It happens. And you usually never even know it – unless your tire has gone flat or when you go to check your tire pressure and notice the shiny little ‘bling’ that doesn’t belong on your tire.
Luckily I noticed the nail in my tire as I was pulling the bike out of the garage. But the last time I got a nail in my tire I was on a road trip camping and didn’t notice anything was wrong until riding down the road when my back tire started fishtailing. Yes, pretty scary! That, of course, is a sign that WAY too much pressure had come out of the tire and it wasn’t at all safe to be riding.
Well this time, I decided it was time to learn for myself how to plug a motorcycle tire just in case I don’t get so lucky the next time around.
A Lucky Break
On that previous camping trip I rode with an almost completely flat tire into Kernville, a small town only a few miles away from where I started fishtailing (the key is to ride super slow). Amazingly, there just happened to be a bike shop. And it was open on Sunday! Even more amazing was that the shop opener was a female—and she didn’t turn me away. You may not know this but most shops won’t ‘fix’ tires for you because of the liability. They just don’t want to put their business at risk.
But this one did. The shop owner asked me if I wanted a plug or a patch repair, telling me although the patch would take a little long to do, it would hold better and last longer. Well, after she put it like that, of course I got the patch repair! And an hour later I was on my way. The tire lasted a good two thousand miles before my tread—not the patch—told me I had to replace it.
So what DO you do if there is no shop anywhere around? Or if there is, but they refuse to repair it for you?
Fear not. If I can do this so can you. You’ll see in my video the repair was a little bit challenging—and I definitely had a couple of “blonde” moments that you’ll probably laugh about, but the point is it can be done just so long as you have the proper tools available.
Plug a Motorcycle Tire Video
We all know how important our tires are so let me add this disclaimer: Plugging a tire is not the optimum solution. Replacing your tire with a new one is. But if you need to get home, and would rather not abort your trip by calling AAA, this will get you where you want to go. And as long as you regularly monitor the tire pressure and avoid high-speed race-like riding, you can extend the life of your tire with this simple motorcycle tire repair.
With that said, at the time of this writing I’ve ridden an additional 3,000 miles on this tire without any air leakage whatsoever!
What I learned from plugging a motorcycle tire
I’m kind of a research nut, so before making the video I found a great article on Revzilla called How to Repair a Flat Tire on the Road. It’s definitely worth checking out as it goes into more detail, especially regarding whether or not you should even plug your tire. Plus there are other do’s and don’ts you can read about on Revzilla.
Getting the nail out was the easy part. Reaming the tire was not so easy. One thing I learned was the tool in my existing tire kit didn’t work out so well and needs to be replaced.
This one. It’s a combo tire reamer / plugger. It may be efficient for saving space but in the real world I just couldn’t get a good enough grip with it.
The big plastic handle on this one was much easier to use.
If you’ve got an air source, just let the air out of the tire. The reaming process will be easier without all that pressure. The reamer needs to go all the way in to the handle and then moved back and forth to open the hole and remove any debris. Also, keep it at the same angle, following the path the nail took.
Apply glue generously along the string and in the tire hole. The glue will act as a lubricant to get the string in the hole easier. When done don’t wipe off the glue. Just leave it be.
When snipping off the extra string make sure to cut it flush and don’t pull on it or twist it. Also, if using side cutting pliers, the farther you get the string into the jaw of the pliers the more leverage you’ll get, making it snip easier.
To be on the safe side you can take it one extra step and check for leaks with soapy water to see if any bubbles are coming out.
After plugging a tire make sure to keep checking your tire pressure. If you lose a couple pounds of air pressure you’ll know it’s not holding. The good news is that you can always push the string inside the tire and do it again.
If plugging a tire is too much trouble, there’s always AAA Roadside Service!
Tools used to plug a motorcycle tire
To remove the nail I used a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers
Tire plug handle kit. Get a tire patch kit with a big handle like this popular one from Slime. It comes with the reamer, the plugger, some sticky string, and glue.
This is handy for cutting the sticky string. But a razor blade works just as well — and is smaller to carry!
I carry the Stop & Go Mini Compressor in my motorcycle tool kit. Although I cheated with the garage compressor in the video, if you are on the road you’ll need something like this to put air back in the tire.
In case you are wondering about the bling tire valve caps I used here’s a close-up.
They come in packs of 12 so you don’t have to worry if you lose one or if it mysteriously disappears. You’ll have extras. There are several different colors to choose from.
Sparkle Rider also has some other cool caps you can check out too.
Have you ever plugged your own motorcycle tire? Or would you be willing to? Tell us in the comments below.