Repairing Leaks In Automotive Tires Caused By Punctures Or Road Debris
Tire damage that causes an air leak can happen in many ways, and punctures on the tread surface are common. The tire tread has multiple rubber plies, and most modern tires include steel woven belts embedded in the rubber for durability and stability, but sharp objects can still sometimes get through and require tire repair.
Finding The Leak
The first task when dealing with a leaking tire is finding where it is leaking. A tire with a puncture in the tread may have a nail, screw, or other small, sharp object in the tread. The tire repair shop will look carefully at the tire to see if the object is still in the tire. However, sometimes the screw or nail will come out as you drive, leaving a puncture in the rubber that is just big enough for air to seep through.
In some cases, the air escapes so slowly that it can take several days for the tire pressure to drop low enough for you to notice it, but over time the hole may widen, and the tire will go flat faster. If the leak is small, the tire repair tech may need to take the wheel off the vehicle and put it in a water tank to look for bubbles under the water where the air is escaping from the tire.
Repairing The Tire
A tire with a leak on the tread may be a good candidate for a rubber tire repair plug, and once they find the hole, the tech can evaluate the damage to determine the best repair. A tire plug made from a small piece of self-vulcanizing rubber is often the best choice to seal small holes, but they will not work on large cuts or sidewall damage.
The tire repair starts with roughing up the inside of the puncture with a tool called a ream, and then the plug is forced into the tire with another tool that pushes it into the tread deep enough to seal the hole. The tool is withdrawn, leaving the plug behind, and the excess material can be trimmed off at the tread surface or will wear off as you drive.
Plugging a leak in the tire tread works in the large majority of the tires with holes, but some punctures are too large to fill with only a plug, and the tire repair shop may suggest adding a patch inside the tire for added sealing. The patch requires the tech to remove the tire from the rim to access the inside of the tire but is vulcanized to the rubber using head and chemical adhesive, so once in place, the patch will last for the tire's lifetime.
When used together, a plug and patch can restore the tire condition and be less expensive than replacing the tire in most cases.
Contact a local tire repair service to learn more.