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Patching tubes

Tackling the number one most common tire repair on the farm – a damaged tube – can be as easy as changing the oil if you use the right equipment and supplies, and follow this 11-step process offered by tire guru Don Kubly. “Beyond basic supplies (listed below), all you need is a good workbench and a warm, dry place to do the patching,” says Kubly.

Supply list

A basic tube repair kit should include safety eyewear, brass bristle brushes, scissors, a rubber scraper, buffer wheel, tube stitcher, and an awl (for probing tires). But the most important tool is the set of patching instructions you can get from your tire supplier, Kubly says. The Rema Tube Repair Manual is available free of charge on Gempler's website (

Added to that tool arsenal are supplies that include chalk, prebuff cleaner, vulcanizing fluid, tire talc, and an assortment of different size and shape patches.

“Always use products from one manufacturer,” Kubly says. “For example, don't mix Rema patches with Camel cold vulcanizing fluid, because this could result in the patch separating from the tube.”

Not every tube can be patched, however. That is why Kubly recommends keeping a supply of replacement tubes on hand. “Select those sizes that are mostly commonly found in tires on your farm – such as hay trailer tires or tillage implement tires,” he says.

1. Inspect the tube

After removing the tube from the tire, inflate it to allow for easier examination. Certainly a puncture wound will make itself known right away. But the tube could have failed from a stress crack caused by a wrinkle that may have happened when the tube was first placed in the tire. Also look for any scratches, nicks, or stretching; any of which could weaken the tube and cause an opening. Deflate the tire before patching.

2. Buttonhole the injury

Use scissors to cut rounds, or buttonholes, out of each end of an injury. Doing so will prevent tearing along the crack in the future. To buttonhole, fold the tube along the crack and cut approximately 1/16-inch-diameter holes at each end.

3. Select a patch

Before cleaning and buffing, select a patch that not only will cover the injury but also will extend beyond it by at least ½ inch.

4. Clean the repair site

Pour the prebuff cleaner over the injury and the entire area that will come in contact with the patch. This cleaner is formulated to remove dirt, grease, silicone, and calcium chloride for effective bonding. Allow the cleaner to sit for up to 15 seconds before scratching the entire site with a tire scraper. Repeat the process, if necessary, until you have a completely clean site. “This removes contaminants and exposes fresh rubber,” Kubly explains. “You don't want to buff those contaminants into the rubber.”

5. Buff the patch area

Using a pneumatic buffer, clean the patch area to a smooth, velvety surface. “But don't use a buffer that has a speed greater than 5,000 rpm, because doing so scorches the rubber, which prevents an optimal bond,” he says.

6. Clean the buff site

Remove the rubber particles created from buffing by using a brass bristled brush only. “Don't use compressed air. That air could contain moisture and oil (from the compressor), which you'd then be blowing on the repair site. This would compromise the patch,” Kubly says. “And don't use a cloth for cleaning since it can leave lint behind.”

7. Vulcanize the area

With the patch site completely clean, apply a thin coat of cold vulcanizing fluid over the entire area. For best results, work the fluid into the buffed area during application, Kubly recommends. “But don't overapply,” he says. Once applied, allow the fluid to dry until it is tacky to the touch. “By tacky, I mean that the cement won't stick to your finger,” Kubly says. “If it does, then that area of the patch won't have the cement on it. If that happens, you will need to start over and reclean the patch area.”

8. Apply the patch

Begin to apply the patch by first removing the foil backing from the rubber. Center the patch directly over the injury site. Next, press the patch down on the tube using finger pressure to make sure there is good contact. “Press from the center of the patch working out to its edges,” Kubly recommends.

9. Stitch it down

Using the tire stitcher (a must-have tool for effective vulcanization in tube and tire repair, Kubly says), press down firmly on the patch, starting at its center and then working out to the outer edges. Stitching in this manner removes any air that may be trapped underneath the patch.

10. Sprinkle with talc

After removing the plastic covering from the patch, sprinkle tire talc over the entire area and rub it into the patch. “Only use tire talc, because it is specially formulated to help prevent tubes from folding when they are reinserted in the tire. It will also prevent them from sticking to the inside of the tire,” Kubly explains. Sticking results from heat-causing friction between tube and tire.

11. Check for leaks

Put a small amount of air in the tube to check the repair site and to confirm that the patch is cemented to the tire.

“Before installing the tube back into the tire, be sure to cover its entire surface with tire talc,” Kubly says. “This will cut down on chaffing (friction between the tube and tire), which can weaken the tube and lead to future leaks.”

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