TIRE REPAIR


Tires, Plugging, Patching, Means & Inflating

Contents:


Tire Repair, By Brian Curry <bmwbrian@voicenet.com>

A topic that comes up whenever someone suffers a tire "loss of air pressure and integrity" is "Can I ride it after I plug or patch it?" and "How far and fast?"  This is an attempt at a discussion of the pros and cons.  It has been reviewed by Steve Aikens who nearly has an apoplectic fit when he hears the term "plugged tire" for an even handed treatment.  So, with that....

You pay your money and take your choice.....

A patched or plugged tire is a repaired tire.  Things can go wrong with it, that will not occur with a "virgin" tire.  Always remember that, while it may be serviceable, it no longer is "perfect".

If you do not detect the failure soon enough, the tire may heat to the point that it delaminates and fragments itself.  You are walking and getting a new tire at this point.  That is, if you are not injured by the bike spitting you off in disgust. :(:(  So pay attention to the dreaded signs of "soft tire".

There are many here that will tell you to replace the tire.  Those tires are all that is between you and safe passage down the road.  They have got to hold air.  Of course those making the recommendation, may not have the money you have, nor the confidence to do a proper, safe patch.

A good, properly installed patch/plug can hold.

A poorly installed patch/plug can leak, or delaminate the tire causing you to be pitched down the road testing your leathers or Aerostich. ==8-0

The problem with any repair is that it can leak.  Three ways:
 
  • The plug can allow water to leak or seep into the cords causing the tread to separate from the cords/fabric with not good consequences. :(:(
Note, in neither of these has the tire lost air pressure. 
Both of them can kill you.
  • The plug can allow air to leak from the tire interior to the fabric, again causing separation of the tread and not good things.
  • Lastly the plug can allow air leakage from the inside to the outside resulting in a soft tire.  If it leaks to the outside, the question is do you, or can you, sense low tire pressure before it kills you.
Two asides:

  1. When we ran tubes, tubes were patched and carried you down the road.  Or you put a new tube in the tire and rode down the road until the tire tread was dead.  The tire was not patched and water could get in if it pleased. Maybe we were lucky, maybe not.  Maybe we were ignorant and in bliss.  But a hole in a tire is not instantly or consistently fatal, if you can keep the air in it.  Many people ran for many miles with new or patched tubes in a tire with a "hole" in it.
  1. Find a "worn out" tire, and saw through it.  Take a look at how thick it is when you are down to the wear bars.  See just how much is keeping the air inside if you see fabric! ===8-0  It is damn little.  It is sobering, if not scary.

Now, if you decide you want, or need, to patch, what are the critical functions/aspects?

The BMW patch kit has some interesting design aspects.  First, you ream the hole until it is the "right size".  Here is a case where small is not necessarily better.  The hole has to be large enough for the plug to fit through.  It also should not be so large that the plug can be spit out. Know what the maximum puncture size of 4 mm is in inch sizes!! (0.16", or
about 5/32", or a little more than 1/8".)   So ream that sucker with the factory tool.  (Which appears to be about 4 mm or so. ;);) ) Then put glue on the reaming tool and smear it all through that properly sized hole.  Lots of glue is good.  You cannot put too much on.  This is why you get a new tube of glue periodically, before you find it is dry when you need to use it....

Now you put the plug on the reaming tool, load it with glue, (you do have enough right?) and shove it through the properly sized hole.  Follow the directions, stretching the rubber plug, and you have applied LOTS of cement. Then put the reaming tool through the hole stretching the plug, and then removing the reaming tool leaving the plug in the hole.  Cut off the excess plug.

If you do this right, you will get a result just like in the BMW instructions with the plug being larger on the inside than the outside.  (You stretched it thin to get it in, and then it expanded back to the original size when you removed the reaming tool.)  For the plug to blow out, it has to shrink down and squeeze through the reamed hole.  Internal pressure works against this.

Yes, it actually looks this way.  I checked it out on a plug I put in to get to the shop for a new tire.  For this tire, it was "time".

And if you put lots of glue on it, the glue has dried, sealing all the passages from both air on the inside, and water on the outside.

