Clearly, puncturing a tire on an outing is always a pain, especially when you’re just starting out.
Whether it’s a temporary solution to finish your ride or to avoid having to throw away the tire you’ve just bought, a flat tubeless tire can be repaired, you just need to know how. That’s why it’s essential to know the best ways to fix them, which you’ll find in this article.
You’ll discover the two solutions I use to repair a puncture on a tubeless tire – with a plug or with a patch – whether it’s a road or MTB tubeless tire. As a last resort, I have a possible technique if you don’t have the right tools with you.
Everything you need to repair a tubeless tire
Repairing tubeless tires with a plug can only be temporary, in other words, to enable you to finish your bike outing.
You’ll need to take the following with you:
- A tubeless repair kit consisting of an applicator and plugs
- a pump
For a long-lasting repair, you’ll need to apply a glued patch:
- Sanding paper
- Tire repair patch
- Tire glue
- Tubeless sealant
- a pump
Let’s just say it’s a good idea to be familiar with both techniques since they don’t work at the same time.
Temporary repair with a plug and the use of a patch for a permanent repair.
How to fix a tubeless tire with a tubeless plug
When you’re out on the road with tubeless tires or on the trails with tubeless mountain bike tires, you must take along a plug repair kit or a spare tube. In the event of a puncture for which the sealant doesn’t work, you need to fill the hole.
And there’s nothing more effective than a plug.
Step 1: Locate the puncture hole
Identify the leak by sound, touch, or the presence of sealant.
Step 2: Use the file in your repair kit
Insert it directly into the hole. Be careful not to push it in too far, as this could pierce the rim tape, which must remain watertight.
Then make a few to-and-fro movements in the hole to prepare for the insertion of the plug.
Step 3: equip yourself with the plug applicator,
This is a needle with a slit at the end. Wedge the middle of the plug into this slot.
Insert the plug tool and the drill bit into the hole, letting it protrude half a centimeter.
There may be several plug diameters, depending on the size of the hole.
Last step: Remove the tool
The plug will remain stuck in the tire and will be permanently in place.
A few pump strokes and the seal should be restored with the remaining sealant in the tire.
How to fix a tubeless tire with a patch
Ideally, using a patch to repair a puncture in a tubeless tire is a must. The repair takes longer than using a plug repair kit but is much more durable.
First, my advice is to locate the leak before dismounting the flat tire.
As with the previous method, if there’s still air pressure in the tire, this will simplify the identification of the hole. Look for the sound of the air leak, feel for it, or locate the point where the sealant comes out of your tire.
Once you’ve identified the spot, mark it on the outside of the tire so that you don’t lose the mark by rubbing the rubber with sandpaper.
- Dismount the tire with plastic tire levers and wipe away any residues around the hole.
- Rub the puncture area with sandpaper until you have a porous surface on which the glue can stick.
- Apply the glue to the surface, larger than the size of the tire patch to make sure there’s enough.
- Leave the glue to dry for 1-2 minutes before applying and firmly holding the patch.
A little tip: to know when to apply the patch, observe the glue: once it becomes dull, you can apply the patch to your tire.
- Reassemble and inflate the tire.
Ideally, if you’re doing this when you’re out, don’t dismount the tire entirely, so as to retain as much sealant as possible to facilitate sealing when reassembling.
Sewing a tubeless tire
If you don’t hate thimbles, or if your torn tubeless tire is close to your heart (or wallet), you should know that it is possible to sew it.
Sewing your tubeless tire should be a last resort. Generally speaking, it’s a tear or cut that’s too big to be repaired with a patch.
Stitching will bring the edges of larger holes together and fix them, before applying a patch to ensure a watertight seal.
I’m a big believer in re-use and always giving bikes a second chance, but I’m not a fan of this method. I can’t imagine letting a customer leave with a stitched tire. There’s a risk of it bursting, tearing again, or even coming off.
At my place, if the cut is too big to be repaired by a patch, we replace the tire.
My personal tips for tubeless punctures
The plug repair kit is for tubeless tires while the patch kit is for inner tubes. In other words, essential when you’re out. If I have one piece of advice, it’s to not forget it.
However, if you find yourself without one and have a puncture, it’s not all over!
You can temporarily install an inner tube in your tubeless tire, or apply the dollar bill method.
The dollar bill technique
This involves placing a paper bill or other piece of paper or even cardboard inside the flat tire where the hole is.
To do this, once you’ve identified the leak:
- open only 1 sidewall of the tire (to preserve the sealant).
- Place the ticket over the hole in the tire, which should stay in place thanks to the stickiness of the sealant.
- replace the tire and inflate it to the correct tire pressure
The idea here is that it’s easier to make a seal between the tire’s surface and that of the paper than to try to fill the hole, which is surely too big for the means at your disposal.
It’s a bit of a last-chance technique, but maybe next time you’ll think of a repair kit 😉
Tips to limit tubeless tire punctures
Tubeless tire punctures are caused by a lack of sealant. So, to limit the risk of tubeless tire punctures, it’s essential to refill your tubeless tire with sealant.
The function of sealant is to seal air leaks between the tire, the wheel, and the outside world.
Its effectiveness is limited, generally lasting 4 to 6 months.
If you don’t replace it during this period, the tire beads/wheel seal may hold up for a few more months, but if you do get a puncture, there won’t be any fluid to plug the hole.
In other words, the best way to limit the risk of a tubeless tire puncturing is to replace the sealant every 6 months, and if you don’t use your bike much, turn the wheels from time to time to spread the fluid.
How do I know if I need to replace a tubeless tire?
In general, tubeless tires are replaced when the hole is too big to be repaired with a patch, or when it’s the 3rd repair.
How much does it cost to replace a tubeless tire?
Replacing a tubeless tire costs around $10 more than replacing a tube-type tire. In addition, you should allow less than $10 for sealant.
How much does it cost to repair a tubeless bicycle tire?
Depending on the method used to repair a tubeless bicycle tire, you should expect to pay an average of $15 for a tire plug kit and less than $10 for patches.