The sealant used in a tubeless tyre setup is designed to quickly plug small holes, often without you even realising. However, sometimes the size or the location of the puncture will require more than sealant to fix it.
Here’s how to repair a punctured tubeless tyre using tubeless plugs, patches or sewing.
What do you need to repair a tubeless puncture?
To repair a tubeless tyre puncture, you will require
- Tyre levers
- Tubeless repair plug tool
- Tubeless repair plugs
For a more serious or stubborn puncture, you may need a tyre patch and/or a needle and thread.
You may also require:
- Fresh tubeless sealant if your old sealant has dried up
- Replacement rim tape if the original tape is damaged
- An inner tube if you can’t repair the tyre
How to fix a hole in a tubeless tyre using a tubeless plug
Tubeless puncture plugs are a quick and effective solution. With these, there is no need to take off the tyre – just plug, re-inflate and go.
While there are a number of tubeless repair kits out there, most work in a similar way, using a rubber plug to fill the hole.
Once you’ve found the puncture, remove any offending items (a pick or a small pair of pliers are a useful addition to your tool bag for this very purpose).
Next, use your tubeless plug tool to make sure there’s a sufficiently large hole for the plug to enter – carefully insert the spike into the tyre to avoid damaging the rim tape, and twist to give a clean, round hole.
Thread a tubeless plug through the head of the tubeless plug tool. Most tools will come with a choice of different plug sizes to suit the size of the hole.
With the plug in the centre of the tool, insert it into the tyre, making sure you don’t push through fully.
Then twist carefully to slowly remove the tool, leaving the two ends of the plug on the outside of the tyre.
Inflate the tyre to your desired pressure, taking additional caution with high-pressure road tyres, and rotate the wheel so that the plug is at the ground for a few minutes before you get going again. This will allow some sealant to flow into the repair and fully seal things.
You may need to trim the tails of the plug that are left behind, but take care not to cut it too close to the tyre.
How to patch a punctured tubeless tyre
For more stubborn tubeless tyre punctures that can’t be fixed with a plug, it may be necessary to patch the tyre internally. The process for this is very similar to patching an inner tube.
First, you’ll need to roughen the surface that you want your patch to adhere to, using a little sandpaper, making sure there’s no debris left from the puncture. Cleanliness is key when it comes to gluing patches.
Add some vulcanising rubber solution to the area where you want to add the patch, waiting for it to become tacky as per the kit instructions.
Add the tubeless tyre patch and press down firmly. Try to avoid touching the surface that is to be glued because this can contaminate the adhesive.
Depending on the patch type, these may need minutes or hours to dry, before setting the tyre up tubeless as normal.
If successful, a patched tubeless tyre can last for many rides, often to the end of the tyre’s life.
How to repair serious tyre tears
A torn tyre can be a rider’s worst nightmare. These repair options should be viewed as a way to help you limp home before fitting a new tyre, rather than a long term solution.
How to patch a tyre with a tyre boot
A tyre boot can be placed on the interior of the tyre without any adhesive, held in place by the addition of an inner tube.
This flat boot keeps a flush internal surface to prevent the inner tube from bulging out of the slashed tyre. You can buy pre-made boots or make one out of a number of materials: toothpaste tubes, a section of inner tube or cash notes all work surprisingly well.
How to sew a torn bike tyre
If you don’t have a boot but you do happen to have tooth floss and a needle, you can actually sew up a torn tubeless tyre.
Using stitches perpendicular to the direction of the slash can help hold the casing of the tyre together before you insert an inner tube.
If you do use this method, it’s a good idea to add something between the sewn rubber and inner tube, such as a strip of strong tape.
If you are heading to the hills for an extended bikepacking or touring trip, packing a needle and thread is a good idea for this and any other fabric repairs.
When to give up and put in a tube
No matter how hard you try, there’s always the chance a tubeless tyre might not be fixable on the road or trailside. Inserting an inner tube can be a mucky business with sealant already in the tyre, so it’s generally a last resort.
Before fitting an inner tube, thoroughly check the tyre for any punctures or offending items such as thorns. Just because you’ve found one, doesn’t mean there won’t be more embedded in the rubber waiting to puncture your inner tube too!
You can still get snakebite punctures with tubeless too, so make sure you’re running adequate pressures in your tyres, especially over harsh or rocky terrain to avoid a nasty double puncture from impact on the rim. These are notoriously tricky to fix, with holes often too close to the tyre bead.
Besides punctured tyres, there are other things that need careful maintenance to keep your tubeless set up running smoothly, including the rim tape, tubeless valves and sealant.
It can be pretty hard to sort these on the go, so that’s when you might need to pop in a tube and leave the closer inspection until you’re home.