How to Fix a Leaking Tire

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filling a flat tire

It usually a good thing to check the air in your car tires at least weekly before you drive. Sometimes the number fluctuates depending on the temperature and use. However if you find yourself constantly filling a tire that doesn’t ever seem to stay within the acceptable air range something might be wrong. You may notice it sometimes deflates outright. So what is wrong with you tire? It is leaking.


Causes of Tire Leaks

In order to be sure of what causes the leaks in your tire you may just need to remove your wheel and tire from the vehicle in question.

That’s the first and easiest way to inspect if there are any tears or pinholes in the tread or sidewall. Maybe you’ll find a nail in the car. Now if you don’t find anything like those on your tire, then the tire is not really the problem. A possible issue might actually come from the valve stem. It might just be leaking instead of keeping air inside. In that case the valve stem would need to be replaced. Another issue is simply that the tire bead, which is where the tire meets the wheel, is not properly sealed against the rim. The latter happens due to usage and corrosion on the metal.


Finding a Leak

checking a flat tire

A mixture of soap and water will really help you to find the source of a tire leak. Take that mixed solution and use a spray bottle. Spray the entire surface of your wheels and tires. That means you need to spray the tread, sidewalls, the valve stem and opening (remove the cap first). Be extra sure to spray along the rims on the inside and out.

The reason you use this soapy solution is that the spot where byubbles are forming is where the air is leaking out of your car. Admittedly you might still want to remove your wheels from the car but this can be done without doing so. You may just want to use your steering wheel to expose the inner sidewalls.

Another method would be to remove the wheels and place the tire & wheel into a large tub of water. The idea is the same: the bubbles are where the leak is coming from. Some tubs are not large enough for wheels and tires so dunk it in sections.


Fixing a Leaking Tire

When it comes to fixing a leak, you need to have your car taken to the shop (be sure to equip the spare first). If the source of the leak happens to be pinholes or small punctures in the tread, those will very likely be plugged or patched. However in the case of large punctures, those cannot be plugged or patched. Likewise the minor damage to the sidewalls or shoulders (where the tread and sidewall meet) mean you need a full on tire replacement after a rim repair or replacement. When it comes to leaky valve stems and cores, those can be easily repaired and replaced.

tire change

Sometimes the case is simpler. It may just be because the tires are not seated properly on the wheel. In that case, the shop should remove the tires, reapply sealer and re-seat them properly.


If The Problem Is With the Bead

If the problem really is due to the bead and bead seat, you need to take a few extra steps. It is important that you remove the tire before cleaning off any corrosion. Then use the bead sealer before remounting the tire. Many tire specialty shops will inflate your tires using nitrogen instead of air. The reason is because the molecules are larger than oxygen. That has proven to minimize slipping through the holes. It is also because nitrogen contains less moisture which also makes it sort of a rust preventer too.


If it is the Wheel

wheel balancing

Should you or the shop find that the real problem is with the wheel, they and you will need to make a big judgment call as to whether or not it can be repaired to just should be replaced.


In the end it is not that difficult to diagnose a tire leak and the solutions to fixing leaking wheels & tires are pretty simple and self explanatory. Just be sure to take precautions. Be ready with your spare and as always drive safe.

Sue Rogers has been working and writing for automotive industry for seven plus years and is excited to share her knowledge and experience with you.