Flat tires can be dangerous for various reasons. It can make you late for an important meeting, leave you stranded in a bad part of town, or cause a wreck while you are on the highway. While some problems can be put off until the next payday, like changing the oil, a low tire needs to be addressed as soon as you realize there is a problem. NAPA is very familiar with tire problems and has some tips for figuring out where the leak is coming from and how to repair it on your own or have it replaced.
Add air to the tire
If your tire looks like it’s low, start by adding air to it. Filling a tire with air while it’s hot can give you an inaccurate reading, so make sure the tire is cold first. Also, make sure you don’t add too much air. Your owner’s manual will give you the pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) you need for your tires. A tire gauge will tell you if you need to add more air or not. Check each tire to make sure it is filled sufficiently with air. Newer cars will alert you to low tire pressure by using a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, but older models aren’t equipped with this feature.
Watch and listen
Once all your tires are filled with air, keep an eye on them for the next few weeks. If it’s a small leak, it won’t be obvious right away. The tire will slowly deflate and will become more noticeable because it’s losing air quicker than your other tires.
Weather will affect this as well. AccuWeather reports, “Hot weather may make your tires over-inflate. However, very cold weather may cause your tires to be dangerously under-inflated.” If you have extreme winters that may cause your tire to deflate, there are other ways you can check for leaks.
Also, check for more obvious signs like a protruding nail, tears, or punctures. For less obvious holes, you may hear a slight whistling sound as air is released from the hole. You may also be able to feel it.
If the sidewall or shoulder have been punctured, you’ll need to replace the tire. Otherwise, you can remove the nail and fill in any holes. Just keep in mind that this is a temporary fix and that you should keep an eye on it.
Submerge the tire in water
If you can’t see or hear the leak, the next step is to break out the water. Grab a bucket, fill it with a little water, and add a dash of soap. Next you’ll cover the low tire with the soap and water. Just like when your kids blow bubbles by blowing, the air leaking out will cause the soap and water to bubble. If you still can’t find the leak, try removing the tire and submerging it completely. If there is a leak present, the pressure from the air leaking out will cause it to bubble.
Figure out which part of the tire it is
The tire itself can be in great shape, but still leak due to a bad valve stem or a damaged wheel-mounting surface. Submerging the tire in water will still show you where the leak is, even if it isn’t the tire.
Replace or seal the tire
Now that you’ve figured out where the leak is, it’s time to decide if you can fix it by filling in the hole or if you need to replace the tire. Sometimes the tire can be fixed, but in many cases it needs to be replaced. Some factors you need to consider are what the weather is like where you live, road conditions, and how far you travel each month. If you’re going to get a lot of wear and tear on your tires, it may be better to invest in new high-quality tires. If your budget is a concern, try repairing the tire yourself with a tube sealant kit and setting aside some cash for tires at a later date.
If it’s something more than the tire, then you may need to consult a professional for advice. Either way, making sure your tires are in proper working condition will keep you and your fellow drivers safe as you travel down the road of life.