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How to Deal With a Tire Leak You Can’t Find

a tire with a puncture

Continually losing air in the same tire is a certain sign that a leak is present. If you find a hole, then it’s a simple matter of plugging it, adding air and going on your way. Unfortunately, not every tire leak is easily found, making it all the more difficult to resolve a persistent problem. Here are some steps you can take to identify and fix a leak.

tire leak 1. Add Air to the Affected Tire

Put sufficient air in your tire according to the pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) recommendation listed in the owner’s manual, on the placard found on the driver’s door jamb or on the inside of the glove box. The tire should be cold when inflating to ensure an accurate reading. Inflate each tire on your car and the spare accordingly.

2. Observe Carefully

If the affected tire continues to lose air faster than the other tires, then you have a leak. You’ll find most leaks by visual inspection — a protruding nail, a hole or a cut are obvious signs — and by listening to or feeling around the tire for air release. Remove nails and fill holes, but any puncture in the tire shoulder or sidewall areas means you’ll have to replace the tire.

3. Submerge the Tire to Discover Leaks

Some leaks are imperceptible under normal observation, but there are two ways to find a leak. First, cover the affected tire with a solution of soap and water. If a leak is present, the impacted area will bubble up, revealing the leak. Second, you can always remove the tire from the car, then submerge it in water. Bubbles will soon form, making it easy for you to identify the source of the leak.

5. Identify the Affected Component

Not all leaks can be directly attributed to the tire. The tire itself may be in top condition, but there are two other ways a tire may leak.

First, a bad valve stem can cause a tire to lose air through the valve base or body.

Second, the wheel-mounting surface may be defective. It can be damaged by hitting a pothole or through corrosion.

These two hidden problems become visible through the soap-and-water test or by submerging the tire.

6. Replace or Seal

You can resolve a tire leak in two ways.

First, if the leak is due to the tire itself, then a tube sealant kit can handle most small leaks.

Second, for leaks not involving the tire directly, replacing a worn valve stem or a damaged wheel should provide a comprehensive fix.

Check out all the driveline & wheel parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on tire leaks, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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