How to fix flat tires in Vietnam

Tigit Link

How to fix flat tires in Vietnam

Quick guide to fixing flat tires on the road

1. When a flat tire occurs look for any sign of a mechanic shop.

  • “SỬA XE”
  • Shop with old tires hanging outside
  • A guy with an air pump usually called “VÁ XE”

If no shops are in sight:

  • It is possible to drive slowly. Most flat tires occur on the back. Lean forward and try and remove weight from the flat tire. Drive slowly and carefully.
  • If you are not comfortable driving, then you must walk.
  • If you are not prepared to walk then find a local and put them on the phone with our phone support. Most villages have a solution to flat tires, but be prepared to pay for the help and support of a local. Nothing is free, and the Vietnamese attitude is to get on with life and drive, they won’t care of sympathizing with your situation. This is an adventure holiday after all!

2. Now you have found a mechanic shop:

You now have a decision:
1. Replace the inner tube (THAY RUỘT XE)

2. Fix the inner tube (VÁ RUỘT XE)

Remember to get the price in advance. There is no need to call Tigit for support on routine flat tires, but if you need help feel free to ask.
If you forget to get the price, the mechanic can charge any amount of money and there is not much anyone can do!

Motorbikes with inner tubes:

  • We recommend replacing the inner tube which is usually around 80,000vnd on locally supported motorbikes (not the Honda XR). With a replacement inner-tube the problem should go away and you can be on your way for less than $5!
  • Fixing an inner-tube (like a bicycle) is around 40,000vnd and often a temporary fix which results in slow leaks. Customers of the Honda XR carry inner tubes worth $15 may want to attempt to fix over and above replacing.

Motorbikes without inner tubes: These tires are quick and easy to fix but a big nail will need a replacement tire.

  • Mechanics can quickly and easily patch these up within 20 minutes. Usually around 50,000vnd.
  • Small mechanics will use a quick fix by patching the outside of the tire.
  • A genuine Honda/Yamaha shop will usually remove the tire and patch from the inside which has a much greater success ratio.

Don’t know if your tire has innertube? Jump to different type of tires

Make sure the tire guy checks and cleans the inside of the tire. Sometimes they miss a shrapnel inside and this will cause a repeat flat.

Checks before heading out on the road

Please read the rest of this article in detail to understand how to determine tire condition. Feel free to raise condition concerns at the point of rental, but don’t attempt to point aggressive fingers of “dangerous or old condition” after a flat occurs.
Flat tires appear to quickly create random accusations of badly maintained motorbikes without any basis or knowledge from the client. Be responsible for your rental vehicle and check it carefully at the point of pickup.

Do not listen to random mechanics claiming everything is old, they just want your money through easy replacements.
If you feel a tire is old and is in unacceptable condition please contact Tigit immediately and provide detailed photos of the tire in question. If we feel the tire is in need of replacement we will gladly advise to replace and cover this under warranty.
Do not attempt to claim that tires are the causes of flats, determine the condition before the flat occurs.

The recommended PSI of tires on our motorbikes is around 30 PSI.
PSI is not checked in any mechanic shop in Vietnam and Tigit recommends customers concerned with safety purchase a PSI checker from our shop and use it on the journey. Experienced bikers will check the PSI daily, if not hourly for maximum performance! Motorbikes are not cars, and flats are common.
Under inflated tires are likely to get flat tires easily and cause the motorbike to handle heavily.
Over inflated tires can cause blowouts and reduce overall grip on the road.

We advise to drive responsibly and purchase a PSI gauge for this long journey across Vietnam.

Customers are responsible for flat tires and Tigit will not reimburse the costs for fixing them.

tire gauge

tire gauge

 

Information about flat tires

Flat tires are more common on motorbikes than in cars. The overall weight of a motorcycle is less than a car, and this applies to tires as well. The less rubber between the road and the air, and the easier a flat becomes.

This is magnified in Vietnam by the use of low powered 150cc or below motorbikes. Hauling big tires along with a low capacity engine does not work, so scooters and motorbikes in Vietnam are all designed with a lightweight build. This leaves little resistance to shrapnel on the road.

Countryside mechanics are often bored and have nothing to do. It is normal and common for these mechanics to throw shrapnel on the road to attract business. Flat tires nearly always happen next to a mechanic and this is all part of the game of motorbiking Vietnam.

Thankfully the profitable flat tire business means that there are mechanics every 5 minutes in Vietnam. There are few stretches of road that do not have a mechanic waiting patiently for you to need their services.

A flat tire costs between 2usd and 5usd to fix, and on average we believe travelers get around three flat tires on a 2000km journey across Vietnam.


