Repairing flat tires is heating up the industry

Consumer Reports News: December 06, 2011 02:38 PM

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Repairing flat tires is nothing new. Hence, you’d think there would be a standard practice that all service providers would follow. In fact, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) has been at it for a long time, providing training to service professionals. Also, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has had guidelines for professionals to follow. But repairing tires is not an air-tight practice.

Tire manufacturers take different positions on the “repair-ability” of various types of tires. Plus, there are many different products available claiming to repair tire punctures. An improperly repaired tire may fail or blow out.

RMA is seeking to address and reinforce the practice of proper tire repair, with some initiatives including updating consumer and technician repair information materials.

Can enforcing tire repair through legislation be far away?
The reality is a proper tire repair is best handled by an experienced technician and a shop equipped to do the job. Fixing a broken tire requires removing it from the wheel, inspecting the inside of the tire, and assessing if the puncture is repairable. If repairable, the puncture should be filled and the inner-liner sealed to prohibit air and moisture from leaking through or seeping into the internal structure of the tire.

If all is done right, the repair will last the life of the tire.

Temporary repairs, however, are the gray area. They are usually cheaper and easier to do and get the motorist back on the road quicker. Any method used to seal a puncture without removing the tire from the wheel is considered a temporary repair. Common practices include using tire sealant or having a service attendant cram a plug into the puncture. Either method may successfully stop the leak, but without knowing the extent of the tire damage, consumers are taking a big gamble.

What should you do?

Here are some tips:

  • You can actually determine if the tire might be repairable. If you drove the car on a flat tire for any length of time, or the tire appears to be leaking air from the sidewall, it’s not repairable. Buy a new tire.

  • If the tire is more than half worn, it may not be economical to have it repaired. A proper repair requires identifying the puncture area, dismounting the tire, inspecting and cleaning the damaged area, repairing it, and remounting and rebalancing before installing it back on the car. Local dealers in the Connecticut area charge between $10 and $20 to fix a tire, if it’s repairable at all.

  • You can use a soapy sponge to identify the puncture area. If you see bubbles forming where you applied the wet soapy sponge, you may have found the leak. Only punctures in the tread can be repaired, typically no more than ¼-inch in diameter, and the puncture has to be about an inch away from the shoulder or edge of the tread. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines; a technician might judge the puncture beyond repair based on the route of entry through the tire carcass. If in doubt, buy a new tire.

  • Read the tire warranty literature and vehicle owner’s manual before seeking a tire repair. Some manufacturers void the tire speed rating if it is repaired or prohibit repairing some tires.

Gene Petersen

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