Fix a slow leak in tire

Common Causes for Slow Tire Leaks & How To Fix Them

A slow tire leak is more than just a nuisance. A leak can lead to low tire pressure. Not to mention, prolonged running on an underinflated tire can lead to more extensive tire damage or even cause a dangerous blowout.

If you’re experiencing a slow leak, here are some things to look for:

A tire puncture: It is a common misconception that a puncture will cause the tire to immediately go flat. However, in many cases the object that caused the puncture remains lodged in the tire and prevents the air from leaking out quickly. As with all tire leaks, it is important not to ignore a puncture. Eventually the object will either wear down and/or work its way out of the tire. For more on this read our article How to Repair a Tire with a Safe, Permanent Fix.

Wheel damage: Another common cause for slow tire leaks is damage to the area where the tire bead meets the rim. This type of damage is typically cause by the driver hitting the curb, taking a speed bump at high speeds OR those dreaded potholes! The impact deforms the wheel’s metal surface which may cause the tire to pull away from the mounting surface of the wheel.

Valve stem damage: The third most common cause for slow tire leaks is worn out or damaged valve stems. Time, use and exposure to elements can cause your valve stems to wear out and cause leaks.

Diagnosing your tire leak:

If your vehicle is equipped with TPMS, you will know right away if you have a leak. If the sensor light on your dashboard goes off, you inflate all the tires back to proper pressure and the light goes back on a few days later – you likely have a leak. If your vehicle does not have TPMS, its important to check your tire pressure regularly.

Once you’ve identified that you have a leak, use TECH Chek to locate the source of your leak. Simply spray the product all around the tire. Where the surface of the tire begins to bubble is likely the source of your leak.

So, what do you do now?

It’s important to have your tire diagnosed by a professionally trained tire shop or mobile tire repair service as soon as possible. In the case of a puncture, you may want to use a tire repair kit to keep your tire properly inflated until you can have it serviced. The leak should then be permanently fixed using a proper tire repair consisting of a cured rubber stem and repair unit.

If the leak is caused by a damaged valve, a trained tire technician can typically replace the valve at a minimal cost. In some cases, however, the tire may need replaced.

If the leak is caused by a damaged wheel, a tire technician may be able to reseat and seal the tire using a bead sealer. However, if the damage to the wheel is significant, unfortunately that means you may need to replace the wheel itself.

To read more about the types of damage that can and cannot be repaired, click here!

How to Repair a Flat Tire with a Safe, Permanent Fix

So, you have a flat tire or one that’s leaking air. It’s not the end of the world. Luckily there are safe and cost-effective ways to properly repair most tire punctures. The purpose of this article is to show you the difference between a safe, permanent repair and a temporary string, plug or patch repair.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) and the Tire Industry Association (TIA), the only method to properly repair a tire puncture is to fill the injury with a repair stem and back the stem with a repair patch. This is commonly known as a combination repair or a patch/plug repair.

Patch/plug repairs are most often performed using a one-piece repair unit that combines the repair stem and cap (or patch) into one unit. However, special circumstances may require the use of a two-piece combination repair (ex. If the angle of the puncture exceeds 35 degrees). The repair is then permanently bonded to the inside of tire and through the injury channel using a cold, chemical vulcanizing process. The repair essentially becomes part of the tire, creating an air-tight seal that keeps air in and moisture and contaminants out (more on this procedure below).

Tire Plugs and String Repairs are Temporary Repairs

Emergency roadside plug repairs are NOT intended to be a permanent tire repair. Plugs and string repairs are designed to get you back up and rolling long enough to get home or to the nearest service center to perform a proper tire repair.

The common misconception with plug and string repairs is that because they hold air, they are safe to use. While it is true that many plug repairs do a great job of keeping air in the tire, that’s only part of the equation. Because they’re not completely sealing the injury, plug repairs may allow air and moisture to penetrate the body of the tire. Over time, this could lead to a dangerous (or even deadly) blowout.

