Flat Tire in Thailand: Everyone’s a Motorbike Repairman

A flat tire last night gave me another good experience with a Thai person willing to help

Last night I was flying back to the hotel on the motorbike about 100km per hour, trying hard to beat the sunset which was winning the race. I have a dark visor on the helmet and it's dirty… there were no street lights and I was trying to follow cars since I could use their headlights to illuminate the motorbike path more than my high beam on the motorbike was doing. Low beams are better, since they shine on the road more – but mine was broken and I hadn't seen the need to fix it until that time.

The road wasn't horizontally flat really, it was angled a bit but still the tire in the rear felt a bit wobbly.  If you keep your tires pumped up full all the time you'll be able to notice a soft one quicker and save yourself maybe some skidding across the pavement on your arse or at least from having the nasty swerves that sometimes accompany a flat at high speed. 

Oh – if you do feel the bike starting to swerve at high speed you need to slow down slowly and evenly with both breaks. Hold on tightly to the grips since the bike might start swerving and you've gotta stay in control. I always put my feet down to the pavement too – like an extra brake and it HELPS! Your shoes will lose a 1/4 inch of rubber (or plastic if you bought your running shoes or sandals in Thailand) but you'll be so much better off since putting your feet down helps to steady the bike and cancel out the swerves.  In my experience anyway. 

I was just guessing that one of my tires was a bit soft – it wasn't flat – it's easy to tell if it's flat… so I did something stupid that turned out ok, I swerved on purpose a few times just to feel the tire. Yeah, felt soft.

I stopped and checked it.  I lost a lot of air -but still ok to go a few km depending how fast it was leaking.

I stopped by two guys sitting on their motorbikes and talking near a bus stop.  I pointed at my tire and made a motion like no air now. I STILL don't know the Thai language for flat tire… I should, considering I've had 10 or so in 2+ years.  I'll look it up, better to know it.  I said "aow gaht, mai me" – air, no have.  They understood immediately though I think the context and me pointing to the rear tire as flat had more to do with it than my made-up Thai.

The heavier guy jumps on his motorbike and tells me to follow – mah nee.

I do and we drive about 5 houses down the road.  It's pitch black.  Motorbike shop closed.  He sees a girl walking 2 doors down. He yells her name. They talk. He tells me, mah nee… I bring the motorbike under where she lives (house on stilts) and the guy goes about changing my tire using her families tools, air compressor, etc.  The guy had a hard time as he didn't know where all the tools were. They didn't have a spare tube for the motorbike so he had to patch it. The hole fell on an area on the tube where there were a lot of raised rubber ridges so he needed to sand those down really smooth before gluing and patching.  He was sweating and I was filming video of him working and when I could I was playing with the 3 kittens that were running around my feet.

For 20 minutes the guy did a good job, I made it the 12 km back without a problem. Not sure I have air this morning, but by the way he paid attention to what he was doing – I'm sure I have air. 

It's sucks to get a flat tire anywhere…. but in Thailand – you just point to your tire and they'll take it from there. Even if they don't WANT to help, I think they do something just knowing that you're a foreigner and you don't know anyone, so they help.  That, and the fact that some want to make some extra coin.

The way this guy was working and sweating, what is usually a 30-50 baht operation – a tire patch, I thought was going to be a 100 – 150 baht scam the farang operation.

Video of him changing flat motorbike tire >

When he was finishing up I heard him ask the girl how much to charge. She said 20 baht. I thought I must have heard incorrectly.  Then I thought, he must have asked her how much to use her tools and the patch and glue kit.  I thought he'd add his on top.

I asked how much – Taol rai kup? 

sewenty baht.

I said what?

Yee sip baht.

I said what?

I thought he meant 70 baht – which would have been ok considering the effort and now he needed a shower.

He said yee sip baht.  I said, oh no, here is 100 baht. Thanks so much man…

He was shocked and the girl was all smiles but he didn't really know what to do. He wanted to help, that much was obvious. I'm glad he took the 100 baht as it saved me a lot of effort to find someone else in that area – there was nobody else around.

So, if you have a flat tire on your motorbike, don't be shy about stopping and asking ANYONE that might be out. If they can't do something they'll probably go find someone that can. Or they'll just walk away from you out of embarrassment for not being able to speak English thinking you don't speak Thai. So, try out your Thai.  It's times like this, when I'm forced to speak Thai that I realize I should practice more.

A few days ago  I had a hilarious time attempting to tell some guys my battery was dead – it wouldn't start.  Thais' say battery like "batt a lee" very distinct syllables if you ever are in the same situation.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.