Ah, the slow leak. It's infuriating when you constantly have to stop at gas stations to keep your tire properly inflated. Since the roads are full of hazards, it's easy to pick up nails, screws, or other objects that puncture your tires and create slow leaks.
Luckily, there's a quick and easy way to fix your tire without having to go to a tire repair shop. Most good auto parts stores will carry a small kit (here's an example of one brand
) for tire repair, which includes a rasp, a needle, and several thick, sticky black threads. The tools have either a T-handle or a screwdriver-type handle (T-handles are best, in my opinion).
Get the kit, and get ready to fix your tire. First, block the other tires for safety. This should be done every time you
raise your car, to prevent accidental slippage.
Read on for detailed instructions on how to fix your tire.
Remove the tire, and inspect it for "foreign objects." Double-check the tire once you think you've found the puncture point, just to make sure you don't have more than one.
Once you have found the object, pull it out with pliers
. You might need to work at it for a while, especially if the nail is between the treads of the tire, or if you have driven for a while and the outside part has been ground down. Don't give up!
Once it's out, you're ready to repair the tire. Let the air in the tire drain out, so it's easier to work with. Get the rasp from the kit (it's like a file, designed to be pushed into tire holes). Force the rasp into the hole and work it in and out for about 20 to 30 seconds. This will remove any bits of metal or whatnot that might still be in the tire. It also prepares the hole to be plugged. Some kits have rubber cement or vulcanizing fluid, and if so you can apply some of it to the hole. I've never used that, and I've plugged many tires successfully.
After filing the hole, take a thread from the kit (about 5 inches long, sticky and black) and work it onto the needle (the other part of the kit). Pull the thread about halfway through the needle. Knead the end of the thread so that it will go through the eye of the needle.
Once the needle is threaded, force the tip into the tire's hole. It will take a bit of work, but if you twist and maneuver the needle, it will go in. DO NOT force the thread all the way into the hole; you will need to leave about a quarter to a third outside the tire so it will plug properly.
Now that the thread is in the tire, you'll need to pull the needle out. Give it a firm tug. Don't yank it; it should come out with a bit of effort. It must leave the thread in the hole.
Now, trim the thread that remains outside the tire. Just clip it even with the tread of the tire.
Inflate the tire to the proper psi, re-mount the tire, and, just for good measure, once the car is down from the jack check the pressure again. All should be well, and now you are good to go. Keep an eye on the pressure for the next few days, just to be sure you got the leak.
Voila! You just fixed your tire and saved yourself a bit of money, and you can brag to your friends about your new mechanical skill. Beware, if you do it right, your friends may demand you do it for them, too...
A last word: I've been told that newer tires don't accept the threads to plug holes, and that this technique only works for steel-belted radials