officer safety issue. Major departments like the California Highway Patrol and the Michigan State Police have decided the risk is not worth the state contract price of $100 to replace the tire. Goodyear documents indicate a properly repaired tire will retain its speed rating. However, half of the tires are not repaired this way! Firestone indicates the speed rating is lost for any repaired tire. At the least, consider a “policy” of forbidding the use of repaired tires on pursuit-capable vehicles.


Jennifer Gavigan is the Managing Editor of LAW and ORDER, Tactical Response, Police Fleet Manager and The Police Marksman. She can be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2014

Rating : 3.1

Related Products



No Comments

Related Companies

Close ...