Slow Punctures – What to Do
Did you know that defective tyres are among the top causes of road accidents in the UK and around the world? We tend to only pay attention to our tyres when they are in the most extreme condition and in need of either rotation or replacement. A more pernicious problem of which we need to be aware is that of slow punctures. That’s going to be the focus of today’s piece.
What is a Slow Puncture?
The truth is, you’d still be forgiven for missing a slow puncture in your car. The clue is in the name after all. The incredibly slow loss of air makes it very hard to notice that anything is wrong until it gets really bad. While that’s true, the bad news remains that if you do have a slow puncture — a slow but consistent release of air pressure from the tyre — it can result in either great danger or great cost to repair.
Below we’ll explore the tell-tale signs that you have a slow puncture, and then what to do about it if you do.
How Do I Know If I have a Slow Puncture?
There are many ways to tell if you have a slow puncture, which we can split more broadly into two categories: observable signs, and signs while you’re driving.
1. Observable Signs
If you have just very recently acquired your slow puncture, you might not yet notice these. Therefore, developing a habit of looking regularly for signs of the damage we list below is a good idea.
Your tyre’s sidewall may have taken on damage if you’ve had any brushes with a kerb or even a bad pothole. Check for any visible signs of damage, especially small tears or holes. It won’t be immediately visible when it’s a slow puncture, it could be very small, like looking for a hairline fracture.
Do your tyres appear to all be the same shape and size; in the same proportion to each other? Look for any signs of uneven shape or sagging, even if only slight. If you do spot some, the greater the sagging or softening is, the longer your slow puncture has likely been there.
We’re not talking about cleavers or butchers’ knives sticking out of the tyre here, but perhaps something sharp but a lot smaller? If the tyre tread is particularly deep or intricately cut, it can easily pick up such objects. It could be a screw, a nail or other piece of sharp debris.
2. Signs While You’re Driving
Below are some further things you should get into habit of looking and listening out for while you are driving. All could indicate a slow puncture in one or more of your tyres.
Difficulties in Handling
If you feel the car pulling to one side as you brake, or feels less than steady while you’re taking corners (especially sharper corners), then these are often indicators that something is wrong with one or more of the tyres.
Clicking or Ticking
Another classic sign you might hear (turn the radio down for this bit) is a repetitive clicking or ticking sound from your tyres. It will probably get more noticeable as you gather speed.
What Should I Do If I Discover a Slow Puncture?
First, let’s deal with what to do if you discover any signs that we mentioned above. First of all, if you notice side wall damage or sagging, then you should get the tyre checked by your mechanic. If there is a nail, screw or other sharp object stuck in your tyre, the intuitive thing is to take it out, but don’t. While that object is almost certainly causing your slow puncture, it’s also the only thing holding any of the air back.
Can I Just Keep Calm, Reinflate, and Carry On?
Reinflating the tyre might be enough to temporarily satisfy your tyre pressure monitoring system, if your car has one, but it won’t solve the real problems or dangers. The fact remains that driving on a tyre with slow puncture is dangerous, and every second that the puncture goes on is weakening the structural integrity — and therefore the efficacy and safety — of your tyres.
Should I Get a Slow Puncture Repaired? Or Replace the Tyre?
This can be a tricky question, but the key to the answer lies in the current condition of your tyres and when the last time you had the replaced or rotated was. If they meet or exceed the safety requirements, including:
Having at least 1.6mm tread depth
No damage to the side wall
Minor damage restricted to one small area of the tyre
Tyre integrity intact having not been driven on with a slow puncture for too long
No exposed cords or other signs of disrepair…
…then the tyre can be repaired and you won’t need to fork out more money on replacement tyres. There is one more proviso, however. Unless you are experienced at fixing car tyre punctures (of any size), we do not recommend that you carry out this work yourself. The integrity of your tyres has a direct bearing on your car’s roadworthiness and level of safety for you, your passengers, pedestrians and other drivers. It should really be left in the hands of the pros. It will likely cost you £20-25 to be fixed at a garage. If you let the slow puncture go on doing its damage, that could easily turn into £200 or more pounds later for an entirely new tyre.
Can I Get a Slow Puncture Repair Kit?
You can purchase these kits on Amazon for roughly £20 to £30, which is more than a repair job, but you could of course use the it more than once, which offsets the initial cost. As we mentioned above, however, only those with experience or proper know-how should attempt these slow puncture repairs, no matter how simple or trivial they appear.
A typical kit includes sealant, inflator pump, and some other small peripherals that you need to complete the job.
Do I Need to Be Worried?
No, you don’t need to panic or start examining your tyres with a magnifying glass. Like anything else with your car, a slow puncture is just another of those small problems that you have to put right in the correct way. Those 4 wheels of rubber you roll around on are, however, an integral part of keeping you safe. A blowout is far more dangerous and expensive to fix than it is inconvenient or irritating to have to take your car to the garage for an hour or so to get the tyre fixed up.