A Patch-Only Tire Repair Leaves Your Tire Susceptible to Damage

A tire repair that uses only a patch is also NOT considered proper or safe. A properly installed patch will do a great job of allowing the tire to hold air. However, similarly to the plug-only repair, the patch does not fill the injury channel. Therefore, air and moisture could seep into the tire from the tread surface and eventually damage the tire.

The Proper Tire Repair Process According to Industry Guidelines

Only a proper patch/plug repair completely seals the puncture from inside the tire and through the entire injury channel. There are a few extra steps necessary to perform a proper tire repair in accordance with industry guidelines. We’ve developed a simple acronym to help organize and remember the steps: R.E.P.A.I.R.

  • Remove: To begin, the tire must be removed from the wheel assembly. This allows for a thorough inspection of both the inside and outside of the tire.
  • Evaluate: With the tire removed from the rim, the puncture can be thoroughly evaluated to determine the size and angle of the injury. It can also be determined if the puncture did any significant damage to the cords or belts.
  • Prepare: Once the tire has been determined to be in good enough condition to repair, it is time to prep the rubber surfaces to remove any damage and contamination to allow for maximum repair unit adhesion. First, the injury is drilled out using a carbide cutter to strip away and damaged cords or belts. Next, the inner liner is cleaned and buffed to a slightly rough texture. This also helps maximize adhesion of the patch/plug repair.
  • Apply: The next step is to apply vulcanizing fluid through the injury and to the buffed area of the inner liner. It is then allowed to air dry for 5-10 minutes.
  • Install: The one- or two-piece repair is installed through the injury channel and the patch portion is thoroughly stitched to the inner liner using a tire stitcher to completely push out any air that may have gotten trapped under the repair. The over-buffed area of the inner liner is treated with a thin layer of rubber sealant, and the excess repair is trimmed to approximately ¼” above the tread surface.
  • Return to Service: The tire is now ready to be remounted to the rim, inflated, balanced and mounted back on the vehicle.

When is it Safe to Repair Your Tire?

There are a number of factors that may determine whether or not your tire is safe to repair. These factors fall into three main categories:

  • Placement of the Injury: For passenger tires, puncture repairs must be within the crown area of the tire. Damage to the shoulder or sidewall cannot be repaired.
  • Size of the Puncture: For fabric-ply passenger and light truck tires, the maximum repairable injury size is ¼” (6mm). For steel belted light truck, medium and heavy-duty truck tires, the maximum injury size is 3/8” (10mm).
  • Overall Condition of the Tire: The condition of your tire may determine whether it is safe to repair. Excessive wear, casing separation, impact damage and other conditions may make it unsafe to properly repair your tire. For a more comprehensive list of repairable vs. non-repairable conditions visit our blog Can Your Tire Be Repaired?


The occasional flat or leaky tire is an unavoidable part of life. But, taking shortcuts to repair it can be dangerous to you and your passengers. Take the time and do the research to do the job right and/or find a reputable tire repair shop trained in proper tire repair procedure.

How to fix a slow leak on a car tire

Slow leaks occur when a tire punctures after driving over a sharp object that is stuck in your car's tire. Common culprits include nails and screws. Air slowly leaks out at the puncture site, reducing pressure and causing your tire to lose performance.


  • 1 Step 1
  • 2 Step 2
  • 3 Step 3
  • 4 Step 4
  • 5 Step 5
  • 6 Step 6
  • 7 Step 7
  • 8 Step 8
  • 9 Step 9
  • 10 Step 10
  • 11 Tips
  • 12 Warning
  • 13 Items you will need

Step 1

Determine which tire has a slow leak. The tire may be noticeably smaller or softer to the touch due to the reduction in the amount of air inside. Use a pressure gauge to determine if the tire pressure is lower than the other tires, if necessary. nine0003

Step 2

Break a vehicle tire that is diagonally across from a slowly leaking tire by placing a wood block or wedge behind it. Blocking or stabilization prevents the vehicle from moving. If you have a manual transmission vehicle, apply the emergency brake for added protection.