This is a good thing to practice on a dead tire at a "Wrenching" get together such as the Slack Pac, Mac-Pac, Shack Pac, Quack Pac, or even the comfort of your own home before you get a new tire.  (An electric drill will make the holes quickly without fuss. :):) )

IMO, a better patch is the "mushroom/umbrella" type.  To use this type, you have to remove the tire for access to the inside to the tire.  This is not a roadside repair, at least for me. ;);)  The patch/plug is a rubber circle/oblong with "tail" in the center.  The circle/oblong has adhesive on the tail side.  The tail can either be inside a metal shield, or it can have metal stem on the end.  I have seen patch/plugs with different diameter tails for different size holes.

So, remove the tire from the rim, so you can get at the puncture from the inside.  Match the tail to the hole size or make the hole big enough that the tail will fit through it, or can be tugged through it.  Make sure the area, where the patch will go, is clean, just like you were prepping a tube for a patch.  Use some type of tool to put glue in the puncture.  Glop the glue on the area where the patch will go.  Glop glue on the tail where it will be going through the puncture so that it slides on wet glue.

Feed the tail through the puncture, pulling the patch down into contact with the interior of the tire.  Press the patch against the tire interior.  A C-clamp is good.  Give it some time for the glue solvent to evaporate. There should be enough glue on the tail to seal the puncture to the outside. (Keeping water out.)  The patch area seals it on the inside.  There is no way internal pressure can push that patch through the puncture if it is properly sized, the long path and lots of adhesive and glue keeps the internal air from the cords, and you have filled and glued the hole to keep water from the outside contacting the cords.

Refit the tire and you are ready to go and take chances.

Steve Aikens found out about the Stop & Go "Plug Gun"  It somehow compresses a half inch round rubber slug small enough that it can be stuffed into the hole in the tire.  (Don't ask me how they do it.  I am just reporting what the advertisement says.)  They say it can be used without glue. (Personally, I would like to have some glue in there to fill up any little space bits.  But if you did that, it is probably contrary to the manufacturers recommendation, and certainly one would want to wait for the glue to dry before reflating.)  The "pistol" that does the compression and insertion looks a bit bulky, but some people might like it.   If someone has used one, it would be interesting to find out how it worked.

You can use the BMW plugs yourself.  If you can take the tire on and off, you can use the patches yourself.  Finding someone to mushroom/umbrella patch it is very difficult.  They, or their insurer does not want the liability.  You or your heirs can be very cranky if the patch leaks.  You can use the "Plug Gun" without removing the tire.

I won't discuss the "fix a flat in can".  If it works, the guy who replaces the tire will not like you.  The stuff makes a heck of a mess.  And it if does not work, you cannot patch or plug the tire afterwards.

Radial tires add a new twist to the evaluation.  And it is an ugly one.

When you ream the hole, you might be damaging the radial belts.  When the belts unwind, the tire can be come strangely shaped and sprout "hairs" due to the belts working their way to the outside world.  BTDT. :(:(

I have internally patched radial cage tires.  I also had them sprout wires from the tread, and become strangely shaped.  I could feel the tire squirm as I went down the road.  While not good on a cage, it is far worse on a bike.

I once rode a tubed bias ply front MC tire VERY SLOWLY for about 2 miles flat, until I got to work.  It felt very strange when flat.  It continued to feel strange with the new tube in it.  I think the riding flat distorted the tire somehow.

For radial tires, it seems that plugs or patches truly are rather temporary. And if it feels strange after being plugged or patched,  it is time to REALLY SLOW DOWN as something inside is trying to unwind itself, and this is not good.

I mentioned this to my cage shop and they said sometimes they just applied an internal patch since that would minimize any belt damage.  Good point. If you decide to try this (small holes only) I strongly suggest, glue coating the puncture, with the offending bit.

The "Plug Gun" might be good for radial's, and might not.  It is fast.  It seals by compression when it is released.  The radial cords might cut the plug in half allowing it to be spit out. :(:(

Radials, and "patching them" is a brave new world for the adventurous, or those forced into it.


So where do you get the stuff to patch or plug it?

Well, the first means available from your friendly dealer is the BMW Kit. Get new tubes of glue regularly.  Larger auto parts stores carry them.  So do bicycle shops.

Both Competition Accessories and White Horse Press offer "Stop & Go" tire fixing kits.  The kits come in several varieties.

