Monday, August 13, 2012

Tire Slow Leak Fix

A few days ago I looked out my window and noticed one of my car tires was pretty low. I pumped it back up using my compressor, and everything seemed okay. The correct tire pressure is found on a sticker in the driver's side door jam of most vehicles, (mine is 32 psi), seen here. I always refer to this so I don't have to remember.

Two days later the tire was down to 5 psi and looking decidedly flat. I had a slow leak. Not wanting to cough up the change or time for a professional fix, I decided to fix it myself. So I bought a tire repair kit at an auto parts store, these are much cheaper. I have radial tires so this type of fix can be used, in theory. I had seen these kits in stores for years but never had the opportunity to try one. Now is that time! It only cost $10, worth a shot, anyways.

The kit consists of a rasp, a threadable needle, and several strips of sticky rubber strips along with a tube of rubber cement. The kit I bought can repair 5 punctures. There were a few brands and sizes at the store, I grabbed the 8-peice one. I'd recommend getting at least the T-handles since you have to use a lot of force and it makes it much easier to get a grip. It comes with instructions on the back but hey, figured I'd show you how its is done since I am doing it for the first time!

First step was to block the wheels and lock the breaks, set car in park, etc. Don't want it going anywhere when we jack it up, do we?

Next step was to "crack" the lugnuts loose prior to jacking, just a 1/2 turn or so. Otherwise the wheel will just spin in the air if it is jacked up when you apply a lot of force to the nuts:

Then I jacked up the car so I could safely remove the tire. I used my 2-ton hydraulic jack. I hate scissor jacks, they are chintzy and a pain to use. When jacking a car you need to find the right spot, my car has these welds in the frame near the tires that stick down and will support the weight of the car:

Once the tire was clear of the ground, I loosened the lug nuts all the way, put them in a safe spot and removed the tire for inspection:

With the wheel off I set about looking for the problem. Slow leaks occur because whatever caused the puncture is embedded in the tire, forming a seal, albeit a crappy one. Eventually I found it, it looked like a nail:

A little tug with my pliers and I could hear air escaping, yep, this is the culprit!

Pulled that $&^%er out of there. Looks like a finishing nail. Hooray. Tire is now hissing loudly from the hole.

Now to the repair. First, the rasp tool. It helps to spin the tool while getting it in there, makes it easier to push it in. Other more expensive kits at the store had a spiral groove in the rasp - now I know why. I Pulled the rasp in and out 10-20 times. This will clean and abrade the rubber as well as make the hole the right size to install the strip. Tire really started deflating after this.

Then I threaded one of the tar strips into the needle tool, slathered on some rubber cement, and jammed it in there about 2/3 of the way, then yanked out the needle. Probably didn't need as much rubber cement as I put on there. Then I cut off the stub with a box cutter:

Reinflated the tire to 32 PSI and checked if I could hear/see any leak. Nothing. Then I put the tire back on the hub, and tightened the lug nuts in a star pattern till they were snug with the wrench. Then I lowered the jack, removed it, and tightened the lug nuts all the way.

That was easy! All in all, it took me about 45 minutes. Now the part where we wait and make sure it worked, it was a slow leak after all. I'll report back in a week.

I highly recommend going this route. In the past I have gone to tire shops and paid $50 or more to have it fixed, and they use a similar system to do the repair. On the back of the kit it claims that this fix is only temporary and the tire should be taken to a professional shop for a permanent fix, but I noticed that all of the tire repair products mentioned this on the labeling. This sounds like a load of baloney to me, it is probably just there for legal reasons. I seriously doubt that it will fail before the tire needs replacing.

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