Step 3

Try to find the object causing the slow leak. If you can see it and can reach it safely, you don't need to lift the car. If you cannot see the object, read your owner's manual and raise the vehicle. nine0003

Step 4

Inspect the wheel for foreign objects or puncture marks. If you can't see anything, spray the tire with the soapy water you made by adding liquid soap or cleaning spray to the water. You should see visible bubbling at the site of the slow leak.

Step 5

Remove the source of the leak, such as a nail or screw, with pliers or a screwdriver. If you find the puncture site but the sharp object is not removed, the object may have fallen out while driving. Continue your renovation. nine0003

Step 6

Insert a plug into the end of the insertion tool included in the repair kit. The cork is a thin rubber cylinder, and the insertion tool is similar to a screwdriver with a "T"-shaped handle.

Step 7

Grasp the T-handle and align the plug with the puncture site. Insert the plug into the puncture site by pressing down on the T-handle, leaving about half an inch of the plug protruding from the tread. nine0003

Step 8

Carefully pull the T-shaped insertion tool out of the tire. Now the fork is in place.

Step 9

Add air to your tire using an air pump such as the pump at a gas station and fill to the recommended pressure. Find the recommended pressure inside your car's door jamb, if you're not sure - look for a number followed by "psi" which means pounds per square inch. Pay special attention when adding air in extreme weather conditions, but never over- or under-inflate tires depending on temperature. nine0003

Step 10

Lower the vehicle carefully if you raised it and remove the jack.

Check the tire pressure again using a pressure gauge. If the pressure is held at the desired level, you have successfully fixed the wheel. Cut off any excess cork protruding from the tire using a razor blade.


  • Eliminate slow leaks at room temperature to ensure accurate air pressure readings. Outside temperature affects pressure per 1 psi. An inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. nine0010


  • Fix slow leaks as soon as possible. Continued driving on a slowly leaking tire can cause permanent damage.

Items you will need

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • wheel block
  • tire jack
  • Tire repair kit (plug, plug inserter and rasp)
  • Soapy water in a spray bottle nine0010
  • Air pump
  • shaving knife

Articles about technical information and characteristics of tires

On the road, various troubles can happen to a car and a rubber puncture on a car is a common case.

The absence of a spare wheel or a standard "roll-in" seriously complicates the situation. If the driver has the skills, you can put a temporary patch on the puncture, otherwise you will have to order a tow truck.

We recommend carrying a spare wheel, a repair kit for various occasions, the necessary tools, then you can get out of any traffic situation with dignity. If all this is not there, then you can drive on punched rubber a short distance to a service station or tire fitting. We are not talking about hundreds of kilometers of travel, we are talking about a short distance. nine0003

Causes of loss of pressure

Leakage of air from a car tire can occur in different situations. At the same time, punching is not necessary, there are other unforeseen and unpleasant situations. Most common:

  • A puncture is the most common accident on the road. In this case, the situation may worsen if the puncture is slow, that is, a sharp object is stuck in the tire and the air comes out very slowly, the driver will find out about this later, when it is completely lowered. In this situation, if a puncture is detected, you can slowly drive to the tire fitting, having previously pumped up air. nine0010
  • A cut is a more serious problem than a puncture. The size of the damage is larger, the air flows out faster and the wheel deflates almost instantly. In this case, both the main part of the tire and the side part can be damaged. The side part is thinner and easy to cut. Particularly dangerous in this regard is careless driving along the roadsides, near the curbs, in a rut with sharp edges. The tire after a cut is practically not recoverable, it only needs to be replaced with another one.
  • Malfunction of the valve (spool) - this also occurs. You can simply tighten it with a key, otherwise you will have to change the part.
  • The source of air leakage from the wheel is the nipple - it is treated by simple tightening.

