Can you patch a motorcycle tire?

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Patching motorcycle tires is a practice that happens more often than tire replacement does. It is a quick fix that most riders will use in cases of emergencies. Not just with motorcycles, but with cars and bicycles too. The big question, however, is on whether it is a proper practice or should riders avoid it.

Motorcycle tire bursts are inevitable. They are part and parcel of the riding experience and it is almost certain that every rider will experience one of these when they least expect it. It is perfectly alright to patch the inner tube as a temporary measure as you to replace it at the first opportunity. Your tire burst may happen while you are off-road and you will need time to get back on- road and find a dealer to replace the tube. Your only option will be to patch it up to get there.

Patching up a motorcycle tire.

Patching up your tire is a pretty easy process that you can do on your own within a short time. Most repair shops will not patch up your tubes as they do not want to bear any liability in case of an accident. Whether riding as a hobby or racing commercially, you must have with you a puncture repair kit every time you ride. Racing with a repaired tube is not recommended at all and it is wiser to carry a replacement tube in your trail bag. Installation takes less time and costs even less than patching it up.

Once you realize that you have a leak, you have to dismount it so that you may locate the specific spot where it is deflating from. The leak may be due to perforation by a foreign object so you will begin by taking this out. Buff out the area around the leak and clear it off any dirt or debris. Once it is clear, apply rubber cement, let it dry out then push the quill through the hole. Press on the patch and ensure that is airtight. Inflate your tire and test for leaks. You may use soapy water on the area to test if the patched area is airtight. Ride out and recheck every few meters to ensure the patch is well held together.

When shouldn’t you patch up your motorcycle tire?

Motorcycle dealers do not advise riders to patch their motorcycle tires and more so when they are damaged over and beyond the set thresholds. Once a puncture has been identified, the wheel must be assessed to identify how extensive the damage is.

  • Punctures larger than 7mm or ¼ inch should not be repaired. These could cuts or gashes from sharp foreign objects. Once the tires’ steel belts have been cut through, the reliability of the tire is highly compromised and it is best to replace the tire once it is damaged this way.
  • If the damage is recurring to a particular spot that has been previously repaired or could compromise a previously repaired area. Instead of overlapping repairs on the same spot over and over again, replace the tire or the tube immediately.
  • If the damage to the tire extends to the sidewall or shoulder, then forget about patching it up. Repairs are a reserve of the tread area only and beyond this, the tire must be replaced. The sidewall repair is dangerous because it flexes too much and will rip apart the patch in no time. There is no support for the patched area here.

If you must patch up the tire, ensure that it is done well. Use a proper vulcanizing material filling with a solid rubber stem. A patch must then be fixed on to the inner liner as the final step of repairs.

Is it safe to ride on a patched motorcycle tire?

When it comes to safety and patching and plugging of motorcycles, the first rule should be, do not! As mentioned, no dealerships across the state will plug or patch motorcycle tires. Patching tires means increased risk whose liability no one is ready to bear.

No matter how well you feel you have patched your tire, you must take precautions when riding out on it. Most dirt and superbikes use the tubeless tire system. Plugging tubeless tires is a more secure solution. If done well, it is a permanent solution and will keep the tire going until its original expected lifespan or live out the rest of its remaining mileage.

For a regular motorcycle, with the tubed system, patching the tire could be a relatively easy affair or a messy risky affair with dangerous repercussions. Ensure you know well what you are doing when doing the patching work. Follow all precautions, do not ride at high speeds, extreme off-road terrains and replace the tire at the first opportunity.

Cost of patching vs. replacing a motorcycle tire.

Patching a motorcycle will not cost you much more than $20 if you need to have someone do it for you. Remember most dealerships will not repair tires, but your mechanic could do it for you at a minimal cost. If you have perfected the art of doing your repairs, then there is no cost attached, just a few items out of your puncture repair kit.

A new tire costs anything between $200 and $250. If your tires have served you well and lived up to their expected lifetime and mileage, then this is a reasonable cost. Peace of mind is an important ingredient in a rider’s journey and patched tires will have you constantly worrying about sudden blow-outs and botched repair works.

Plugging a tire cost more or less the same as patching the tubes. It will be worth it if done as a permanent repair job. Get a well-qualified and verified mechanic or dealer who is trained to do it professionally.

To patch or not to patch.

The jury is still out on this one in the riders’ community and even among motorcycle purists. There is a huge division where one side is perfectly okay with patching and plugging and the other is vehemently against repairs of damaged tubes and tires. A breakaway group advises on repairing just the rear tires and not the front ones, citing less control over the front tire in case of an emergency. There is a high risk of been thrown off in case of an incident affecting the front tire.

In deciding whether or not to patch your motorcycle tire, you must remember;

  • Not all damages are reparable and you must familiarise yourself with the limits before trying to do any patching.
  • There are risks associated with riding around in patched tires and you need to know them well enough.
  • Patching is not and should not be considered a permanent fix. It should only be used as a temporary and stopgap measure.

Protective measures for your wheels are important to take as you ride out. Know your territory well enough to know what to expect. Areas that have been under constant constructions are risky to ride out on and you should avoid them. Have your wheels well checked during service to check for slow leaks and replace your tubes once they hit their set mileage.

Remember, your bike carries your life every time you get on it, make wise decisions as far as patching and taking care of your tires goes.

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Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.
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