A motorcycle is only as good as its tires, they say, and for a good reason—your tires are the only point of contact between your ripper and the road.
Maintaining proper tire PSI is critical for engine and suspension performance, as well as protecting the wheel rim from the pavement and laying down the cushion for a comfortable ride.
But moto-ripping throws variables at the rider, some of which make it, so your motorcycle tire won’t take air; we’ve listed the six most common reasons why!
1. Air Compressor Is Attached Incorrectly
If you’re filling up your motorcycle tire and it seems like it won’t take the air, listen for a hissing sound.
If you hear air hissing or escaping from the valve area, ensure your compressor or air pump is attached to the tire valve correctly. If the inflation device isn’t level on your tire’s valve, the air can escape from the pump’s valve, causing your bike tires not to inflate.
Not only does the compressor valve need to sit level on the valve, but it also needs to be seated as far down on the tire’s valve as it can for the air to shoot into your tire instead of getting sucked through the vacuum created by the broken seal.
It’s common for the two valves to be unaligned when the tire is filled from a significantly low PSI.
Primarily deflated tires don’t support the valve posture as well as partially inflated tires do, making it easy for the pump to slip off the valve.
Try using your hand to hold the tire valve in position long enough for the air compressor’s valve to seat correctly, sealing properly and preventing air from escaping.
2. Bike Tire’s Valve Stem Is Broken
Another possible culprit preventing your motorcycle tires from inflating is a damaged valve stem on the tire.
Much like the detached air compressor valve, a broken tire valve will make a hissing noise as air escapes through the break in the rubber stem.
- On older tires or tires ridden hard through harsh conditions, the rubber on the valve stem simply wears and tears, eventually cracking enough to let air escape during attempts at tire inflation.
- The stem could also have been knocked broken from loose rocks, debris, rough roads, etc.
- In other cases, bike tire valves develop leaks because of dirt intrusion, pushing against the rubber stem to create a gap that is just significant enough to let air escape during the refill process.
- Or the valve’s seal fails or is punctured. In this situation, the tire might slowly leak air while you ride and attempt to fill air up.
If the rubber valve housing is broken, special tools and mechanical knowledge is required to remove the tire, remove the valve from it, and replace the rubber valve housing.
If the valve itself is leaking, or if it’s just dirt jamming up your air-refill process, you can sometimes clean blow the valve clean with an air compressor.
Furthermore, a valve remover tool can remove and clean or replace the valve as needed.
3. Faulty Air Compressor/Pump/Air Inflation Device
In some cases, home moto mechanics discover that their motorcycle tires won’t take air because of no fault of the tire but because the device they’re using to inflate their tires is faulty.
To find out if a faulty air compressor is why your motorcycle tires aren’t inflating, detach the compressor from your tire, put your hand against the compressor hose, turn on the compressor and see if you feel air pumping out.
Symptoms of a failing air compressor:
- Strange sounds/increase in noise coming from the air compressor’s engine.
- Compressor motor leaking fluid.
- Compressor unit using more fuel or electricity than usual,
- Reduced airflow/compressor won’t inflate motorcycle tires
- Compressor motor generates more heat than regular/exhibits symptoms of engine overheating.
4. Motorcycle Tire Bead Isn’t Sealed Properly
A tire bead is a seal between the tire’s rubber and the wheel’s metal alloy.
One of the most common reasons riders discover their motorcycle tire isn’t inflating is because of a failure with the tire bead seal, whether because road debris gets wedged between the tire and wheel or because the tire wasn’t seated properly during installation.
If a broken bead seal is your culprit, you’ll have to remove the tire from the wheel and clean the tire, wheel rim, and edge thoroughly before reinstalling the tire.
The bead seal is also unseated during tire re-conditioning or a custom wheel painting job.
If the wheel’s surface isn’t adequately prepped for the paint application process, paint chips can flake off and get stuck in the bead seal. Paint flakes aren’t thick enough to break the tire bead’s seal and unseat the tire.
That said, the paint chip intrusion can be significant enough to allow air an escape path while inflating your bike’s tires.
5. Motorcycle Tire is Punctured, Ripped, Or Torn
The most common reason why a motorcycle tire won’t fill up with air is a puncture, tear, or rip in the tire’s rubber.
Tire damage is most frequently caused by riding over a sharp object, such as jagged pavement, pointed metal, glass, nails, screws, etc.
The resulting hole caused by the sharp item allows air to escape your motorcycle tire while you’re riding. Then, when you try to refill the air on your motorcycle tires, nothing happens; its PSI level never goes up.
- Tire punctures are often fixable by sealing the hole with a tire patch on the tire’s inside portion, facing the wheel.
- You can also use a spray can tire sealant solution to temporarily fill the hole for long enough to get somewhere where you or your mechanic can develop a more permanent solution.
But while tire punctures are the most common culprit behind faulty tire inflation, it is not the most visible cause to detect.
One popular technique is to coat your bike’s suspect tire in soapy water before attempting to inflate it, watching for the air bubbles while you’re pumping air.
A tear or rip in the tire’s rubber sidewall is a whole different matter.
Sometimes caused by sharp rocks and foreign objects, a jagged pothole can even be enough to rip through the rubber wall connecting your tread to the wheel’s rim.
While rips and tears in your motorcycle tires are more accessible to detect than punctures, there’s no patch or sealant strong enough to repair a gashed tire well enough for it to inflate; the tire will have to be replaced before riding.
6. Damage to Motorcycle Wheel Or Rim
If the tire itself isn’t gashed or punctured, it could be a damaged wheel rim causing your motorcycle tire to fail to pump up.
Motorcycle tires are particularly susceptible to bending and warping from pothole damage, dropping off unseen curbs, and riding over heavily damaged concrete.
Some of the more sport-centric motorcycle designs utilize lightweight alloy wheels to add to their aerodynamics and shave pounds off their overall weight.
- Since motorcycles only have two wheels, they roll back and forth on them while riding around curves and taking sharp corners.
- A small crack or crimple caused by a pothole to an alloy wheel rim gets worse once ridden on, making the motorcycle tire hard to inflate.
- Riding on a damaged wheel is also a severe safety risk, comprising your bike’s control.
If your rims or any part of your actual wheel is damaged, the only safe fix is to replace the damaged wheel.
Note: If you’re experiencing issues with motorcycle tires that won’t inflate, you must diagnose the problem before riding. If it’s not an issue with the air compressor or either of the valves involved, it’s either an issue with the rubber tire or the metal wheel; riding on damaged tires and wheels is a hazard, increasing the risk of collision.