The "Deluxe Kit" has, plugs, patches and the "umbrella/mushroom" type fix it bits.  So, with it, you can do just about anything mentioned here.

They also have the "T/L Plug Gun".  Steve Aikens first saw this at Deming Cycle Center.  Then he found it mail order at Competition Accessories.  I found it in the White Horse Press catalog.

Larger auto parts store carry a line of patching and plugging materials.  If you want to play or practice, stop and get some supplies. :):)


So you have it patched/plugged/gunned.  It is ready to hold air.  How do you get the air in there?

The BMW kit has a couple of CO2 cylinders and a little threaded arrangement to get the CO2 into the tire.  The difficulty is sealing the connection fast enough to convey most of the CO2 into the tire.  Frequently a good bit does an excellent job of giving you frosty fingers. :(:(  If you only carry this, carry A LOT of cylinders.

There is also the "Quick Pump"  This is a plastic cylinder you place a regular unthreaded CO2 cartridge in, and as you thread the cylinder onto the "pump" head, the CO2 cartridge is pierced and you have PRESSURE.  The head has a control valve and looks much like air hose fitting.  Bicycle shops tend to carry these.  Also REI.  I have not used one, but the concept of it, and the frosty fingers experience using the BMW cartridges, caused me to get one.  Don't count on the pump head valve to hold the pressure forever. Don't "store" a cartridge in the cylinder.

There is an engine driven arrangement.  You thread a free piston assembly into one cylinder's spark plug.  It has a hose that you can run to either tire.  Fire up the engine and cylinder compression causes the free piston to push air into the tire.  (Yes, your twin will run on one cylinder.  It will need some throttle, but this helps the pumping process.  If you have a catalytic converter, watch the cat area for a reddish glow.)  You may need adapters for the size spark plug opening you have.  Check at home that you have the right size.  Don't find out on the road. :(:(
 

The cigarette lighter powered small electric compressors will work fine. Just fit a BMW/John Deere plug on the cord.  They are a bit bulky and heavy.

The old R bikes had a hand pump.  They will work.  They will take time. Your arms will be tired.

If you are home, the best place to find a flat/puncture, use that handy dandy line voltage compressor.  It is the easiest of all. :):)


Keeping the stuff together.

The BMW plastic envelope eventually dies.  Most other plastic bags will too. The neatest thing I have found, are the small Polartec Fleece drawtite bags from Aerostich Rider Wearhouse.  (They had to find something to do with all those scraps.) ;);)  I like them for grouping stuff in the K tail storage area.

I just found someone else who makes Fleece Gear Bags, Mag's Bags in Sonora California.  Their E-mail address is Mag's Bags <magsbags@jps.net>.  They also make "Pack-it Pouches", Tank Bags, other "organisational aids", and COFFEE Makers.  (Yes, it is an eclectic mix of products, but I like their style. :):)  )

So, now you know more than when you started out.  Make your decision.

There is no RIGHT or WRONG here.  There is JUDGMENT, RESPONSIBILITY and SKILL/PRACTICE!

You pay your money and take your choice.....


Brian Curry, 1990 Blue K75RTs both coasts, Chester Springs, PA, USA
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Additional Comments, By Graham Smith <graham@enmech.csiro.au>

Brian Curry <bmwbrian@voicenet.com> wrote....

Lots of really good stuff about patching tyres.  After 7 years of working with tyres before jumping on the computer bandwagon, all I can add is: .... [p.s. I didn't mean to write this much, really!! :-( ]

DON'T use those rope/cord plugs that are covered in some gooey stuff. They are dangerous and can blow out.

 
IMO, a better patch is the "mushroom/umbrella" type. 
   [snip] 
Match the tail to the hole size or make the hole big enough that the tail will fit through it, or can be tugged through it.
The hole should be a LOT smaller than the tail.  The tails are made of a very soft stretchy rubber that reduces in diameter when you "PPPPuuulllll!!!" it through,  (you should be able to hold the weight of the tyre by the tail without it fully seating) then expands again when you let go, filling up the hole quite nicely and keeping all that nasty water and road shit out of the tyre.  DO NOT cut the tail end off VERY close to the tyre.  Leave about 1 mm above the tread surface so that it is always larger than the hole.  It's OK like that..... "Trust me" ;-)
 
Feed the tail through the puncture, pulling the patch down into contact with the interior of the tire.
Ummm, these patches are generally pretreated with a chemical (the ones I use are!) "Cold Vulcanising"  You use them like contact cement.  Clean and roughen the inside of the tyre, slop the glue in the hole, but smear it on the inside surface. Do not put any on the head of the patch, but a little on the stem is OK.  (The area with the chemical is usually a different colour.) Poke the tail through the hole, and leave it there (1/2 way in) while the glue dries on the inner surface of the tyre.  When glue is dry, pull tail with only enough force to seat the head of the patch but not deform it, "stich" it down and cut off excess tail. Is now "Ready for Use".
 
