As much as we may wish they would, car tires don’t last forever. If you notice that your tire looks a little deflated, it is very likely that you have a tire leak on your hands.
Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until your tire is completely flat tire. If you suspect a tire leak, simply follow these 5 steps to diagnose and fix the problem.
1: Check Your Tire Pressure
You should regularly check the air pressure of all four tires with a tire inflation gauge. There’s no better way to diagnose a slow leak. Remember – tires will lose pressure as the outside temperature drops in the fall and winter, so don’t be mislead by a temperature-related drop in pressure. If you notice that you have one tire that has less pressure on a regular basis, it’s likely that you have a leak.
If you do diagnose a slow leak, you should remove the leaking tire, replace it temporarily with your spare tire, and get the leaking tired patched as soon as possible.
2: Inspect Your Tire
Along with regular pressure checks, you should keep an eye on your treads. Carefully examine the entire tread, sidewalls and bead of each tire (for those who don’t know, the bead is the area of tire that sits on the wheel). You can even use a magnifying glass to look for any cuts, cracks or splits – or objects embedded in the tread that have punctured the tire. Many times you can puncture your tire with a nail, but the nail plugs its own hole – resulting in a very slow pressure leak. Take a white china marker (an oil-based pencil that writes well on rubber) and circle any possible “trouble” spots.
3: Re-inflate Your Tire
Re-inflate the leaking tire to the recommended pressure using a home air compressor or the air pump at a service station. Listen for a high-pitched hiss – that means you’ve definitely got a leak. Check the trouble spots you marked and figure out which one is the culprit.
4: Use Bubbles to Find The Leak
Take any kind of spray cleaner or window cleaner and spray around the tire tread, covering about 1/6 of the circumference each time. Wherever bubbles pop up, there’s an air leak. Circle every bubble location with your china marker.
5: Plug Tire Leak or Replace Tire
If your leak is a tiny hole, smaller than a quarter inch across, you can repair it temporarily with a tire plug. Use vise grip pliers to remove the object, then create a smooth, uniform hole with a tire reamer and insert the tire plug. Draw a second circle around it with your china marker. As long as the tire’s tread and sidewalls are still in good condition, you can take your tire to a tire service center for an interior patch. If your tire’s tread indicators are showing, or if the sidewalls are damaged, you should discard the tire and buy a good quality replacement tire. Have the tire center install the new tire, put it on in place of your spare, and drive home.
The most important thing to take away from this post is to check your tire pressure on a regular basis. Inspecting your tire weekly in the spring and fall (when temperatures are changing), and once a month throughout the year, will allow you to catch slow leaks before your tire is fully deflated.