Repairing a Torn Sidewall on your Tire

Last week I found that I had a torn sidewall on my rear tire just moments before it was time for the lunch ride. I didn’t have time to fix my tire, so I made sure I had the right materials to fix the problem on the trail should the tube had failed. I made it through the ride without a flat, so I decided to go through the process of repairing the sidewall at home. I’ve heard people discuss this process, often called “booting the tire”, but have never tried it myself. I decided to practice in the controlled environment of my garage.

Torn Sidewall with Herniated Tube

In the picture above, you’ll notice that the tire’s sidewall is torn, and the tube is poking out. This will almost certainly cause a flat if left unchecked. There is a quick and easy process to boot your tire, and it will allow you to get home without a flat tire (or another flat tire as the case may be). A boot is a temporary fix, and should only be used until you can swap the tire for an undamaged one.

Booting a Ripped Sidewall
Possible Materials for Temporary Patch

Most cyclists carry a spare tube with them, but few carry the material needed to boot a tire. The materials I’ve heard of people using are duct tape, a dollar bill, or a patch made from a Tyvek envelope. All three of these materials are tear resistant, and will keep the tube on the inside of the tire. One advantage of having a dollar bill is that you can buy something with it. Not much mind you, but it certainly has more bargaining power than some tape or a swatch of plastic fiber. I brought a dollar bill with me on the ride last week, but decided to make a Tyvek patch for my toolkit this weekend. I’ve been keeping a mailer envelope in the garage for just this purpose. Not knowing how big I needed it, I just used a dollar bill for a template.

Booting a Ripped Sidewall
Fold the Temporary Patch and Insert Between the Tube and Tire

With one side of the tire off the rim, I folded the patch in thirds, and slid it between the tire and the tube. This seemed to cover the tear nicely, and gave it room to slide a bit. And by folding it into thirds, I felt confident it would be a strong barrier. I carefully put the tire back on the rim, making sure I didn’t let the patch slip from the area. I think a good tip at this point would be to make sure the tube you’re putting in has a little air in it, so it helps hold the patch in place as you’re doing this.

Booting a Ripped Sidewall
Fully Inflated Tire with Temporary Patch in Place

I finished by inflating the tire to see how it looked. I even overinflated it to put the patch to the test. It seemed to work perfect! Fortunately, this tire had many miles of good service on it, and was due to be replaced anyway. This sidewall tear is pretty nasty, and I won’t feel bad throwing it away. My Tyvek patch is now in my toolkit, ready for the next emergency repair!

One interesting afterthought on this subject is that this sidewall tear was on the rear drive side. Another rider that viewed the 1st picture on this post said that he’s torn a few on the rear drive side as well. Is this a coincidence, or is there some destructive force at work here?

19 thoughts on “Repairing a Torn Sidewall on your Tire

  1. “I understand that Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International and Priority Mail International packaging is the property of the United States Postal Service and is provided solely for sending Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International and Priority Mail International. Misuse may be a violation of federal law.”

    This is the agreement which must be submitted upon accepting these FREE TYVEK PACKAGES!!!!

    You, sir, are going to hell. Forever.

  2. What’s next my friend? Maybe some defacing of public property or even a little drunk and disorderly conduct? It is a slippery slope sir, down which even the strongest cannot recover.
    Come back from the dark side, Jeff. Stand up to the temptations of using packaging materials as patching fodder. Your a better man than that.

  3. I don’t see why they can’t hurry up and invent transparent aluminum. That would solve this debate on which material is kosher to use and which will land you in a Federal PMITA prison camp.

  4. Maybe this is an ignorant question, but can I do the same thing with a little ding I discovered on my roadbike tire after riding along the broken-glass-laced bike lane on College parkway? Do I have to replace the whole tire if there’s only a little piece out of it?

  5. Uhhh.. It might just be me, but how about buying a new tire. Might seem a little crazy but sure sounds a whole lot easire than going through all that trouble.

  6. Torn sidewalls happen when you’re out on the trail. This is just a temporary repair to get you home. If you don’t boot the tire, the tube will pinch out and you’ll get another flat.

  7. I had a small sidewall tear on a brand new Panaracer tire and couldn’t see tossing it out so I tried a tube patch on the inside of the tire. This held up for a month but the tube definitely wanted to push through at 110 psi. I finally cut a 3/4″ x 1.5″ oval of this heavy duty mylar based reflector tape. The stuff is about 15 mils thick and has a really good stickum on it. That has held up very well for a year at 100+ psi and stopped the further tearing of the wall.
    I wouldn’t recommend it as a permanent solution but if you are poor enough that you need to choose food over a new tire on your commuter bike I think it’s justified. IF the tube somehow made it through the mylar it wouldn’t loose all it’s air instantly. You’d have time to slow down and get off the bike just as you would on any flat.

  8. I was reading The Grapes of Wrath last night, a story that takes place during the Great Depression, and they were saving old car tire pieces to boot their tires. Seems to me that cutting out a section of sidewall from an old tire that has worn out tread might make a good permanent fix if glued in properly.

  9. thanks for the tip! had a gashed side wall from my last ride and didn’t notice till before the next ride. was thinking of swapping tires from my other bike but didn’t have time, your article got me out on the trail. I used a dollar bill folded in four, and masking taped it to the inside of the wheel. Wasn’t pretty – still bulged a bit and after the ride it was pretty shakey looking, but I’m a ghetto rider like that (same wheel was missing a spoke too, have it slated for replacement so didn’t care about damaging it further). I don’t want to ride it again like that, but it was a lifesaver, and now I’m better armed for field repair. Thanks! I won’t turn you in.

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