If you ride a bike, eventually you're going to get a flat tire. But don't let that keep you off the road! Fixing a flat tire is easy, you just need a few inexpensive tools.
You can buy a patch kit and tire levers from any local bike shop for less than $10. Or visit Free Cycles and use their tools and materials for free.
- If you have trouble finding the hole in the tube, inflate the tire and then dunk the tube in a tub of water to look for air bubbles.
- If the hole in your tube is larger than the patch you have, it is not patchable. Never stack multiple patches to cover a large hole - patches are meant to stick to the tube, not to other patches.
- If the hole is right around the edge of your valve stem, it is not patchable.
- If your rim does not have a rim strip or rim tape on the inside, it is a good idea to get one. The rim tape prevents the spokes from poking your tube. Putting a layer or two of duct tape on the interior will also suffice.
If your hole isn't patchable, you can purchase a new tube from any local bike shop for less than $10.
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1. Meet our flat tire kit! Levers, pump, patch kit.
2. Remove your wheel. Flip up the quick release handle and spin it counter-clockwise to loosen. No quick release? Use a wrench to loosen the bolt (usually 15mm).
3. Let any air out of the tube. The most standard valve is a Schraeder valve. Push the little bit inside to let the air out. If your valve is taller and skinnier than a standard valve, it's a Presta valve. Unscrew the top part, the press it down to let the air out.
4. Bike wheel cross section image including tire, tube, tire bead, and rim.
5. Stick the lever between the tire and the rim. Hook the lever under the tire bead closest to you. Try to not pinch the tube with the levers.
6. Push lever handle down. Your tire might be on there pretty tight! Use leverage between the lever and the rim.
7. Hook lever around spoke. That will hold it in place while you insert a second lever and repeat steps 6 and 7.
8. Push the two levers apart. Work the levers around the rim until you've completely removed the tire from one side of the rim.
9. Pull the tube out from under the tire.
10. Pump up the tube like a balloon. Press the nozzle onto the valve, then flip the lever up. If teh pump has two holes, use the smaller one for Presta, and the larger for Schrader.
11. Listen and feel for air coming from the puncture. You can draw a circle around it to keep track of where it is.
12. Sand the area and apply glue. Sand the area around the puncture. Apply a thin layer of glue around the puncture (larger than the size of the patch) and let it dry completely.
13. Apply the patch. While you're waiting for the glue to dry, check your tire and tim for glass, nails, sharp points etc. Push the patch onto the tube, especialy around the edges.
14. Push the valve through the hole in the rim. It helps to have just enough air in the tube so it will hold a circular shape, but no more than that. Place the valve at a 90 degree angle to the rim.
15. Push tube back under tire. Try to seat the tube on the rim, the way it was before you took it out.
16. Roll tire back onto rim. Use the heel of your hand to work the tire back on the rim, starting at the valve stem. If you use levers for this, be careful not to puncture the tube!
17. Check that the tube isn't poking out of the tire. Before you fully inflate the tube, work all the way around the wheel, pushing the tire away from the edge of the rim, checking that the tube isn't poking out from the tire at all.
18. Inflate your tube. Inflate your tube all the way. The side of your tire should say what the maximum pressure is, but if it doesn't 60 PSI is a safe bet.
19. Ride away triumphant! You did it! Great job!
Graphic brought to you by Common Cycle. Created by Sally Carson.