There should be enough glue on the tail to seal the puncture to the outside. (Keeping water out.)  The patch area seals it on the inside.
As I mentioned before, the tails are so stretchy they will expand naturally to their original diameter, sealing the hole from the outside, but the glue sure doesn't hurt. :-)
 
Refit the tire and you are ready to go and take chances.
My feeling is that as long as you don't damage the cords/belts, then you are fine with these types of patches.
 
You can use the BMW plugs yourself.  If you can take the tire on and off, you can use the patches yourself.  Finding someone to mushroom/umbrella patch it is very difficult.  They, or their insurer does not want the liability.
We don't have that problem (liability) in Oz and in 7 years I never had one fail and even 8 years after that, everyone I know is still using them.  On cages we have a rule not to use them if the head of the patch makes contact with the "sidewall" area, even just a little, due to the fact that this is a "high-flex" point and the head could come loose, and that this is where radial belts are most vulnerable to damage. (Funnily enough we put tubes in those, and the patches on tubes don't seem to care where they are positioned in a tyre case.?? Maybe it's because they are sandwiched between the carcass and the tube?)

IMHO the BMW patches ... don't ream the hole too much, shove the plug in with lots of glue, inflate, ride to somewhere you can take the tyre off and replace the BMW plug with a mushroom type.  Once you put a plug in a tyre, forget about just using a tube patch on the inside.
 

I won't discuss the "fix a flat in can".  If it works, the guy who replaces the tire will not like you.  The stuff makes a heck of a mess.
"I hate those meeces to peeces", and that stuff in the can!!!!
 
And it if does not work, you cannot patch or plug the tire afterwards.
Umm, not quite true ... you cannot put a TUBE in them to fix them, (the hardened gunk just rubs holes in the tube every mile or so) but you can clean them (now you know why I hate it) and use a tubeless repair.  You just can't balance them again :-)
 
When you ream the hole, you might be damaging the radial belts.
Don't ream them.  That's what the patches with the metal spike on the tail are for.  Just shove it through and pull like hell.  On cage tyres you can generally ream them cause there's a LOT of material there.  I don't do it on bike tyres.  Use the smallest mushroom patch you can find (the little grey ones from TipTop are good) and just pull it through the hole.
 
For radial tires, it seems that plugs or patches truly are rather temporary.
I don't consider it so.  If you consider the puncture to be truly repairable, (1-2 cords damage only, if any at all) then a mushroom plug is IMHO permanent and safe.  It's the assessment of the puncture that makes the diff, not the method of repair.  BMW plugs are a "temporary repair", mushrooms are permanent.
 
I mentioned this to my cage shop and they said sometimes they just applied an internal patch since that would minimize any belt damage.  Good point. If you decide to try this (small holes only) I strongly suggest, glue coating the puncture, with the offending bit.
VERY good point.  For "nail" holes less than 1/16 in (1-1.5 mm) a standard chemical vulcanising tube patch applied to the inside surface of a tubeless tyre works fine.  The tread will close up and seal the hole sufficiently. But if it has been "temporary" plugged, forget it.  If the nail is still in there, just pull it out when you get to somewhere you can get the tyre off and use a tube patch on the inside.
 
Radial's, and "patching them" is a brave new world for the adventurous, or those forced into it.
Only for those that haven't done it before.  I've done it for many years now and it's "normal" procedure to me.
 
There is no RIGHT or WRONG here.  There is JUDGMENT, RESPONSIBILITY and SKILL/PRACTICE! You pay your money and take your choice.....
Or you do it so many times (15 years now) without ever having a problem you just call on experience.  So far I'm saying it's 99.9999999% OK.  One day it will all stuff up, no matter what it is or what you do.  Hail "Murphy"!!!