How to avoid flat tires in Vietnam

Tire repair equipment in Vietnam

Having repeat flat tires

How to check if a tire needs replacing

Different type of tires

Tigit’s dealing with flat tires

There is no need to carry tire repair equipment in Vietnam

In the city, there’s a tire guy at every corner waiting to fix the flat. Take the motorbike to a tire guy by pushing to prevent further damage to the tire or inner-tube. Within 1 hour, the motorbike will be back on the road. Flat tires are frequent and keen observation can see just how busy these guys are on a day to day basis!

In the countryside – There are few places in Vietnam that do not have a mechanic shop within a 5 minute walk. For someone sitting at home reading this article, it might seem hard to believe…. but it is the truth. There is no point in carrying any tools in this country because there really is a mechanic shop on every corner.

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The few remote areas that do not have mechanic shops will have a local equipped to deal with flats. It can take some translation games and a bit of time to get to the bottom of a situation. However with a bit of effort there will be someone attending to the motorbike and a flat should be solved in a timely fashion. At times, all can seem bleak, but the Vietnamese are very efficient at bringing the entire village to the attention of a foreigner. This should become a remembered and iconic part of the journey.

Ideally a traveller should walk a motorbike with a flat tire, however if all hope is lost then it is possible to drive on a flat. In our opinion customers claiming “it is too dangerous to drive on flat” should not be on the motorbike in the first place. This is an adventure holiday, and sometimes going out of the comfort zone is a requirement.

Have a good attitude and leave plenty of time

Flat tires are mostly unavoidable and should be a planned event for every journey tackled. Travellers waking up late and ending up short of their arrival destination are the ones who get upset and agitated when flats occur in weird and wonderful locations. With planned time for unfortunate events a traveller can take the situation in their stride and enjoy the unfolding events.

Fixing flat tires with a smile

Different types of tires

Tubeless tires – These are tires with no innertube inside.

Advantages:

  • Countryside mechanics will apply quick fix patches to the outside that take no time at all. A traveller can be back on the road within 5 minutes.
  • Stock tubeless tires are high quality and within the Tigit fleet our Tubeless tires get the least flats over journeys.

Disadvantages:

  • Slow leaks are common and difficult to detect
  • Quick fixes often cause slow leaks, a proper fix in a good mechanic shop can take up to an hour of time.
  • Big nails require a replacement tire (even if tire not old) which can be expensive
  • Generally 3 flat tires and the entire tire will be in need of replacement regardless of age

Tubed Tires – These are tires with an inner-tube (same a bicycle).

Advantages:

  • Replacing an inner-tube is likely to guarantee the flat is fixed for good. On small bikes this is less than $5 and worth doing every time. (repairing tires is cheaper, but for $5 it is better to be safe than sorry”)
  • Tubed tires are cheaper than tubeless, additionally enormous nails are unlikely to need a replacement tire.

Disadvantages:

  • Flat tires are more common on tubed tires.
  • The stock tires are not the same quality as the tubeless tires.

Repeat flat tires do not mean the tire is old

Tires are quick to replace and easy for dishonest mechanics to charge lots of money. They are a common theme of scams from roadside mechanics. A flat tire leads to a bad situation and questionable doubt can quickly arise from the driver as to the condition of the tire. A small push from a mechanic saying the flat was the result of an old tire and driver would disregard the true condition of the tire and pay for an expensive replacement.

How to check if a tire is old

Tire manufacturers make it pretty easy to check the tire age. First, on the side wall of a tire, look for a triangle simbol, or TWI (tread wear indicator).These symbols marked where to look for the indicator on the tread.

Then turn to the tread and try to find bars that are molded into the tire, between knobs, and at the bottom of the tread grooves. Slicing your fingernail between knobs helps a bit.

Tread wear indicators are bars that are molded into the tire, between knobs, and at the bottom of the tread grooves

These are the tread wear indicators on a tire

So, if the tread is worn out to the wear bars, the tire needs to be replaced.

How to reduce flat tires in Vietnam

The best way to reduce flat tires is to have the correct air pressure!

Motorbike manuals tend to recommend a PSI of 20-30. When touching the tire this is hard and has little to no flexibility.

Lower PSI dramatically increases the chances of pinch flats (flat tire occurrence from inner-tube getting caught on wheel rim). Customers should check tire pressure daily and make sure everything is firm.

At Tigit we believe raising the quality of the tire and putting on heavy duty innertube really helps to battle flat tires. The quality of OEM Vietnamese tires  is supposedly lower than proper import tires.