Potholes or bumps in the road can be a serious problem. Hitting such an obstacle at high speed can lead to deformation of the car disk, subsequently to damage to the rubber. Very serious damage, which is impossible to fix on your own, without the use of special equipment, you need to go to a tire service. nine0003

Use of used car tires - follow manufacturer's specified service life. Otherwise, the wheel may deflate due to high wear. There is a risk of explosion directly during operation.

Problems exist with tubeless tires - the fitting sometimes does not fit well on the disc, air leaks occur.

The main causes that lead to damage to car tires and air leakage are indicated. Whether it is possible to drive on a flat tire is determined by the driver himself, taking into account his experience and capabilities. nine0003

Run-flat risk

Driving with a flat tire is not recommended. Driving a car is significantly more difficult, there is a risk of getting into an accident, creating a threat to other road users.

Among the main problems that driving with low tire pressure can cause are:

  • the car can deviate from the main trajectory of movement, move to the side;
  • the problem described earlier becomes more pronounced with increasing speed, the car becomes almost uncontrollable; nine0010
  • increased fuel consumption - an inevitable companion of driving with a flat tire;
  • a completely flat tire is at risk of sidewall damage, cuts, which can make it completely unusable;
  • due to increasing pressure on the disc, there is a risk of rubber damage;
  • prolonged driving on a flat tire leads to disassembly of automobile rubber, subsequently to damage to the disc;
  • sharp maneuvers are difficult, this is one of the factors of the accident. nine0010

A flat tire is a serious hazard. Each driver must understand this and take all necessary measures to eliminate the problem. In no case should a puncture be ignored, at high speed the situation can completely get out of control. The ideal would be to replace the wheel with a spare, repair at the nearest tire shop.

A car tire is a complex system. Consists of different elements. Manufacturers use special technologies and materials to provide the declared driving characteristics of the car. The special pattern on the main part of the tire has its own functionality, and does not serve solely for beauty. Any deviation from the norm leads to a decrease in the functionality of the tire, respectively, the car loses its qualities. Its use becomes unsafe until the problem is solved. nine0003

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How much and how to drive with low pressure

It is worth noting that under no circumstances should you drive with a completely flat tire. The situation can get out of control of the driver at any time, the tire will fly off the disk, he will receive damage that will lead to new problems. It's best to call a tow truck, no matter the cost. nine0003

An exception to the rule may be a tire that still has some air left in it. You can try to get to a service station or tire fitting. You can also try to inflate the tire to give yourself more time.

Low pressure driving is possible subject to the following rules:

  • minimum driving speed;
  • the movement takes place without interfering with other road users;
  • sharp maneuvers on the road are not allowed; nine0010
  • one should be attentive to pits, irregularities;
  • periodically it is necessary to check the condition of the wheel, stop and check the tire.

The average distance allowed for driving with a half-flat tire is 10 kilometers. This is only allowed if the above rules are observed.


Delays in dealing with low tire pressure, punctures or other damage will result in negative consequences. The following systems may experience problems:

  • brakes - the efficiency of work is significantly reduced, which is especially pronounced during hard braking;
  • steering system - sharp maneuvers are difficult, any turn may be accompanied by a skid of the car, it becomes impossible to control the car;
  • wear of the elements of the steering system;
  • punctured tires begin to overheat, which negatively affects their service life;
  • increased fuel consumption - this is due to an increased rolling resistance parameter of a flat tire; nine0010
  • Vehicle dynamics are reduced.

A vehicle with flat tires is a danger to other road users and its driving characteristics are affected.

It must be understood that movement with insufficient pressure leads to deformation of the rubber. You run the risk of completely damaging the tire, subsequently replacing it with a new one. Therefore, the decision to drive on half-flat wheels must be made carefully, carefully assessing all the consequences and alternatives.

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