Last updated on August 30th, 2018
Nothing sucks more than that feeling when you hop on your bike all geared-up for a ride, start the engine and give it a few revs…only to notice something feels odd when you try to back it out. Yup, you’ve got a flat tire. As much as that will ruin anyone’s day, thankfully it’s pretty quick and easy to take care of. Here’s how to permanently repair a flat motorcycle tire with a Dynaplug Tire Repair Kit. Let’s start!
Note – This tire plug method is only considered permanent for speeds up to 90 mph (as certified by UTAC) when the puncture is made by a sharp object with the diameter of a 16d penny nail (approx. 4.2mm). For reference, about 97.5% of crown punctures in auto tires are made by objects 4.6mm (about 3/16″) or less in diameter. But that’s still better than most other repair kits out there.
So, you have a flat tire, huh?
On average, drivers in the US get a flat every 14,636 miles. So it’s not a question of it’ll happen as much as when it will happen. But don’t worry – As long as you have planned for it in advance, it shouldn’t stop you for too long.
Hopefully, you’ll notice it before you get on your bike and start riding. If you’ve ever driven on a motorcycle with a flat rear tire, it’s an experience you’ll never forget – It’s like riding on ice, with the rear sliding everywhere. At least it’s something you won’t be able to ignore. On the other hand, if bad luck has it that your front tire is the one with the impromptu glory hole…then you’ll probably have a regretful crash story to tell at the bar.
For obvious reasons, if the flat tire does catch you while riding, you’ll want to stop ASAP. Don’t wait until the next exit, much less the next gas station. Stop right at the shoulder of the road if necessary. Even if you just have the suspicion of a flat tire. And don’t hit the brakes hard either – that’s a great way to turn a flat into a crash. Just ease off the throttle, pull in the clutch and gently roll to a stop as smoothly as possible.
What you’ll want in your tire repair kit
Dynaplug Tubeless Tire Plug Kit
I use a Dynaplug repair kit for tubeless tires. There are a few models, but they’re all pretty similar. Considering that it doesn’t expire, you’re guaranteed to need it eventually and a single use pays for itself; it’s a no-brainer even for the premium models.
The main options for motorcycle tyre plugging are the economical Dynaplug Carbon Ultralite (if you just want the cheapest one that’ll work), the Dynaplug Ultralite if you want a model with an aluminum body, and the Dynaplug Pro which includes more repair plugs, an air stopper, a reamer and a case. Either is fine depending on your tastes. I typically buy the Pro for my daily drivers and the Ultralite for family vehicles.
The main advantage this plug kit has compared to others is that it’s a permanent fix for small punctures in tubeless tires (both cars and motorcycles). The other advantages is that it’s super compact, making it perfect for a motorcycle’s reduced storage space.
Multi-tool with knife and pliers
While you’re playing your luck if you don’t carry a tire repair kit, it’s downright foolish if you don’t at least carry a quality multitool. You’ll use the pliers and knife way more often than you’ll ever need to fix a flat tire.
Above you’ll see pictured the Leatherman Signal I carry on my bike, though an equally good (cheaper) option I can recommend is the Leatherman Rev. Anything as fine as long as it has a sharp blade and sturdy multi-jaw pliers.
It does you no good to repair your flat if you still have to call a tow truck anyway because it has no air pressure.
Regrettably, it’s generally not plausible to fit an air compressor in most sport bikes. Instead, the two best options are either a CO2 Tire Inflator and some CO2 Cartridges, or a 2-in-1 CO2 Inflator/Hand Pump. For reference, you need about 6x 16g CO2 cartridges to fill a completely empty tire up to 30 PSI. Nonetheless, if the tire isn’t totally flat, much less will suffice. And in any case, you don’t need 30 PSI just to slowly drive to the nearest gas station. Neither option is perfect, but it’ll get the job done in a pinch.
Of course, if you do have space for a compact tire inflator, that’s definitely the most preferable option. Either way, you’re gonna want to choose one for your kit.
Notes – There is one distinct advantage CO2 cartridges have over small electrical tire inflators. CO2 inflators are much more capable of reseating a tire’s bead if it somehow comes off during a flat. It’s unlikely, but definitely not impossible and worth keeping in mind.
What about the other tire repair kit options?
There are a few other options for emergency tire repair you might wanna consider besides Dynaplug. Personally, I think their disadvantages outweigh their advantages, but you can be the judge of that.
On one hand we have the classic tire plug string kit. Though they are dirt-cheap and ubiquitous, there are a few issues with them. They are never considered a permanent repair, require rubber cement (that can dry up before it’s ever used), generally require reaming the tire (which can damage tubeless tire belt) and are difficult to apply. I think I’ll pass.
The other option is a mushroom tire plugger. It’s definitely interesting, but repairs are hit or miss, they are never permanent and it also requires tire reaming. These could be awesome if they included self-vulcanizing plugs, but they generally don’t. Also, you need a finicky tool to insert them which is prone to trouble. All in all, it’s not a bad option, but Dynaplug is overall better. At least in my opinion.
