Can a Motorcycle Tire be Plugged or Patched?

Nail in Motorcycle Tire

You have noticed a small nail stuck in your motorcycle tire. The tire is clearly punctured and you are thinking your next course of action.

Clearly, you are wondering whether or not your motorcycle tire can be plugged or patched.

Can a motorcycle tire be plugged or patched? A motorcycle tire can be plugged or patched. However, most shops won’t patch tires because they will be liable if things go wrong because of that patched tire. If the tire fails catastrophically and the rider is injured, the shops can get sued for the damage.

Shops also make more money by selling a new tire rather than patching them. So, there is that incentive as well.

Unlike a car, if a tire fails on your motorcycle there is a chance of you seriously getting hurt. Usually though, if the patch is at the centre of the tire you will have sufficient time to react when things go wrong. As the patch fails, the loss in pressure will take some time, giving the rider a minute or two to feel the flat tire and pull over.

Still, it is better to be safe than sorry.

You don’t want to pay huge medical bills just because you wanted to save few bucks on a new tire.

Is it possible to plug or patch a tire?

Unless if it is the sidewall, it is completely possible to plug or patch a tire.

Patches are used for inner tubes of the tires. For tubeless tires, you don’t patch but use plugs on the tubeless tire.

However, if the puncturing is on the sidewall or the puncture hole is large, say more than 7mm diameter, you just cannot repair it. No amount of patching or plugging is going to work.

It is very common to plug the motorcycle tires whenever a nail is picked up. And, most of the times, it won’t even cause a problem. Not even losing a single PSI for long miles travelled after.

Even if the tire is losing the pressure, it will take some time to deflate. The rider can heed the warning and act on it by halting the motorcycle.

Also, it is best practice to carry a plug kit with you while going for a long ride. Even if you don’t believe in plugging the tires, you can use the remedy for temporary purposes.

It will help you from being stranded on an empty, isolated road without any shops nearby.

Once you are back from the ride or find a repair shop in your ride, you can opt for replacing the tire.

Then Why do Shops Refuse to Plug or Patch the Tires?

If the inner tube of a tire can be patched and the tubeless tire can be plugged easily, then why do repair shops refuse to plug or patch them?

There are mainly two reasons why shops won’t plug or patch a motorcycle tire.

  1. Liability Reasons
  2. Profitability Reasons

Liability Reasons

Most repair shops refuse to plug or patch specifically a motorcycle tire. This is because unlike in cars, motorcycles have higher risk of damage in case the patch fails.

In a car tire, if the patch fails and the pressure leaks off, the car driver will be able to judge the problem easily and halt the car. Even if the driver didn’t, the worst case will be a flat tire without any accident.

However, with motorcycle tires, the situation is much riskier.

If the patch or the plug fails down disastrously, things might not end well for the motorcycle rider. If the rider was going at a high speed or at a turn when the tire blows out, the situation might result in some serious injuries to the rider or worse, death.

Motorcycle Accident

And this is a liability concern for the repair shops.

If the patch or plug fails and turns out to be the reason for damage, the repair shops will be in serious trouble.

They might be sued for the damage caused just because they agreed to patch up a motorcycle tire.

And that’s why most repair shops are unwilling to take the risk as they might be liable to the damage caused in case the of patch fails.

Profitability Reasons

Apart from the liability concerns, repair shops also have the incentive to refuse patching since selling a new tire brings them more money.

Motorcycle repair shops realize much better profits when they sell you a new tire rather than a simple patching or plugging of the tire.

Usually, plugging a tubeless tire or patching the innertube costs around $20 to $25.

Compare this with replacing a tire that is going to cost you around $250.

Which one of the two do you think the motorcycle repair shop will prefer? Obviously, the new tire.

So, that’s another reason why repair shops insist on replacing with a new tire over plugging or patching.

What do the Tire Manufacturers Say?

Now, we know the retail shops prefer replacing with a new tire whereas the motorcycle riders prefer plugging or patching. But what do the tire manufacturers say about motorcycle tires getting plugged or patched?

Motorcycle tire manufacturers do not recommend plugging or patching your tires. However, they also admit that it depends on a lot of different variables. For example, where the nail is located, how large the nail is, how old the tire is, the size of the tire, the design etc.

Motorcycle Tire

Suppose, the nail is stuck on the sidewall of your motorcycle tire. In that case, it is usually a direct recommendation of replacing your tire with a new one. You can’t plug a side wall damage.

On the other hand, if the nail is hitting the face of the tire, the manufacturer answer is ‘it depends’.

If it is a small hole on your brand-new tire, you will be tempted to go ahead with plugging. Even the tire manufacturers do not have a straight answer here. They still recommend to exercise caution here though. Saving a few hundred bucks is not worth it in exchange for some serious potential accidents is their line of thought.

