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How to Patch a Tire and Identify Air Leak Causes

Flat Tire

Have you recently noticed that one of your car’s tires is losing air faster than the others, even after you refill it? In all likelihood, you probably have a leak in your tire. Believe it or not, though, your tire may not be losing air from the rubber itself. Here’s how to find a leak and, once you’ve done so, how to patch a tire.

How to Find a Leak

Not all tire problems are as obvious as this one.First, inspect your tire. This should be easy if one of the front tires is the problem, as you can turn them to the left or to the right and get an excellent view of the tread. You should also inspect the sidewall and tread for anything that looks out of the ordinary.

If, upon casual inspection, you don’t see a problem, you may need to remove the tire entirely for a closer look. A nail, rock or other sharp object may have embedded itself in the tire.

If you still cannot find the leak, use a spray bottle filled with water or glass cleaner to wet the tire. If you see bubbles pop up, you’ve found your leak. Mark that area with a tire crayon.

How to Patch a Tire

Once you’ve found the leak, you’ll need to know how to patch a tire. If you are dealing with a nail or a rock, a pair of locking pliers or wire cutters can be used to remove the foreign body.

Once you’ve removed the offending material from your tire, you can use a repair kit to fix the issue yourself.

  1. Open the kit, remove the reamer, apply the included rubber cement to the tip and push the reamer into the hole by turning it left and right until you cannot push it further.
  2. Take the hook tool, insert the plug strip and push it into the hole.
  3. Pull the hook tool out slowly. When done correctly, the plug strip should stay in and seal the tire.
  4. Lastly, cut the exposed plug to a point nearly flush with the tire.

Other Possible Causes of Tire Leaks

If you recently bought new tires and the valve stems were not replaced, they could be corroded, leading to air loss. In the event of damaged or corroded valve stems, take your car back to your tire retailer or NAPA-certified mechanic to insert new stems.

You should also examine your car’s rims to look for any imperfections or dents. The rim itself, or the “bead,” may have been damaged, causing a tire puncture or bulge. There’s no DIY way around this one: You’ll have to either have your rim repaired or replaced entirely by a mechanic. If the tire is badly damaged, you may have to replace that as well.

If you’re unable to perform these repairs at home, take your car to mechanic as soon as possible. A leaky or ruptured tire is never safe to drive on, no matter the extent of the damage.

Check out all the steering & suspension 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 repair, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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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