Nonetheless, if you find either of those options preferable for any reason, go for it. Anything is better than nothing.
Note – PLEASE don’t use Slime
Did you notice how those cheap cans of “Fix-a-Flat” weren’t mentioned? That wasn’t a mistake. I don’t know what sucks more, that or Slime Tire Sealant. The worst part? It isn’t even reliable. Half the time it won’t save you from a trip to the mechanic and the embarrassment of explaining why the tire’s fresh full of schmoo. Not to mention that you will pay extra for the privilege of forcing a mechanic to scrape all the gunk off of his expensive tire repair tools. Just don’t.
Tubeless Motorcycle Tire Repair – How-To
Step 1 – Find the leak, and mark it
The first step is obviously to locate the leak – or make sure you have a tire puncture at all.
In this case it didn’t take too long to find, but you might not be so lucky. Listen for any hisses. If that doesn’t suffice, douse it with soapy water – eventually it’ll turn up. Once it does, mark the hole with a shop crayon.
Be aware that, while odd, it isn’t unheard of to have more than one puncture. Make sure to check the tire in its entirety. When José’s toolbox falls off the truck on the way back from Home Depot, that type of thing can happen.
Also worth mentioning is that the further away the puncture is from the center-line, the more risky the repair. Given the amount of heat and flex the tire’s edges can experience, it may very well be beyond the bounds of what your average motorcycle tire repair kit can fix. In case of doubt, always have the tire repaired from the inside with a proper mushroom plug patch.
Note – We’re working with tubeless tires here
This DIY is written with tubeless tires in mind, as applies to most modern sport and touring bikes these days. If you have a tubed tire – frequently identifiable by spoked rims – then a whole different process applies. In that case you would need a tire repair kit specifically for tubed tires – generally composed of patches. You’d also have to remove the rim for the repair.
Step 2 – Resist the urge, and leave the sharp thingy in place
If you caught the leak before the pressure went down to zero, leave the object in place. It makes plugging the tire easier later on.
However, if you’re convinced that the tire is already completely empty, then you can pull it out. I know how satisfying that is. Feel free to destroy it with extreme prejudice so it never causes anyone a flat again.
Curious side note – Did you know that tires are more likely to get punctured when it’s raining? Apparently that’s so because water lubricates the debris allowing for easier penetration of the rubber tread. Take a peak here for a quick demonstration. Who would’ve guessed? I suppose that’s all the more reason to pack a poncho with your tire plug kit.
Step 3 – Bring out your tire repair kit and get it ready
Hopefully, you always carry a tire repair kit anywhere you go on your motorcycle. I know I do. If you don’t, take a second look at the recommended options above. Without that, this info isn’t gonna do you much good.
Bring it all out, make sure you have everything you need, and set it up. That will include placing whichever plug in whatever tool your tubeless repair kit comes with, and leaving it ready for immediate penetration.
By the way, if you ever have to fix a flat on the side of the road, use a high visibility safety vest. Way too many drivers get hit that way to downplay the risk. I keep a compact high-vis mesh vest folded underneath my seat for situations just like this. They’re cheap, light-weight and adjustable so there’s no excuse – Don’t be lazy and use it.
Step 4 – Remove the item, and prep the hole if necessary
It’s time to remove the offending item and plug that bugger. In this case it was a pretty mean self-tapping screw. Oh well. At least the head was intact making extraction easy enough.
For me, the tire was dead-empty, so I didn’t have to worry about working fast. YMMV. The hole was also clean and smooth so it didn’t require any prep. If you’re using a repair kit that requires reaming, do so now. One downside of any kit that requires enlarging holes for plugging is that it weakens the tire’s carcass. Not to mention the damage to the bands. That’s one reason why I prefer the Dynaplug tire plug kit used here.
Step 5 – Start plugging the tire
The moment of truth – Time to plug the tire. Using this Dynaplug tool, insertion couldn’t be easier. It definitely takes less effort than using one of those little hooked plungers that comes with typical tire repair kits. You just load the plug into the cylindrical tube, push the tool all the way into the tire, and pull it right out.
The pointed brass head really helps push away any belt cords as well as ease application. As you pull it out, the head will catch on the inside of the tire’s carcass and keep the plug in place. If the head falls off inside the tire, it will quickly disintegrate without damage, as it’s a really soft metal. Then, the viscoelastic rubber plug will start to meld with the tire without the need of rubber cement.
Step 6 – Repeat if necessary and test the seal
If you’re lucky, just one plug will do the job. In that case, the fix is generally considered a permanent repair. Some soapy water (or if need be, spit – c’mon, we’re all adults around here) will help confirm whether it is.
However, not all punctures are that small. In my case, I wasn’t as lucky and I had to use three. You can use up to four plugs, if necessary. If that’s your situation, just push aside the tails of the previous tire plugs and insert another plug.
I’ve used this kit plenty of times before, and to the date it has never failed to get me back on the road again. If by any chance you get a puncture that requires more than four plugs, there’s probably nothing that can avoid you a quick trip to the mechanic.
