How To Plug & Patch a Motorcycle Tire

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Motorcycle tires can go flat for several reasons and at any time. Please don’t wait for it to happen to you; learn how to plug and patch a motorcycle tire now.

Having a flat is really inconvenient since it can happen at any time for any reason — the most common being the offensively sharp object puncturing your tire’s tread area. This is problematic for several reasons: daily commuters are likely to be late to their destination, weekend riders are going to spend their day at the repair shop, and in most cases, tires would have to be replaced, and we all know just how much motorcycle tires cost.

Luckily, you can plug and patch a motorcycle tire. Plugging is the most convenient option on the road, as it’s time-saving and will get you back on track within 30 minutes. Patching, on the other hand, is more time-consuming but offers longer-lasting results when compared to plugging a tire.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the entire step-by-step process of plugging and patching a motorcycle tire so that you might perform the repair yourself if necessary. We also took the liberty to recommend several repair kits and some accompanying tools that you might need to complete the repair and resume your journey.

To present you with the best possible information, we talked to tire specialists and tire manufacturers, as well as repair shops and shops that offer tire repair kits. We cross-referenced the information we gathered on tire repair and compiled it into this guide so that you might have the knowledge necessary to perform the repairs yourself in case of an emergency.

In this article...


How to Plug a Motorcycle Tire?

There are several different methods when it comes to plugging a puncture in your motorcycle tire, but all revolve around the same working principle: insert a plug into the hole in the tire and inflate the tire with an air compressor or a CO2 cartridge.

However, this also implies having a tire plug repair kit on hand, along with the appropriate installation and repair tools that would enable you to effectively plug a tire. There are several kit sizes on the market, and you can purchase either a minimalist repair kit or a more comprehensive kit with extra tools packed into a travel-friendly carrying case. Here’s a list of things every repair kit should contain:

  • Patches
  • Plugs
  • Plug insertion tool
  • Hole reamer or hole cleaner
  • Adhesive — glue or rubber cement
  • Surface preparation tools like sandpaper
  • Knife for plug trimming
  • Compressed CO2 cylinders
  • Pliers

Please note that a multitool or a pair of pliers often isn’t included in a travel-friendly repair kit, so it’s a good idea to pack your own. With that said, some of the best tire repair kits we can recommend are BikeMaster Tire And Tube Flat Repair Kit and Moose Racing Tire Repair Kit, both of which are available at RevZilla.

With that said, it’s also a good idea to invest in a portable compressor that would plug into a cigarette lighter socket or your battery pre-wired lead. They’re compact enough to fit in your panniers, which won’t add any significant weight. Additionally, they’re an infinite source of air for your tires. CO2 cartridges are great, but you’ll likely need several of those to fully inflate your tire, and if your tire has a small leak after the repair, you’re likely to run out of cartridges.

Good examples of compact air compressors would be Antigravity Batteries Tire Inflator and Slime Power Sports G2 Tire Inflator. Both devices can be powered by a 12V battery pre-wire, used on a wide range of tires, from bikes and motorcycles to cars and trucks. In fact, they’re both equipped with an array of different air adapters, making them suitable for nearly all inflatables.

How to Plug a Motorcycle Tire?

Now that we’ve covered kit content and air compressors, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and plug the motorcycle tire:

  1. Make sure that your bike is safely positioned and secured to prevent tipping over or falling.
  2. Get all your tools out and ready before commencing any work.
  3. Prepare the rubber plug by placing it through the plug plunger — it looks like the end of a threading needle.
  4. Remove the offending object with your multitool or pliers.
  5. Insert the tire cleaner into the puncture hole. Move it back and forth a couple of times to deburr the steel or nylon belt surrounding the puncture.
  6. Apply some adhesive to the plug — this only applies if the plugs you’re using don’t come with a pre-applied adhesive.
  7. Push the plug into the puncture using the plunger, almost all the way to the end of the plug.
  8. Pull the plug insertion tool out quickly and without twisting. The plug insertion tool is designed to be pulled that way, and it should come out quickly, leaving the plugs inside the puncture hole.
  9. Use the knife to trim the protruding plug rubber off. Try to get as even to the tire’s surface as possible.
  10. After trimming the plug, check for leaks. If you’re working in a repair shop or garage, putting soapy water will do the trick. If you’re plugging a tire on the side of the road, some saliva on the plug should do. If any of those solutions bubbles, the tire still leaks air.
  11. Wait 10 minutes for the adhesive to bond, and check for leaks again. If the tire still has a small leak, you can try and apply a patch over it.

Please note that tire plugs aren’t designed as a permanent solution but rather as a temporary fix that would get you back on the road to the nearest tire shop. With that said, there are reports of people riding well past 500 miles without any issues. While that is entirely possible, replacing the damaged tire is always the safest option.

How to Patch a Motorcycle Tire?

Unlike tire plugs, which are basically thick strands of rubber, tire patches are actually pieces of material that are applied to the inside of the tire to fix punctures. The patch is actually adverse to the inside of the tire and seals the puncture, preventing the air from escaping.

Patches are mostly made of vulcanized rubber, though some types are made of synthetic materials or even cork. Regardless of the material, the repair procedure using patches is the same among types but differs from using plugs. Tire plugs have the benefit of rapid repairs, but patches hold better over time.

Also, you should know that patching your tire implies removing it from the rim, which requires additional tools. It’s much more labor-intensive work, especially if you’re performing on-road repair — and if that’s the case, simply use plugs. Here’s how to patch the tire:

  1. Get all your tools out and ready before commencing any work.
  2. Mark the puncture, and remove the offending item while the tire is still mounted on the bike.
  3. Remove the valve stem and remove the tire from the bike.
  4. Inspect the tread and inner liner for damage.
  5. Next, prepare the site of the repair by sanding down the inner liner surrounding the puncture to expose fresh rubber. It’s a good idea to buff an area that’s slightly larger than the patch you’re using.
  6. Apply rubber cement to the repair site and allow it to dry for a few minutes.
  7. Remove the covering from the patch, and push the quill through the puncture hole from the inside.
  8. Cut the quill flush with the tread, and push the patch into place. Press firmly to force out any air from under the patch. It will stay firmly in place thanks to the rubber cement and air pressure from inside the tire.
  9. Fill the tire, and check for leaks using soapy water or saliva.

It’s important to note that, when done correctly, the patch should hold throughout the rest of the tire’s lifespan. However, as with plugs, it’s highly recommended that you replace the tire the first chance you get.

Is Tire Repair Safe?

Now that we’ve gone through all the necessary steps covering tire repair, it’s important to discuss safety. Most big tire manufacturers like Continental, Pirelli, Michelin, and Shinko don’t actually recommend tire repair, even in cases of an emergency. Their recommendation is to call a tow truck and take your bike to the nearest dealership or repair shop — most of which, interestingly enough, share the sentiment of big tire manufacturers.

Other manufacturers, like Dunlop, Metzeler, Bridgestone, and Avon, offer an opinion that’s more in line with what typical consumers want to hear: tire repair in an emergency is entirely viable. In fact, some of them even agree that patching and plugging a tire (a combined method performed by professionals) can be considered a permanent fix if specific criteria are met.

It’s also worth noting that the repairable area of the tire is limited to its crown. Sidewalls aren’t repairable since they don’t have enough structure to hold the plug, and they’re too flexible to hold the patch. Additionally, you can only plug holes and punctures that are smaller than 3/8 of an inch.

The best and safest possible approach to tire repair is to look at it as a temporary fix and have your tires replaced at your earliest convenience.