Do you think you have a leak in one or more of your vehicle’s tires? Since everything in your car is quite literally riding on your tires, it’s an absolute must to keep them properly maintained. Part of such maintenance is keeping your tires at the air pressure level recommended by the tire manufacturer. Doing this will help optimize the life of your vehicle, maintain control when driving, and optimize your vehicle’s gas mileage.
Low air pressure caused by a persistent air leak in your tires will adversely affect all those things. If you believe you have a leak in your tire, this problem must be addressed and corrected as soon as possible to ensure you’re driving safely.
So, how do you find a leak? Here are a few techniques:
If you suspect you have a leak, the first step is to inspect the tire visually. You may have picked up a nail or some other sharp object while driving around. Most nails or screws have a flat head that you will be able to see on the surface of your tire.
Listening and Feeling
Other objects may not leave such an obvious trace. Your leak may not be due to penetration of the tire by an object, but rather a small crack or hole that opened through normal (or abnormal) wear and tear.
Air, when under pressure and forced out through a small opening, will make a hissing sound when escaping. If you can hear that hiss you should be able to track down the leak. If you can’t hear it, you may be able to feel for the escaping air by running your hands over the tire surface. Then, you can mark the spot with chalk or tape while you prepare to plug it.
Using Soap and Water
But when there’s no obvious sign of a puncture and you can’t hear or see the air leaking, what else can you do?
Mixing a little soap and water and applying it to the tire can help you track down the leak. You can sponge, pour or spray the mixture over your tire. When you hit the leak with the soap and water, the escaping air will get the soap bubbling.
This method can also work with just plain water, as the escaping air will still create bubbles. However,the soap helps make it easier to identify.
Submerging the Tire
If you happen to have a large enough container to place the tire into, such as bathtub or kiddie pool, you can submerge the tire to locate a leak. Be sure to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended instructions for removing the tire safely if you choose to do so. Once the wheel is completely submerged and the water has settled, just look for where the rising bubbles are coming from.
Fixing a Leaking Tire
Once you locate the leak, it’s important to determine whether it can be repaired. A nail or similar object may cause more damage to the tire than it appears. In general, punctures along the treads that are less than ¼” in diameter can usually be fixed in the short term; larger holes and any leaks along the tire shoulder/sidewall should always be replaced.
Consult a tire professional, like the experts at tireamerica, to determine whether your tire can be repaired or will require a replacement.