Tire Puncture Sealant Pros and Cons

February 23, 2012

When drivers first discover tire puncture sealant, they're tempted to overuse it. Puncture sealant is great in a pinch, but can't replace a spare tire.

Tire Needing Puncture Sealant

Tire puncture sealant can be used to quickly and easily repair a flat without changing the tire. These products come in a pressurized can, and the most commonly known brand name is Fix-A-Flat. While there are numerous advantages to using such a product should you get a flat tire, there are also some potentially negative consequences that you should be aware of prior to use.

The Advantages of Tire Puncture Sealant
One of the greatest advantages of using a canned tire puncture sealant is convenience. You simply attach the nozzle of the can to the tire valve stem and release the contents of the can into the tire. The contents are propelled to the puncture and subsequently seal it, allowing you to drive away without removing the tire. This entire process takes only a minute or two. This is especially appealing for people who do not want to take the time to put on a spare tire, or whose car does not have a spare. Canned tire sealants are quite reasonable in terms of price, with a can of Fix-A-Flat ranging from $5 to $10.

The Disadvantages of Tire Puncture Sealant
These sealants do not permanently repair the tire; the tire must still receive a traditional patch to be suitable for long term use. Many professionals dislike repairing tires that have been treated with a canned sealant for a number of reasons. These sealants may contain hazardous chemicals and removing it from the inside of the tire can be a time consuming process. More and more companies are using water soluble solutions for their sealants to aid in the removal of the product prior to performing a patch, so this is less of an issue than it was in the past.

The use of a canned sealant can create a high pressure environment inside of the tire that can be hazardous for the person repairing the tire. Additionally, using a canned sealant could also invalidate the warranty on your tire; be sure to examine the details of your warranty prior to using one of these products. Another potential disadvantage is that most tire sealants are not designed to be used with high-performance tires, meaning they are not a valid option for some drivers.

How to Use Tire Puncture Sealant
This type of product is only meant to help you out in an emergency situation. Once you're moving again, you need to make your way to a repair facility as soon as possible.

Choose the Right Sealant
Many cars will be perfectly fine with a standard size can, but trucks, SUVs and vehicles with larger size tires have much more space to fill up inside the wheel cavity. That means that a can that's meant for a smaller car just won't be able to fill up the tire efficiently. Many manufacturers now offer larger-sized cans suited specifically for these types of vehicles. You can also use more than one can to make sure you have enough to get the tire up to the right pressure.

Exercise Caution
When using a tire inflator, take all the safety precautions that you would if you were changing a flat. Since this method tends to be faster and easier than changing a flat tire conventionally, it can be easy to ignore the precautions you would normally take. Make sure your car is well off the roadway, and watch out for passing traffic. You're not going to save any time if you're injured in the process. Also, don't smoke. Many sealants are extremely flammable.

Attach the Applicator to the Valve
This is the part of the process that most people tend to have trouble with. The important thing to do is pay attention to the details. Read the instructions on the can before you start so you know exactly how the product is meant to be used. Now that you're ready, screw the applicator tip onto the valve stem and make sure it's secure and tight. Feel along the threads with your finger to ensure that the threads are seated correctly and not crooked, otherwise the sealant will leak out. Then grab the tip and try to move it back and forth. It shouldn't wiggle at all.

Fill It Up
Now that the filler is properly attached, make sure that your can is held upright. Many sealants come with a safety cap that prevents accidental discharge while it's being stored. This should be pretty easy to remove. When you start putting the sealant in the tire, begin by pushing the button for just a second or two and check for leakage at the tip. A little bit is probably ok, but if there is a significant amount of sealant escaping it's best to go back and make sure the applicator is properly connected. If you're not leaking, just hold the button down. The tire should begin inflating immediately. Stop when the can is empty and light.

Get It Fixed
As soon as you can, it's important to check your pressure and make sure you're at the right level. Also, remember that sealants have a very limited service life. You should have the tire professionally repaired as soon as possible to make sure you don't have any problems.

Related Questions and Answers

What is the Easiest Way to Fix a Flat Tire?

The easiest way to fix a flat tire is the simplest. Use a towing and road service to have your vehicle taken to a tire service area and then let the professionals handle the work. This may sound like a cop out, but they are the technicians who have access to the tire removal machines you need. Radial tires are best replaced rather than fixed because of their construction (the belts that underlay the tread actually extend into the sidewalls and are part of the structure of the tire). So, the easiest way is to use your towing service and having the tire replaced at a tire dealership.

Is Flat Tire Sealant a Permanent Solution?

If you were to read the pamphlets that come with a can of flat tire sealant you would think this is a permanent solution to your flat tire problem, but it is not. Flat tire sealant tends to last between 50 and 100 miles before it starts to lose its adhesion due to the heat built up by driving your car. Flat tire sealant is useful as a stopgap - to get you to the service area, such as a Firestone or a Goodyear tire store, where you can have your tire properly repaired, mounted and balanced by a professional.

Is a Flat Tire Covered in Car Repair Insurance?

Unless your vehicle is involved in an accident that has caused the tire to go flat, flat tire car repair is not covered by car repair insurance, generally. However, there are some caveats if your agent has written a special rider to the insurance that covers flat tire or tire repair. Then, your repair will be covered. Likewise, if you have taken special tire care coverage insurance from your dealer, then you will find that your flat tire will likely be covered. If you have this insurance, be sure to keep all of the receipts just in case you need them for proof. It might not hurt to file a quick accident report with your insurance agent.

How Long Can You Go with Flat Tire Driving?

Unless your vehicle is equipped with "run-flat" tires that allow you about 100 miles range before they flatten completely, most experts agree that you can go about a maximum of a mile on flat tire driving. Driving with a flat tire is not recommended and most experts warn that it is wiser to pull off to the side of a road. Well away from the traveled surface so you don't chance being hit. Change the tire as soon as possible to the donut spare. You must then have the original tire repaired or replaced. If possible, repair is the better of the two options because it keeps your costs down.

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