Got A Tiny Nail In Your Tire? Your Questions Answered

When you discover a tiny nail in your tire, it can be difficult to know what action to take.

When you have a large nail sticking out of your tire, it can be pretty obvious that you need to take action immediately, but what about a tiny one?

The problem with judging whether a nail is big or tiny is understanding that a lot of the nail could be below the surface and stuck in the rubber of your tire. You don’t really know how long the nail is and how much penetration has occurred. 

However, here are a few pointers to help. 

You can normally judge a nail’s length by its diameter and head size. The head is the area you would hit with a hammer to force the nail into wood or brick.  

Long nails normally have quite a wide diameter and head size because anything too thin would likely buckle under the weight of being hit with a hammer. 

Therefore tiny nails are generally very narrow and short. It’s quite rare for a tiny nail to be able to puncture the rubber of a tire. Normally they would bend and fall out.

Much is made about the tread thickness on tires, but not much is mentioned about how thick the carcass is. The carcass is the area that the tread is molded onto.

This includes the sidewall and the areas between the trade clocks. The depth of the carcass is normally 8 to 9 mm. 

The tire tread blocks are around the same depth, so the total tire depth, including the carcass, equals 16 to 18 mm. 

Therefore if the tiny nail is in a tread block, it is very unlikely to cause any long term damage as its length won’t exceed 16 mm. This assumes that your tire is new and you have not worn away through driving a lot of the tread pattern already.

There is always a temptation to remove something that shouldn’t be somewhere, and I understand the urge. 

If the tiny nail is in the tread block and isn’t causing a leak, then it might be best to leave it in situ, as removing it could weaken the structure and eventually lead to a leak, even if one doesn’t occur right away.

If the nail is in the sidewall or between the tread blocks, it may work further in and eventually cause a leak. 

If so, you have a dilemma between leaving the nail in situ and hoping it doesn’t work its way further in and cause a leak or removing it and cause a leak that wouldn’t occur if you had left it alone.

It’s worth bearing in mind that any hole in the sidewall cannot be repaired, period. 

The sidewall is often overlooked but plays a vital role in keeping you safe on the road.

While the tread blocks disperse water and help you grip the road, the sidewall actually creates the tension that stops your tire from collapsing on itself. 

thin nail in tire

Whereas a hole between the tread on the road surface of the tire can be repaired.

Depending on your tolerance for uncertainty really dictates what action you should take.

A tiny nail could sit quite happily in the tread block or between two blocks in your tire until it needs to be replaced through normal wear and tear or could work its way further in if not taken out. 

Whatever you decide, resist removing the nail when you haven’t taken steps to repair a puncture should removing the nail cause a leak.  

Sometimes the nail actually prevents a leak from occurring, and its removal can cause the tire to lose air quite quickly. 

Therefore if you are looking to do a repair yourself, ensure you have a tire plug kit available to affect the repair as soon as possible and that you have the time to do it and are in a safe place such as your driveway or quiet road.

Your best course of action would be to take your car to a tire shop and get them to inspect your tire, remove the nail and effect any repairs.

Doing this means you have the peace of mind of knowing that your tire will not leak air and it has been repaired by professionals rather than doing a DIY job at home yourself.

tire shop repair tires

A tire shop will only charge you between $10 and $15 to remove a small nail and plug the tire if needed. Hopefully, a plug will not be needed, and the nail hasn’t gone through the carcass.

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you have already plugged the tire once,  you should think carefully before plugging it a second time. 
Here, we discuss plugging a tire twice or more and if and when you can safely do it.

If your tire is close to the minimum tread level, it might be time to replace it rather than repair it. It can be more cost effective and safer to replace rather than plug tires. is an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

We like this mushroom tire plug kit at Amazon. Even if you don’t need to repair a flat today, they are a must-have glove compartment accessory to stop you from ever being stranded with a flat in the future. Tire Repair Kits

Sometimes a new tire is the better option if your tire is old or has been damaged before.

We recommend Priority Tire. They often have clearance sales that result in the cost of a new tire being little more than the cost of repairing the damaged one.

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