How to reduce flat tires outside of Vietnam and in the real world

Out in the real world is a minefield of tire technologies aimed at different purposes. Each technology carrying pros and cons with no one perfect answer to the problem. The best and easiest way to avoid flat tires is to use a quality branded tire and inner-tube such as Michelin. In Vietnam, this is easier said that done as imported products are hard to get hold of!

Within the Enduro world there is:

The Tubeless – Completely removes pinch flats by creating a strong (tubeless) tire with two separate pressures.
This style of customisation requires altering wheel rims whilst. At $100 bucks a piece and rim customisation this is not an affordable option!

The Foam Mousse – Heavy duty and impossible to get flats. With a shelf life of only 6 months, these are not a suitable solution for a rental company. Heavy and running at a low PSI feel, these are designed for real offloading.

The Tube Saddle – Removes the chances of pinch flats. Unfortunately these have a life of 2000km which is useless for a rental motorbike! Travellers in Vietnam should not be running low PSI, so really this is not a product to take notice of!

Heavy Duty Inner Tubes – Tigit already uses heavy duty tubes, but not “ultra heavy duty tubes”. We are still experimenting in this market and always looking to improve our service.

It should be noted that these products focus on off-road Enduro riding where PSI is often less than 12. Recommended ownership manuals suggest 20-30PSI and it can be seen the focus on these products is reducing pinch flats which result from low Air pressure.

To help yourself avoid pinch flat tires from low PSI, check the tire Air pressure daily! Not all flats are from nails or shrapnel on the road, pinch flats are caused through driver error by not inflating the tires to the correct PSI!

Tigit’s approach to flat tires

Tigit has nailed (pardon the punt) the long distance rental motorbike business to a point where breakdowns are minimal and incredibly unlikely for a traveller. A flat tire however, has become one of the last big issues for both Tigit and travellers, when attempting this long distance motorbike journey.

We do not rent out motorbikes with naturally old tires.

To know what kind of tire is put on a Tigit bike, read Motorbike tires in Vietnam and Tigit choices.

Tubeless tire are found on the Honda Airblade, Yamaha Exciter and Honda Winner. Tubeless tires tend to get less flat tires.

Tubed tire are for Honda Xr150, Honda CRF, Honda Blade and Suzuki Raider . For Tigit, flat tires are more common on tubed tires. On the XR150, Tigit replaces with imported higher quality tire and heavy duty innertube which helps to battle flat tires, at a higher cost.

Customers wishing to avoid flats at all costs should request an older Tigit motorbike (usually over 18,000km) where the back tire has been replaced with a quality import, or go tubeless.

Tigit checks the tire before every journey. Detecting tire age and estimated life in KM is an easy job for a professional. Tigit has thousands of motorbikes coming through our mechanic shops. Determining the age and estimated life of our tire is not a difficult task.
Tigit staff are also trained to give different tire ages dependent on the travel duration. A customer going on a quick holiday is often given an older tire than someone hitting the roads for 3 months. Tires are expensive, and we do utilise them to their full potential.
On occasions Tigit will inform the customer that the tire will need changing in advance in a different Tigit office. We already know when the tire is going to need replacing, and we inform the client to do this dependant on the life left.

Clients of Tigit are given a checklist which includes a tire check. Customers can question the quality of our tire and we are open to a discussion on the topic if a grey area of age is felt by the customer.

Send tire pictures to Tigit support to check if a tire is in need of replacement, when on the road. We reply within 24 hours, if a tire is in need of replacing due to age then it falls under the responsibility of Tigit and the money will be refunded at the end.

Customer should not change a tire on a Tigit bike. Unless notified in advance, a traveller should not have to replace a tire on their journey. Within the Tigit contracts, flat tires are the responsibility of the customer and this includes replacing tires that have been damaged beyond repair due hitting large nails on the road. Customers can not change tires and expect refunds without notifying Tigit in advance.

Tigit 3 strikes rule: and if a customer gets a flat tire 3 times in a row within quick succession we will replace and refund the tire no matter how old the condition. On rare occasions, tire defects or impossible to find shrapnel stuck on the inside of a tire can cause repeat flats with quick succession. It should be noted that this is impossible to test drive and unlucky for both Tigit and the client.

Outside of the customers control is the tire quality. OEM and stock tires are lower quality than the imported replacement tires that Tigit uses. This is one of the reasons Tigit is very against customers replacing tires once out on the road. The quality of OEM Vietnamese tires is lower than the tires we use within our mechanic shops. It is also a driving factor in Tigit being careful about tire condition at the point of sale as we do not want the customers replacing tires within their journey. This becomes a direct inefficient cost which forces us to pay for a tire we do not want on our motorbike.


Thanks for reading. If you have any tips in delaing with flat tires, feel free to add in the comment section.

Written by Link, edited by Jon

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