A flat tire is not a fun situation to be in.
It can happen at the most inconvenient time leaving you stranded on the road.
Oftentimes, the cause of a flat tire is a result of a slow leak due to a puncture in the tread area of the tire or air leaking around the rim.
While tire sealants can in some cases fix rim leaks, the products are not really recommended for such a leak.
If you want a proper guide on fixing the leaks, you can check our in-depth guide: How To Fix A Tire From Leaking Around The Rim?
Here though, we’ll talk about how tire sealants can offer a quick and painless temporary solution for slow leaks around the tread, can stop a tire from losing air too quickly, and put you back on the road with ease.
Can You Use Fix-a-Flat For A Slow Leaking Tire?
The short answer is yes, you can use fix-a-flat sealant to fix small punctures but it may not be the most reliable product.
Fix-a-Flat does not contain any particles to physically clog up the hole. Instead, it contains air in the sealant which when released from the can pushes the sealant into the tire, finds the source of the leak, and forms a latex foam to seal the leak.
Of course, a product as such that does not contain particles to physically seal the leak, you can imagine that it will only work for very minor leaks and in some cases even outright fail to mend the leak which is apparent from many unsatisfied consumers that complain about the very same issue.
Although the manufacturers claim Fix-a-Flat seals punctures up to a quarter-inch (1/4’’), several unhappy consumers fail to agree with this claim.
The consensus around Fix-a-Flat is very mixed.
Some consumers complain that Fix-a-Flat is just evil in a can as it does not work in fixing a flat whatsoever and instead damages their tire.
Others praise it for being a quick and effective solution for getting them back on the road.
The bottom line is that Fix-a-Flat is not really the best when it comes to a tire sealant product and there are other options available that offer much better reliability.
Watch this short video from Scotty Kilmer addressing the issue:
How long does Fix-a-Flat last for slow leaking tire?
Fix-a-flat, along with other tire sealants of the sort, is intended to be used temporarily, preferably only for emergencies allowing you a quick and reliable solution to get you back to an auto-shop or your home.
Different manufacturers claim different lifespans for their sealants.
The manufactures of Fix-a-flat rate it for about 100 miles or 3 days after it is used (whichever comes first).
It is possible to get more or less life from the sealant which is apparent from many consumer reports.
Several consumers report that their can of Fix-a-Flat was unable to withhold the leak in the first place while the same can lasted for weeks for others.
Fix-a-flat certainly isn’t the brightest against its competitors when it comes to reliability.
However, the key takeaway is that you should always use the sealant as a temporary fix only and not try to get more life out of the sealant than the manufacturer’s recommended usage.
Is Fix-a-Flat bad for your tire?
An important question that drivers have in mind is whether a tire sealant like Fix-a-Flat is bad for their tires? Will it cause damage and potentially ruin their tires?
Well, the answer to that question is that it depends.
1. TPMS Sensor
Many modern tires include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) sensor that gives real-time information to the driver about the pressure inside the tire.
Tire sealants are notorious for damaging the TPMS sensor.
However, the manufacturers claim and many consumers report the fact that Fix-a-Flat is entirely TPMS-sensor safe.
2. Tire imbalance issue
The contents inside Fix-a-Flat are just a liquid foam formula with air.
At extreme cold temperatures, the material inside Fix-a-Flat freezes and solidifies inside the tire.
Such an outcome is hazardous for safe driving as it causes tire imbalance, poor handling, and steering on the road.
Corrosion is something drivers are always paranoid of when it comes to using Fix-a-Flat or even any tire sealant for that matter.
But do these products actually cause corrosion?
Well, the answer is no, only if you use them as a limited-time solution. After all, tire sealants really are not a permanent fix and the onus is on you the driver, to clean the stuff and repair the tire as soon as possible, or else prolonged exposure to the chemicals may very well lead to corrosion building up on the rim.
If used only for the recommended usage of 100 miles or 3 days (whichever) comes first, fix-a-flat does not corrode aluminum or damage any protective coating that modern rims come with.
