How to Patch a Bike Tube Using Household Items

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For many of us, bikes are essential transportation. Repairs can be costly, but having to wait for those repairs can be just as big a problem—especially if the bike is you’re only way to get around.

It’s helpful to know how to do some routine bike maintenance and repairs yourself. In this post, we look at a few good ways to patch a bike tube using household items.

How to fix a bike tube with rubber cement

Rubber cement provides one of the most cost-effective methods for patching a bike tube.

Elmer's No-Wrinkle Rubber Cement (2-Pack)

If you don’t have rubber cement on hand, it is readily available at hardware stores or online.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Separate the tire tube from the rim.
  2. Locate the spot of damage that needs to be repaired.
  3. Spray alcohol on the hole or spot needing patching. Rub, then allow to dry completely.
  4. Use a sanding block to rough up the surface. This will increase the surface area to which the adhesive can attach.
  5. Spray with alcohol and rub again to rid the area of debris.
  6. Prepare a patch from another piece of rubber (such as an old tube) that’s large enough to cover the sanded area. You should sand and clean the patch as well. Sand the edges thinner than the rest.
  7. Coat the underside of the patch with rubber cement. It should be completely coated, but should not be gobbed onto it.
  8. Apply rubber cement to the area of the bike tube with the hole as well.
  9. Apply the patch over the affected area. Squeeze it as hard as you can to help it bond, and hold.
  10. Coat the sides and top of the patch with more rubber cement.
  11. Attach a piece of plastic (part of a plastic bag or cling wrap) over the patch. Eventually, the plastic will wear off, but by that point, the patch will be well stuck to the tube.
A bike tube that has been patched
If you don’t have patches like this one made specifically for repairing bike tubes, you can cut one from a used tube. (© Windell Oskay | Creative Commons)

While the tube and tire are detached from the rim, check other parts for damage and make necessary repairs while they’re separated.

How to patch a bike tube with duct tape

As you may imagine, the duct tape method won’t work quite as well as using rubber cement. That said, it might be your only option in a pinch. You can always use duct tape to patch the tube and then return later to do the rubber cement method. Just be sure to completely remove all the tape residue with alcohol and sandpaper.

Let’s look at how to use duct tape to fix a flat tire first, though.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Locate the damage to the bike tube. You’ll probably need to take apart the tire and rim to do so.
  2. Measure the size of the hole or damage, and cut a piece of duct tape to cover it.
  3. Clean the bike tube before trying to get the duct tape to stick. Use alcohol if it’s available, water if it’s not. Either way, be sure to let it dry completely.
  4. Stick the duct tape to the affected area. Press firmly and hold for up to a minute.
  5. Continue to check the affected area periodically. More than likely, you’ll need to reapply the duct tape when it wears down.

Duct tape is a useful tool to carry with you when cycling, particularly if you use your bike to commute.

Here are a few other ways you can use duct tape in a pinch when you’re on the go:

  • Reattach a light, mirror, bottle cage or other accessories
  • Cover worn spokes
  • Repair your seat

Can you use super glue to patch a bike tire?

We don’t recommend using super glue to patch a bike tube. After you repair your tube and put the tire back in place, you’ll almost certainly have to inflate it again. The problem with super glue is that it does not stretch, so when the air pressure gets going the super glue will break apart. Save yourself the time and trouble, and use rubber cement instead.

Even though your super glue label says that it works on rubber, it’s not a good choice for a rubber bike tube.

The best household items for patching a bike tube

The best way to patch a bike tube using items that you likely already have is to use rubber cement. If you’re an avid cyclist, rubber cement is a crucial tool that you should always keep on hand. If you don’t have any, head down to the hardware store or buy some online.

In a pinch, you can use duct tape as a temporary patch until you can do the rubber cement method. Just don’t try to substitute super glue for rubber cement.

Image at top: © Alex Kostibas | Creative Commons

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