Graham Smith <graham@enmech.csiro.au>
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More comments from Brian responding to Don Eilenberger and Gary Harris

In addition to what I wrote, there were some "real world" experience with some stuff that I was aware of but had not used.  First Graham Smith from OZ did a fine post concerning patching radials.  Then Don Eilenberger and Gary Harris provided commentary on using the "Plug Gun".

If you missed it the first time, here are the pertinent bits again.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

First Don Eilenberger said:

On the Stop-and-Go Plug:

Watched a mechanic friend use one on the tires on his car.. and I was not necessarily impressed. This device grabs the tit on a mushroom shaped plug and pulls the entire plug into a small diameter tube (another type I saw forces the plug into the tube). You then insert the tube into the hole and push the plug back out, with the long tit being retained by the gun. When the head of the plug is inside, you're supposed to pull the gun back, breaking off the tit - leaving the plug inside and part of the tit filling the hole.

After his 5th attempt with this device - he finally got out an old rubberized string thingie (a bigger version of the BMW tool) and fixed the hole. He threw the plug-gun into the trash.

It's onena those 'looks like a good idea' ... but may not actually work like the idea is supposed to. If you're relying on one, I'd do what Brian suggests and practice in the privacy of your own home (or shack pack) and make sure it works for you!

Brian says: However, as is frequently the case, YMMV....

Gary Harris found:

It worked just fine for me on two separate occasions. Pulled  the foreign object out of the tire. Made sure the area was clean. Inserted a plug into the gun. Lube the barrel that slides into the tire's hole. Slide the gun's barrel into the hole. Squeeze trigger all the way. Remove gun from hole. Trim excess plug if necessary. Inflate and go.

Simple!

Brian: And then Gary added a good point:

On long trips I carry a small electric air pump (about the size of a small motorcycle battery - very light and packs easily). Plug the power cord into the accessory outlet. Snap the airhose onto the tire valve and inflate. You can find them at Caldor's, K-Mart and the like (in the automotive section).

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

With a air pump, either engine or accessory plug driven, you no longer have to worry about having enough cartridges. Or losing air on the way to somewhere, and being out of cartridges.

So in conclusion, there is no one tire fixit method, short of replacement with a new tire, that will work all the time, in all situations. As always, be prepared to be flexible. Several tries may be needed. Use judgment.

As we have said before. You pays you money, and you takes you choice.

A patched or plugged tire, is a REPAIRED tire with higher risk. Be careful out there.


Brian Curry, 1990 Blue K75RTs both coasts, Chester Springs, PA, USA
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Fixing a flat with the Stop & Go Plug Gun, By Dan Arnold <arnold@owt.com>

Yup, here it is....BMW: Fixing a flat/Stop & Go Plug Gun

Stop & Go Tubeless Tire Plug Gun Kit

Last time there was a mention of this device, I had one on order. Didn't want to talk about it until I had a chance to use it. I have fixed a flat before with the BMW kit that comes with the R11GS. Simple nail hole, but not simple to fix. What an ineffective, time consuming mess!

Used up all the rubber inserts, glue and cylinders, just to partially fill a still leaking tire and hobble a mile to an auto supply store. Bought a second set of rubber plugs and tube of glue and finally got the thing fixed well enough to ride 10 miles for a new tire.

The Plug Gun Kit is an entirely different proposition and easily plugs a tire while it is on the wheel. I practiced the procedure a few times, then used it on an old steel belted car tire. Here's the essential part of the operation (Fixing a Flat for Dummies version. A version for Idiots will be posted on vidiot@usaa.net):

The plug is a soft rubber mushroom one inch long, with a shaft slightly more than 1/4" wide. The 'cap' of the mushroom is about 1/2" in diameter. The plug is just barely inserted in the barrel of the gun (the mushroom head inverts) and a drop of motor oil is placed on the inserted plug. The gun is very heavy duty cast metal and the barrel is about 3/8" in diameter.

The key to inserting the plug is the nozzle which fits both the gun and a 'probe tool' via a screw fitting. The nozzle has an inside diameter of 3/16" and a 3/4" shaft. Fit the nozzle to the probe and insert it into the hole to be plugged. Then remove the probe, leaving the nozzle sticking through the hole in the tire (the nozzle simply acts as a conduit for the plug as it passes through the tire wall).

