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lou's garage

I am fortunate that my business is located on a major thoroughfare, which most of the time leads to a steady stream of potential new customers. Often, the ask involves inflating their tires or performing a hasty repair on a tire puncture. While I am eager to introduce myself and my services to new customers, I’m afraid I aggravate many of them by refusing to repair their tires. It’s not that I don’t want to help them. But I want to do it properly and that requires more than the five minutes that they have allotted. Which brings me to my real point. What’s the difference between the two most popular tire repair techniques, a tire plug and a tire patch? And did you know one is illegal? Well, it’s sort of illegal.

The old-school plug repair technique leaves the tire mounted on the wheel. A gooey-coated plug made of a multitude of materials such as rubber and leather strips is then forced into the hole as a temporary repair. The key word here is temporary, as this style of repair was meant to get you safely off the side of the road, and originated from a time period when some had the skill to be able to repair their own tires, on-site. This repair is considered temporary primarily because it does not seal the inner tire liner. Tire plugs are still available today and sold as a temporary tire repair kit. But let’s face it: There are less and less drivers fixing their tires on Sunday morning in their driveway. Unfortunately, there are still many repair shops using this antiquated technique to repair their customers’ flat tires.

The proper way to repair a puncture is to demount the tire from the wheel and then thoroughly inspect the condition of the inner liner. Keep in mind that driving on a flat tire for a block or two will usually cause sufficient damage to the inner tire liner, rendering it garbage. Once the technician determines that the tire is repairable, they must prep the inner tire surfaces according to industry guidelines and use an approved stem/patch along with vulcanizing compound, effectively sealing the injury from the inside out.

The legality is a little confusing, as there is no law that says a tire cannot be repaired with a plug. While I am not a legal professional, the understanding that I have is the assumption of liability. All professionals regardless of industry must follow guidelines as set out by the appropriate industry association. In this case, the tire manufacturer’s association states that a tire must be removed, and the inner liner inspected. They also state that a tire plug alone is an unacceptable repair. Therefore, if you, as a consumer, go to your local parts store and buy a tire plug kit and repair your own tire, you do so assuming your own liability. When a licensed technician or any tire professional repairs your tire and contravenes known procedures, they will be assuming the liabilities of any subsequent tire failures, even if the tire fails from something else.

Next time you are having a flat tire repaired at your repair shop, ask them what style of repair they are performing. If they are still doing it the old-school way, I would suggest it might be time to go looking for a new facility.


Your automotive questions, answered.

I own a 2004 Jetta wagon that I bought when it was three years old, it is a great little vehicle that has served us very well. Some time ago I became aware of a periodic noise from the front right end, and after a thorough search in that area, I discovered that the last three inches of the spring end was broken and was loose. I was able to remove it. The rest of the spring is intact and solidly in place, the car ride is not affected, except for that periodic noise.

I know that spring must be replaced, do I just have that spring replaced or do I need to replace both sides at the same time? Another option I have been presented with is to replace both front strut assemblies with new struts as I am told you can’t replace just one with new. Yet another option would be to get a used strut assembly and just replace the affected side. Apparently replacing one is OK if it used. I am at a loss as to what would be the most cost-effective option, I don’t want to do something that would be detrimental to the car safety/ride. I plan to keep the car for another year or two.

Any light you can shed on my dilemma would be greatly appreciated.

Theo

Thank you, Theo. I may not be the right person to pose this question to because I’m a stickler for providing my customers with options that provide the cleanest, best, longest lasting repairs. Buying used parts such as springs and struts is a recipe for a short-term fix which is opposite to my thinking. Therefore, I will only consider purchasing a used part when it is a big-ticket item such as an engine. When someone asks me to quote a smaller-ticket item that is readily available as new, my tongue-in-cheek comment is always: You already have a used part, why would you want another one?

I do however recognize that many other repair shop owners don’t necessarily agree with me and will price their jobs employing used parts for just about everything. That being said, springs and struts are typically changed in pairs when new. If you do end up finding and using a previously enjoyed, used part for your car, you can certainly just replace it as a single unit, but new is the way to go in my opinion.


This may date me but a significant impediment to my buying a new vehicle is the lack of a CD player. I have not seen new vehicles with them, and I assume no new car comes with one. CDs are still my preferred music source and I have an extensive collection of favourites. Setting aside the logistics of placement in a crowded cockpit, is it technically possible to have an after-market CD player installed in cars now chock full of technological gadgetry without voiding the warranty?

Thanks.

Lari M., Victoria

I feel for you Lari. I used to love sorting through broken jewel cases looking for just that right CD to fill that road trip moment, but Apple CarPlay is just too convenient now. A couple of manufacturers, albeit very few, do still come with a CD option, but even those few will likely fade away soon. So that leaves us with your idea of installing an aftermarket unit.

DIN refers to the radio standard sizing, Single DIN is 2x7″ while a double DIN is 4x7″. Finding a vehicle with a single DIN or double DIN sized radio is also starting to become a little difficult, as manufacturers are no longer strictly adhering to this older sizing. While you can buy adapter plates to fit aftermarket cd players, it’s usually not a clean looking installation and feels out of place in a brand-new car.

Also keep in mind that most newer vehicles employ very sophisticated entertainment systems that are quite often coupled with other features such as their climate control systems. They are also electronically connected to the rest of the vehicle’s management system. So, interfering with these internal factory connections by installing an aftermarket radio may indeed cause warranty issues.

My advice is that if you are buying a new car, just grin and bear it and learn to live with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It’s not that bad, I promise.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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