How to Identify a Tire LeakA slow tire leak can be more than just an inconvenience; it can damage the integrity of your tire and result in a blowout. If you suspect that you have a tire leak, finding it quickly will stop your gradual reduction of tire pressure and very likely prevent you from being stranded with a flat tire. If you find one of your tires slowly leaking air, you can follow these steps to find the leak and save yourself from a bigger problem down the line:

Step 1:  Check the Air Pressure

Many times you’ll have a slow leak without realizing it. You should regularly check the air pressure of all four tires monthly. Don’t be surprised when your tires lose pressure as the outside temperature drops in the fall and winter. If you notice one tire seems to have less pressure on a regular basis, it’s likely that you have a leak.

If you find a tire with a slow leak, you’ll need to remove it from your car and replace it temporarily with your spare tire.

Step 2:  Inspect Your Tire

Now that the tire is free from the vehicle, carefully examine the entire tread, sidewalls and bead of the tire. Look for any cuts, cracks or splits, be mindful of objects embedded in the tread that may have punctured the tread. Take a white china marker (an oil-based pencil that writes well on rubber) and circle any possible “trouble” spots.

Step 3:  Re-inflate Your Tire

After identifying any suspected trouble spots, it’s time to re-inflate your tire. This is easy if you have an air compressor at home, if not, many gas stations have air pumps available for a nominal fee. Listen for a high-pitched hiss, this indicates air is leaving the tire. Be sure to check all your trouble spots, if you hear a hiss but find it hard to identify, simply cover a trouble spot with your finger and see if the hiss changes. Make an additional mark with your oil-based pencil to identify the leak.

Step 4:  Use Bubbles to Find The Leak

Some leaks are release too little air at one time to make the hissing noise, if this is the case you can identify the leak by bubbles. Take any kind of spray cleaner or window cleaner and spray around the tire tread, covering 1/6 of the circumference at a time. Wherever bubbles pop up, there’s an air leak. Mark every bubble location with your china marker.

Many shops will submerge a tire in a basin of water to easily identify the leak by escaping bubbles. This may not be feasible in all locations, however the spray works just as well.

Step 5:  Plug Your Tire & Take it in for Service

Before considering a patch for your tire, inspect the tread and condition of your tires. If your tires are in poor condition, do not bother with plugging your tire, most reputable service shops will recommend patching poor quality tires. However, if your tires are in good condition and your leak is a tiny hole (smaller than a quarter inch across) you can repair it temporarily with a tire plug. First if there is an object embedded in your tire remove it and create a smooth, uniform hole with a tire reamer. Insert the tire plug and draw a second circle around it with your china marker.