The gun is then screwed onto the nozzle. Three pulls of the gun's oversized 'trigger' or crank moves its internal piston against the rubber plug, forcing it through the nozzle and into the tire (no cement is used). The gun (with nozzle) is then simply pulled out of the tire, leaving the plug in the tire. The plug stem is then trimmed flush.

I haven't tried this yet on a mounted tire, but the fit was so tight in the 1/8" hole I made that I couldn't pull the plug with pliers to snug the mushroom cap to the interior wall, so it ought to hold air. At any rate, I recommend it as much simpler and more reliable than the rubber string and cement hit and miss method.

The repair is considered permanent (for four wheeled vehicles), but I assume that is only if you do an off the wheel repair so you can check your work.


Dan Arnold, Kennewick, Washington
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Dynaplug Tire Repair kit, a description, By Joe Dille <joe@dille.montgomery.pa.us>

Comment from Brian Curry:

I got this from Joe Dille from a demo that was done at a local Philly Area Mac-Pac meeting. Since patching tires is always an item of interest and I have done summaries on it before, here is another system, and reviewed by someone else.

Also, the sales person / demonstrator reported that shipping would be waived it several units were shipped to a "club". Sounds like a good group purchase to me.

I also saw an advertisement for it from Griot's Garage out of Tacoma WA. 800-345-5789 Price in there was (Part# 36805) US$11.95 for the kit with (Part#36806) 5 refill plugs for US$4.95. They raved over it.

And with that, here is Joe:

Here is a little better description on the Dynaplug plug and tool.

The Dynaplug system uses a small brass-tipped gummy-worm for a plug which is inserted by a hand tool with a tubular tip. The gummy stuff is dry, but smushes under heat and pressure to make a seal. This is the "secret" of the Dynaplug.

                      The Plug (Very approximately actual size)

                        | |
                        | |
                        | | <-------- Gummy worm (3/16" dia)
                        | |
                        | |
                        {-} <-------- Brass Tip With Shoulder
                         V 


                  Insertion Tool with Plug Installed

              ***************
             (               ) <----- Removable top
              ***************
              *             *

               *           *

                *         *

                 *       *  <----- Hollow handle for storing the  
                                   parts of the kit
                  *     *

                   *___*
                   |   |
                   |   |
                   |   | <----- Insertion Tube
                   |   |
                   |   |
                   |   |
                   -----
                    { } <------ Plug tip with worm part in tube
                     V

Installation is super simple. Roll the worm between your thumb and forefinger to straighten it out and work out any kinks. Put the worm in the tool as shown, worm first. Locate the object and remove it from the tire taking note of the angle the object entered the tire.

Put the sharp point of the plug in the hole and push it into the puncture in the same direction as the puncturing object. A good smack with the heal of your hand will drive it in all the way. This is important since the point on the plug will make its own hole if not applied in the correct direction. The plug will seal the new hole, but the original hole will still leak :-(.

Now pull the tool out and inflate the tire with the supplied CO2 and valve. The CO2 should be held nozzle down so it will not freeze in the cartridge and will discharge fully. Now spit on the repair to check for leaks. A leak indicates the hole is too big for one plug and you need to install a second. Run the tire for a few miles to warm the repair, which enhances the sealing and bonding action of the gummy-worm. Trim off the excess "worm".

In a car tire the repair is permanent. In a bike tire it is considered temporary due to the higher flex rate of the bike tire. The kit looks complete and well made.

My notes:

Eric [Ducati Rider, BC] used it on his 748 [Ducati, BC] and it worked like a champ. He was back in action by the time Anton [Battery Man, BC] rode to the next exit and turned around.

The sales dude said there was a guy that had a hole from a 5/8" piece of rebar. He fixed it with 5 plugs and it worked.

I tried the tool on a practice tire and it worked! Took 60 seconds.

The small plug with sharp tip is unlikely to damage any additional cords in the tire.

The sales dude had about 200 plugs in his demo tire. He had an additional 20 or so in his car tires.

I think I will get a kit for the EML. This is a lot cheaper than a flat bed ride. Are any other Mac-Packers interested?

You can learn more at www.dynaplug.com or call 800-486-8122.


Joe Dille
Telford PA USA
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