Why do People Still opt for Plugging or Patching Tires?

So, despite the safety and liability concerns, why do many people still go for having their motorcycle tire plugged or patched?

Firstly, many motorcycle riders feel patching a nail hole in the center face of the tire is no big deal. They have had a nail hole before, they have patched or plugged the tire, and have never faced any problem whatsoever for years.

This first-hand personal experience of these motorcycle riders makes a valid argument. However, just because they have not faced any problems does not mean it is universally applicable. Still, many people go ahead with plugging or patching for their motorcycle tires when faced with a nail hole.

Motorcycle Tire

Secondly, another argument that pro-patchers make is even in the worst-case scenario, the rider will have sufficient time to pull over.

That is, even if the motorcycle tire which is patched, blows out – the pressure in the tire will take sometime to lose out. And that should provide sufficient time for the rider to bring the motorcycle to a halt.

While this is a valid argument, and tubeless tires do deflate at a much slower rate, the tubed tires, on the other hand, deflate fast.

Thirdly, for the rider to face a fatal accident, a lot of things have to work against him/her along with the patched tire failing. The motorcycle should be going at a high speed, rider not detecting the loss of pressure in the tire, and then hitting the debris or skid while turning.

All these things working out together is a rare case scenario.

This one is a weak argument. No matter how small it is, you just can’t risk the chance. And that’s why even if you go ahead with patching or plugging your motorcycle depending on whether it is tubed or tubeless, you should never max out to high speed.

The risk of failing the patch is too high to chance it.

In the End, the Decision is Yours

Or the repair shop guys. Depends on how much you are reliant on the shop guy.

While most repair shops refuse to patch the nail hole in your motorcycle tire, you can always find some other shop willing to do it for you.

In the event that you cannot find any such motorcycle repair shops, you can always do it yourself using a plug kit.

So, in the end, it boils down to what do you prefer? Going ahead with patching and not splurging your money on a new tire, or deciding to replace with a new tire to potentially save thousand-dollar medical bills in case the worst scenario plays out – both the choices are for you to decide.

In case you want to DIY, here’s how to patch a Motorcycle Tire

In the event that you decide to go ahead with patching and want to do it yourself, here are the steps you need to follow.

Motorcycle Repair
  • Remove the puncturing item from the tire. If the puncture is on the sidewall, or the hole is large than 7mm, you just cannot repair it.
  • Check for damages in the tire. Any large tear will make the tire damaged and has to be replaced.
  • Buff the inner lining of the tire around the holed area. Use a file or sandpaper to accomplish this.
  • Insert the patch or plug and remove the covering of the patch from the tire. You can apply rubber cement and allow it to dry down for several minutes before removing the covering.
  • Inspect the Tire now for any leakages. Fill the tire with air and check for air tightness with soapy water.
  • Now, reinstall the tire to the motorcycle and inflate the pressure to the recommended PSI.
  • For the next 1 or 2 days limit the maximum speed to 50 mph. And never exceed 75 mph speed over the lifetime of the patched tire. You don’t want to risk a blow-out.

Despite the back and forth arguments, we believe the cons far outweigh the pros of patching or plugging a motorcycle tire.

Patching and plugging tires is still useful but not as a permanent fix. It is to be seen as on-the-road quick solution so that you can take it to a proper facility and replace the patched tire with a new one.

Summing Up

Here is the summary of this entire blogpost on whether the motorcycle tires can be plugged or patched.

  • Plugging and Patching a motorcycle is completely possible except for – i) when the nail or puncturing item is on the sidewall; or ii) when the puncture hole is large, say more than 7 mm diameter.
  • Plugging is for tubeless tires and patching is for the innertube of tubed tires.
  • Motorcycle repair shops refuse to patch the tires because of 2 reasons: i) Liability concerns and ii) Profitability
  • Liability concerns: If the motorcycle rider faces an accident and the cause turns out to be the pressure loss in the patched or plugged tire, then the repair shop could be liable for the accident. They might be sued for the damages.
  • Profitability: Selling a $250 tire is much more profitable than a $25 patch for the business.
  • Many motorcycle riders still go for patching because of these reasons: i) they have had or heard first hand experience of a patched tire running smoothly for years, ii) In case the patched tire blows-out, the rider will have enough time to react and pull over, iii) for a fatal accident to materialize, along with a failed tire patch, lots of several things should not work in favor of the rider.
  • Motorcycle tire manufacturers do not recommend patching or plugging since lot of variables depend on a successful patch.
  • We recommend not to patch or plug a tire for permanent use. Rather it is to be seen as on-the-road quick solution so that you can take it to a proper facility and replace the patched tire with a new one.