Inflation Is A Good Thing

You ned to be prepared for anything on the trail

Published in the October 2015 Issue April 2016

Like we told you in the August issue of Dirt Toys Magazine (“Inflation Is A Good Thing,” page 44), if you ride hard enough, if you ride long enough or if you ride often enough, you are bound to experience tire damage in the most inopportune locations. And a flat tire can bring a great ride to a screeching halt.

The editors of Dirt Toys know. We’ve been there, done that and limped back to the trailhead.

Although it’s always suggested to leave the flat repairs to tire professionals, when you are on the trail, your Les Schwab dealer may not be within a couple hundred yards … in fact he may not be within a couple hundred miles. So it’s a good idea to know how to do things yourself and to equip an emergency bag to accompany you on rides.

This is where we would like to offer suggestions.

First, the advantages of plugs are that the tire doesn’t have to be removed from the rim for a temporary repair (that could potentially last the life of the tire). This repair calls for basic tools that can be found at any ATV/UTV dealership or can be ordered from companies we’ve listed below.

We have tested three types of plugs. First, the plug explained earlier that consists of a rubber strip that can be pushed into the hole; second, one that resembles a mushroom; and third, one that resembles a screw. We also found that if you can insert air into the tire so it’s not totally flat, it’s easier to get a better seal on the plug.

Basic plug—This is found in kits sold at most ATV dealers and also at Harbor Freight stores. The kit usually consists of one or two sheets of plugs (five to a sheet), an insert tool, a rasp tool, a razor to cut off the excess and some rubber cement.

The beauty of these plugs is that they can fill fairly good-sized holes in a tire (we put a temporary patch on a one-inch gash in the sidewall of an ATV tire, filling the hole with five plugs that lasted for several days).

Plug installation is fairly straightforward—1) find hole; 2) remove any foreign objects and clean hole with rasp tool; 3) attach plug to install tool (half on each side of tool); 4) apply rubber cement to plug; 5) shove about half of plug (that is folded over as tool penetrates the hole) in hole and then twist tool 180 degrees and remove tool; 6) repeat No. 5 if the hole isn’t completely filled with one plug, as many reasonable times as necessary; 7) cut excess plug material off about .5 inches from tire surface.

The plug is your best bet for punctures and any tire damage that might be on an angle to tire surface.

Mushroom plug—This is an interesting and elaborate way of fixing a hole in a tire. It is best suited for holes that are straight into the surface of the tire.

Tools required are sold in a kit from Stop & Go and consist of seven items: a rasp tool, probe tool, nozzle, plugger, hex wrench, blade and plugs.

The process is a tad more complicated: 1) find hole; 2) remove any foreign objects and clean hole with rasp tool; 3) screw nozzle to probe and insert it into the hole; 4) unscrew probe and remove, leaving nozzle in hole; 5) insert mushroom plug in plugger with stem down until it is recessed, causing the mushroom to become concaved; 6) attach plugger onto nozzle; 7) use hex wrench to press mushroom plug through nozzle and into hole in tire; 8) remove nozzle by pulling out with plugger; 9) take pliers (not included in kit) and tug mushroom stem firmly to seat mushroom to the inner tire wall; 10) use razor to trim stem down to about .5 inch.

The mushroom plug works great on nails or screws that have penetrated the tire at or near a right angle.

Screw plug—This is an easy way to fix a hole caused by a nail or screw. It’s literally replacing one screw with another … only this screw is designed to seal up any leaks associated with nails and screws. It comes from a company called SAFE Performance Manufacturing and called “Screw A Flat Easy.

It also features the simplest of tools—pliers, Phillips head screwdriver, bonding agent and screws. The screw plug is just that … something you screw back into the hole from which you just pulled a nail or screw.

This is by far the easiest flat repair process, but pretty much limited to the basic concept of replacing an unwanted screw (or nail) with one designed to repair the leak.

Installation is simple: 1) remove unwanted screw; 2) place bonding agent on the repair screw; 3) screw in repair screw with Phillips screwdriver until it’s flush or slightly pressed into the surface of the tire.

You’re good to go.

Up In The Air

The final ingredient for repairing a tire is most abundant, regardless of where you’re at, but sometimes impossible to use—it’s called air. Even though the earth is surrounded by it, getting it into the tire without the proper inflation device can be impossible.

The editors of Dirt Toys have identified three portable tools that can work to get air where you need it—inside the tire. First is a portable pump that works off the ATV battery; second is pressurized air in cans or cartridges; and third is an air equalizer hose.

Each has strengths, each has weaknesses. But any one can make a difference as to whether you ride out or walk out.

Air Pumps—Stop & Go sells a mini air compressor that comes with a case and all the attachments needed to work with your ATV/UTV. The nice part about it is that even before we start to repair a tire on the trail, we can begin the inflation process.

The mini air compressor is designed for light duty and works great for these kinds of off-road tires. We didn’t put a stop watch to the inflation process but felt it was at a reasonable rate to generate the 8-10 lbs. of air pressure required to inflate a tire (5-10 minutes).

The best thing about a mini air compressor is that it is compact enough to fit in your emergency kit and can be used time and time again.

Canned Air—There are two basic types: CO2 gas canisters and compressed air in an aerosol can. The good thing about these products is they are relatively fast and easy to use. You just attach the product to your tire and let it transfer its air pressure from its canister/can to the tire. The bad thing is that once the air is gone, it’s gone.

The CO2 operates extremely fast and compact. But it takes 2-3 canisters to completely inflate a tire … and you can’t stop them in mid-fill—it’s all or nothing.

A product called “Fast Air” comes in a 10-ounce can and can be used for up to three fills. This makes it convenient to be able to keep some air for spare in case you need to top off the tire.

Equalizer Hose—SAFE also sells a product that amounts to an air hose that will use another tire as the source of air pressure to fill a flat.

Here’s a simple way of looking at the math of how this thing works: If you have an ATV with four tires, each holding 10 psi and one tire goes flat, you now have three with 10 psi. By hooking the equalizer hose to the flat tire first, and then hooking up the other end to a tire with 10 psi, you would redistribute the air in the full tire until there was 5 psi in both tires. You could then balance the other two with 10 psi with the two with 5 psi and end up with 7.5 psi in all four tires. 

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