Once the repair looks good, test the puncture site for leaks. Hopefully there’s still some air pressure left in the tire to aid you with that. As annoying as it may be, you really want to make sure before continuing to the next step. It’s a lot easier to add more plugs if the string tails are still in place.
Step 7 – Cut the tire plug flush to the tread
Once you’ve verified that the tire is leak-free (hallelujah!), we can start finishing up the job. Cut the tire plug as flush to the tire’s tread as possible. You don’t want it to get pulled out by friction or catch on anything.
Here I’m using my trusted Leatherman Signal for the job. Keeping a multitool on you whenever you ride is just as important as carrying a tubeless tire repair kit – if not more. I’ve definitely used my knife and pliers more times than I can count for on-the-spot fixes. It’s just one more important part of any rider’s EDC kit.
Step 8 – Fill the tire back up with air
But you’re not ready to hit the road quite just yet. We’re gonna have to fill that motorcycle tire back up again. That’s a pretty easy job if the puncture happens at home, but on the road it may not be as simple.
The most compact option are CO2 cartridges. However, they are not without downsides when it comes to emergency tire repair. It’s a risky choice in the sense that you don’t get second chances and rarely will a single cartridge suffice. That’s why I prefer 2-in-1 tire inflators for emergency situations.
By the way, if you’re curious (I was) the pressure inside those little CO2 canisters is typically around 850 PSI. You definitely wouldn’t want to puncture that by mistake.
In any case, all the methods have the same goal. Fill up the tire just enough to get to the nearest gas station with a proper air compressor. You’ll have to decide on your own which is most suitable for your motorcycle’s tire repair kit.
Note – If you aren’t familiar with checking your tire pressure or topping them off on a periodic basis (in which case, shame on you!), you can find the correct tire pressure for your bike on a sticker. Normally it’s somewhere on or near the rear swingarm. If you want a ballpark “default” value anyway, around 30 to 35 PSI is generally standard.
Step 9 – Test the tire plug one last time
Test…and then test again. There’s no need to keep talking about the risks of a flat tire on a motorcycle. Before concluding the repair finished, you really want to make sure it was successful. Slow leaks are not okay.
If you see any bubbles, take the bike to a repair shop. There they can take the tubeless tire off and plug it from the inside.
Job’s done. What now?
Great! So you’ve plugged the tire and it isn’t leaking. Now what? Well, that depends.
Should you always have your tire professionally repaired after a puncture? Of course you should – but you already knew that. What you’re wondering is if not spending hard cash at the local mechanic is going to end up in a more costlier crash. No one can answer that for you, so you better not expect me to. Anything is possible.
If you used the Dynaplug tire repair kit shown here then you’re probably safe as long as the puncturing item is small – less than about 4.2mm in diameter. Keep in mind that the hole will be smaller than the item. For anything larger you’ll have to decide for yourself. If the repair fails, it can just be a minor inconvenience like it was in this case, or it can be the cause of a fatal accident. Thankfully, with tubeless tires catastrophic failure is much less likely than it used to be – but it’s still possible. And much more so on a repaired tire.
Finally, if you’re at home this is a great opportunity to check your bike for other potential issues. Before they turn into a serious problem like a flat tire. Now is a good time to check your chain tension and alignment, and give your drive chain a good clean and lube.
Keep an eye on tire pressures
What I can say is that if you’re riding on a repaired tire for any amount of time, you have to pay religious attention to tire pressures. For that, there’s no substitute for a TPMS kit (Tire Pressure Monitoring System). As pictured above, the one I have on my bike is this cheap Wireless tire pressure sensor kit. It’s a battery-powered accessory that works with any bike. Basically you just screw the pressure sensors on instead of the tire valve caps, and that’s it. If you have a leak, the display will beep and blink to let you know.
By the way, I’ve also tried other Bluetooth-enabled TPMS systems out there that work with a phone app. They used to be better when Android allowed them to auto-open in the background. Now they’re universally junk. At best they’re impractical and at worse they’re useless – Don’t bother with them. Unless you open the app before any ride and close it afterwards, they won’t alert you should you get a flat tire. These units with standalone displays are much more useful in the real world.
Also worth noting is that the vast majority of flat motorcycle tires are due to either low pressure or a worn-out tread. Checking your tire pressure monthly and keeping an eye on tread depth is just good practice. Plus it’s the best way to avoid the hassle of needing to repair a tire in the first place.
As much as a flat tire is a huge inconvenience, it’s a breakdown cause which is easy to fix. Plus, modern tires have come a long way in the last few decades. You’re less likely than ever to have to replace a tire just because of it. As long as you keep a decent tire repair kit along with your riding gear, you’ll be back on the road in no time.
In my case, the tubeless tire on my Ninja 650 was repaired good enough to ride. As soon as I have a chance, I’ll properly install a mushroom plug from the inside for good measure. Hopefully there’ll be a DIY for that, too.
Anyway, thanks for reading! If you found this interesting, consider subscribing to get notified of similar content in the future. In the meanwhile, here are a few other projects you might like:
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