How To: Fix a Flat Motorcycle Tire
February 18, 2013 - San Diego, CA
Unfortunately, motorcycle tires are not immune to flats. From nails to screws, a ride can go bad quickly without a whole lot of things to prevent it. So what do you do when you get a flat tire? It's not like you can really pack around a spare… Unless you're this guy:
If your motorcycle gets a flat tire, immediately pull off the road when it is safe to do so. Take a moment to check out your surroundings and get off the road where there's minimal risk of being hit by other cars and motorcycles on the road. Once it's safe, dismount your injured motorcycle to check out the problem.
There are quite a few things that can cause a motorcycle tire to go flat. Wear and tear can cause cracking and, if your tires doesn't burst entirely mid ride, can slowly let air out of your tire. To avoid this, always make sure to replace your tires as they wear down. For a guide on how tell when it's time for new tread, check out The Guide to Inspecting and Maintaining your Street Motorcycle Tires.
Most commonly the issue will be a puncture caused by road debris. You can't spot them when riding but nails are often hanging out in the middle of the road just waiting to wreck your tires. Check your tire for where the loss of air is coming from. If you spot a nail in the sidewall, call a tow service. Tire repair kits won't be enough to get you safely back to riding. If the nail or screw is in the tread, there are a few methods for plugging the leak temporarily.
Because tire issues are impossible to predict, always bring a tire repair kit with you on every trip. Hopefull you'll never have to use it but invest the money and space on your motorcycle to always have the following stuff with you:
Tools:Motorcycle Tire Repair Kit
How you can temporarily repair your tire depends on what kind of tire it is. A tubeless tire is an easier fix since you can do it without having to fully remove the tire and wheel from your motorcycle. Just remove the object from your tire and follow the instructions on the tire repair kit. Usually, you will start by working the reaming tool in and out of the puncture before preparing the plug on the insertion tool by coating it with the tire cement. If your motorcycle tire repair kit is the string type, then push it into the hole completely before pulling it back out to reveal half of an inch of excess that you can then cut off to make it flush with the tread.
With the puncture in your motorcycle tire patched up, you'll need to inflate the tire back up to the recommended psi. Most tire repair kits will come with small CO2 cartridges that hold a tiny bit of air each. They're easy to store but when they're empty, you're all out of air. Most of the time they'll contain enough to re-inflate your tire, but some people choose to bring a small hand pump as well to avoid not having enough.
Motorcycle tires with tubes are a bit trickier. In order to fix a flat tire with a tube, you'll have to take off the tire to fix the tube, which also means taking off the wheel and having to bring all of the tools to do so. Here's the things you'll need for fixing a motorcycle tire tube on the fly:
Tools:Tire Repair Kit
Valve Stem Removal Tool
First, remove the object that did the damage before removing the valve stem to deflate the tire and tube completely. Remove the wheel from your motorcycle and find a place to work on it that won't be too harsh on your rims. We recommend the grass or throwing something down under it like a spare jacket or shirt.
Break the bead of the tire with either a portable bead breaker that you packed just in case or by pressing down on it with your boot heel. Once the bead pops, pry the tire over the lip of the rim with your tire iron while protecting the rim with the rim protectors. In order to get the tire bead on the opposite side to move toward the center of the tire, push down on it with your heel as you work with the tire iron on the opposite side. This should allow you to pry the tire over the rim by going hand over hand around the wheel until the second bead finally pops. Just be sure not to dig too deep with the irons or you could damage or pinch the tire tube even more.
Once the tire is off of the rim, pull out the tube and use your motorcycle tire repair kit to patch the hole or replace it all together. If you patch it, use this tube only until you get to a place where you can change it out for a new one. Patched tire tubes should not be ridden on for any longer than you have to.
When the tube is puncture-less, re-insert the valve stem into its hole in the rim and inflate the tube in the tire with either the CO2 cartridge or a hand pump. If your motorcycle has tires with tubes, we recommend investing the money and pace for a hand pump. The CO2 cartridges are handy, but they contain limited air. When putting your motorcycle tire back onto the rim, it can be pretty easy to pinch the tube. If you do, you'll need to re-inflate it another time and you might not have enough compressed air for a second fill. Hand pumps ensure that you never run out if anything goes awry.
With the tube slightly filled, start slipping the tire back onto the rim with one tire iron while the other one holds the tire down. Once the tire is completely on, put the wheel back onto your motorcycle and the re-inflate it.
In case you didn't already know, all of these procedures are meant for emergency purposes only. If you're still unsure how to properly repair your tire, please call a mechanic or tow truck for assistance as an improperly repaired tire can cause an accident. Always replace a repaired tire or tube as quickly as possible.