Here in the Philippines, the “vulcanizer” is a household name. Almost everyone that lives in the Philippines has had some experience or been affected by a flat tire of some kind, whether it be on their own vehicle or while riding a trike or jeepney or any other kind of vehicle used for transportation. When you have a flat tire, you simply take it to a vulcanizing shop or, in some cases, they can come to you or even service you alongside the roadway. I do not understand why they just don’t call themselves “Tire Repair” shops or something like that. I guess the sound of “vulcanizer” just sounds more technical. While vulcanization is not necessarily the process of fixing tires, it is a process by where rubbers are chemically treated into a compound, or in the case of tire repair, where two pieces of rubber (inner tube and patch) are melded together to form a tight seal using glue and heat.
The term Vulcanizer or Vulcanizing is usually what you will see painted on a tire along the roadside as an advertisement for tire repair services. Some shops are nothing more than a place to park and the operator has a small portable device that can be heated up along with a clamp that can be used to apply pressure while affixing the patch on a tube or tire. My vulcanizer utilizes an old engine piston which he inverts and places burning charcoal inside, and a clamp that applies the hot piston over the patch. Nothing high-tech about it but it works well….and it’s a bargain on most days where a flat tire on my motorcycle can be patched while I wait for about P50 (or about $1.15USD).
As my luck has it, I have had about 6 flat tires over the last 18 months, and it is always the back tire. Until yesterday, every time I have had a flat tire it has been with eye-shot of a vulcanizing shop. Sometimes I think that because some of these flats are so conveniently close to the vulcanizer shop, that it tends to raise some suspicions. I recently read an article about some shrewd shop operators being arrested in SE Asia somewhere for strewing nails and screws along the roadway in the vicinity of their operation. I’m sure that’s not the case here as there are just so many of these shops, that is almost impossible not to be close to one when you have a flat. Once I had to push the bike about 1/2 kilometer to the vulcanizing shop but that really isn’t all that far considering any other scenario which could have left me stranded in the middle of nowhere. Yesterday though my luck (bad luck) changed (got worse). This time I was nearly home when the tire began going soft (if you guessed back tire, you’re right). And because I didn’t run off the road or through any construction zones, I couldn’t imagine it being another nail. So I managed to get the bike to the house before it was totally flat. The problem now was that I had a flat tire and there is NO vulcanizer in our village to make a repair.
So now I was obligated to remove the entire tire which meant a complete dis-assembly of the wheel hub, brake drum, stabilizer bar and axle bolt and alignment bolts. I completely understand now why all the vulcanizers remove the tube while the wheel is still intact on the bike…for ease of repair. This was not an option for me as I had to get the wheel to a shop and I wasn’t about pay to load up the bike and have it delivered. So I played motorcycle mechanic myself and removed the entire wheel. As it turned out, I never ran over anything that punctured the tire. The valve stem just became unseated from the tube itself and slowly let out all the air.
So I put the wheel in the car and drove it to my vulcanizer for a new tube assembly. Now I was looking at the cost of a new tube and labor which would set me back almost P200 (about $4.49USD). The labor charge (mine) for removing the tire and reassembly…zero! That was on me. My last flat tire was caused by running over someones Honda scooter key, driving it through the tire and puncturing the tub. I’m thinking now that should this same scenario present itself again, I will have the bike delivered to my roadside vulcanizer. For what it is worth, I have plenty of experience as a motorcycle mechanic and besides, it just takes my time away from playing another round of tennis. And as far as my luck goes, I have learned it is directly proportional to me keeping my bike on the actual roadway!