A leak in a tire is a big problem. When your tires aren’t staying inflated, it’s a safety issue that, untreated, could leave you stranded. A lack of air pressure in the tire will use more gas, and your vehicle will have to work harder to get you from point A to point B.
It is possible to locate the leak in a tire yourself, but the process can be a hassle for beginners. You may find yourself at your wit’s end trying to find the leak or suspect it won’t be fixable DIY-style at home. In these instances, take your vehicle to a tire shop. A professional can complete an inspection on the suspect tire and advise on the recommended permanent fix. Sometimes, you may need to go to RedWheels and get new tires as replacements.
If you suspect your tire is leaking air, here is how you can find a leak in a tire.
Remove the tire
For a thorough inspection of any tire, you want to take it off the vehicle. Loosen the lug nuts first. Second, jack up the car on a hard surface. Your vehicle’s manual will be able to indicate the best places to put the jack to lift your vehicle. Once your vehicle’s off the ground, all that’s left to do is take off the loosened lugs and remove the tire by hand. If you’ve never taken off a tire before, don’t be discouraged. Once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes.
Inspect for Punctures
If you know you’ve driven over screws or nails, there’s a likely chance your tire has been punctured. Do a visual inspection of your tires. Note any apparent marks. If you see a screw or nail trapped in the rubber, the mystery’s solved. You can also obviously drive over other objects that can cut the tire or become lodged inside it. This can happen to anyone, so don’t be shocked if you discover something.
Fill the tire and listen
Inflate your tire to the appropriate psi, like you usually would. Then, listen for hissing around the tire. If there isn’t any visual evidence of a leak, you may be able to hear it. Run your hand around the tire to see if you can feel the air. If you can’t, do your best to pinpoint the hissing. Any sort of hissing coming from around the tire, even if you don’t feel anything, indicates a leak.
Look at the wheel rim
Unless there is a direct puncture, the likely way your tire will leak is at the inside edge of the wheel rim. This area should be airtight at all times. If you drive over a pothole or somehow the wheel gets bent further than it’s designed, that can stretch the space between the bead of your tire and the rim. At that point, air will seep out. Do a visual inspection and, again, note any imperfections you suspect could result in a leak.
Submerge your tire in water
The most likely way you will detect an air leak is by filling your tire and submerging it in water. This technique works for anything that may be leaking. When you cover it in water, air bubbles will come out. The air has to escape somehow. If you can catch where the air bubbles are originating from on the tire, that’s your leak. Assuming you have a vat large enough to accommodate a tire, this is perhaps the fastest way to confirm a leak.
Soap and water method
A tire isn’t going to fit in most bathtubs. You can still use water to detect a tire leak though. Mix soap and water in a spray bottle. Then spray the tire. Spray all parts of the tire, including the sidewalls, tread, valve stem, and along the rim. In most cases, leaking air will cause the soapy mixture to bubble. It’s a much easier way to locate a leak than submerging the tire so long as you’ve already taken the wheel off the vehicle.
Fixing a tire with a leak
Minor leaks can be repaired. If the leak is less than 1/4” in diameter and located on the main tread, it can be done at home. If it’s on the shoulder or sidewall, you will need the help of a professional. To fix the leak, you can buy a tire sealant or you can patch the tire. These will only delay the inevitable, however. In the future, you will likely need tire replacements done.
Throughout this process of finding a leak in a tire, you may discover where the leak is and then not be able to find it again. Save yourself the hassle by marking the location with a piece of chalk. Make a mark on the sidewall of the tire. This is the easiest way to find the leak again, and you won’t have to learn the hard way what it’s like to have to repeat trying to find a tire leak again.