Consumers complain that Fix-a-Flat left a huge mess in the rim, but that is merely because they tried to use the product as a permanent solution, which is certainly not advisable.
Fix-a-Flat is TPMS sensor-safe, does not corrode or cause any damage to the wheels but does freeze in extremely cold temperatures resulting in tire imbalance.
How does a tire sealant work?
Tire sealants available on the market can be divided into two categories:
- Latex-Based (Thicker and more viscous gel-like liquids)
- Water-based (Thinner viscosity, free-flowing liquids).
The idea is the same in both these categories. They generally (with some exceptions e.g., Fix-a-Flat) contain some form of high strength Aramid Fibers commonly known as Kevlar in the liquid that find the hole or the puncture inside the tire and plug it from the inside.
The liquid acts as a carrier for transporting the fibers to the site of the leak and the fibers then clog up the hole essentially forming a seal.
When to use a tire sealant?
Tire sealants are intended to be used in a worst-case scenario only.
There are much better options for fixing a flat tire, but they all boil down to availability, the amount of time you have on your hands, and ease of access on the road.
You can mount a spare tire to get you back on the road, but chances are that if you are short on time or have no experience in changing a tire, it can prove to be a nightmare for you.
For similar reasons, having a tire plug kit in the trunk of your car will do you no good as well as it takes quite a bit of experience and familiarity and a fair bit of time as well to install a plug.
Another option may be using a 12-volt air compressor to easily inflate the tire that provides you with enough tire pressure to get you back home or to an auto-shop if the leak is slow enough.
But if none of the options are practical in a flat tire scenario, carrying a can of sealant in the trunk of your car can turn out to be a lifesaver.
A sealant is a quick and easy fix that does not require jacking up the car or unmounting the tire from the wheel. Little to no expertise is required for using a tire sealant.
This alone makes it worthwhile to have it in the boot of your car.
An important thing to note when it comes to using a tire sealant is that future repairs can be a real pain for you as most auto-shops are unwilling to repair a tire that has been treated with a tire sealant as it takes additional effort and time to clean the tire.
You may end up very well just replacing the tire instead of repairing it.
So, just keep that in mind when using a tire sealant that you may need to clean the tire yourself first or find a local auto-shop willing to first clean it for you.
Best Tire Sealant for Slow Leak
While fix-a-flat is capable of mending slow leaks and is comparatively the cheapest, it is not the best tire sealant product by far. There are several products available that outperform Fix-a-flat and give you more bang for your buck.
Tire Slime – On-road purposes
This green-colored viscous slime product reliably seals up to 1/4’’ (6mm) hole. It is TPMS sensor-safe, and does not cause any damage to the alloy construction of your wheel. The edge it has over Fix-a-Flat is that it has a great lifespan and does not freeze in extreme temperatures and offers much better reliability across its cans.
However, it is a tad bit more expensive, more difficult to apply into the tire, and requires more quantity (16 oz./473 ml for regular full-sized tire and 12 oz./354 ml for motorbikes).
The advantages and the overall reliability of the product far outweigh its cons and due to these facts, it is our go-to recommendation for on-road purposes.
FlatOut Tire Sealant – Off-Road
For off-road purposes, it is one of the best products available on the market.
While other products claim to mend up to 1/4’’ (a quarter-inch) puncture, FlatOut tire sealant actually claims to mend up to 1/2’’ (half-inch or 12 mm) hole!
That is double the size of a puncture! Satisfied consumers verify that it can actually mend a hole that size, which is no ordinary feat whatsoever.
Stans No Tubes Race Sealant – Honorable Mentions
Considerably more on the expensive side, yet it is a capable sealant that manufacturers claim to last more than 6 months and is perfectly capable of mending holes up to a quarter-inch (1/4’’ or 6 mm puncture).
Tire sealants are a cheap and relatively easy solution when it comes to a slow leak resulting in a flat tire. However, we cannot re-iterate enough that they are intended for temporary use or emergencies only when time is of the essence and no other viable options are available. In such a scenario, a can of tire sealant can prove its worth by immediately and painlessly putting you back on the road without having to jack up the vehicle and remove the tire.