CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Tire leak sealant

I put some spray sealant into a tire that had a slow leak. The leak has stopped but the tire is now out of balance. A well known tire chain told me they could not balance the tire and that the only solution would be to replace the tire. I assumed it was a ploy to sell me a tire. Does this leak sealant actually damage the tire or the rim? Any suggestions about how to correct this situation?

The tire can be taken off the rim and cleaned out. If the leak was not caused by a hole in the sidewall you should be able to use the tire. Just be advised that some of those spray sealants can leave a real mess inside the tire and on the inside of the rim. It’s worth a shot.

One of the problems with this stuff is that it tends to create an imbalance in the tire–as you found out. Another potential problem is corrosion damage to the rim itself, and if you have alloy wheel, that can be a very expensive proposition. That is why this stuff should only be used in an emergency when it is not possible to have a tire repaired.

Short of buying another tire, the only solution as I see it is to remove the tire from the rim and clean out the goop inside. This is a very messy proposition that the tire store probably does not want to do.

If you have the equipment to remove the tire from the rim in order to do the clean-out yourself, that is a possible solution to your problem. If that is not possible, I think that you will probably have to buy a new tire–unless you can find a mechanic who is willing to clean the goop out of the tire and repair it properly, as it should have been in the first place.

That sealant is nasty stuff. Apparently you didn’t get the car moving fast enough after putting the stuff in and it gelled into a lump in one area of the tire.

When the shop dismounts the tire it will be a gooey mess inside and the wheel will need to be cleaned before putting on a new tire. With the sealant it is hard to tell where the old tire was leaking. Also a patch won’t hold with that junk coating the inside of the tire. If you take the tire off and just clean out the goop that will cost a bunch in labor, and where ever it was leaking will start leaking again in a matter of days.

So, yep it looks like a new tire.

Ask the tire shop if, in principle, the existing tire could be cleaned and patched. They should say, well…in principle, yes. Then ask how much they would charge you to clean it and fix it properly.

After you get the estimate you’ll be happy to buy a new tire.

Well put, cigroller.
Tire sealant is just not a good idea unless one has no other options in an emergency situation.

I’m with you. My wife bought a couple once to keep in her car. I said absolutely not. We have a roadside program, a good spare, and are never so remote from assistance that we would have no other choice. (I also keep a tire plug kit in with the jack).

I used to come across this scenario all the time in the tire stores I worked in. Yeah, we griped about having to clean this stuff off of the innerliner of the tire before we could put a patch on, but we never even charged extra for it. I don’t know, maybe this newer fix-a-flat stuff is much harder to clean off.

As a side note, some of these products had a flammable solvent. I heard a story, which I can’t verify, that a tire technician was dismounting a tire that had this substance in it–back in the '80’s. He inadvertently made a spark with the tire iron against the steel wheel. The solvent exploded and the tire guy was killed.