Last Updated on February 25, 2023 by Paul S.
Fix a flat is a product to seal punctured tires so that you can stay on the road a little longer. Most people think that fix a flat is a cure-all but fix a flat has a short life span.
Fix a flat will last about 3 days or 100 miles as per the recommendations of the Manufacturer. Fix a flat will also last on your shelf for 2 years from the date manufactured.
Read on to determine how Fix a Flat works, how to seal your tire when you have a small puncture, and more!
How Does Fix A Flat Work?
If you have ever driven a vehicle you know that punctures to the tires are common for every driver. Even the smallest puncture can render your vehicle useless because driving on a flat tire can cause even more damage to your vehicle.
BUT you will be able to get to a safe location if you have a can of Fix a Flat in your vehicle.
Fix a Flat comes in an aerosol can that contains a little bit of air and some tire sealant. This sealant is made up of polymer latex, a propellant, and corrosion inhibitors.
- Polymer Latex – The latex job is to foam up the inside of your tire and spread it evenly around the tire. Once you spray the fix a flat in the tire drive a little so that you can spread that foam around it to ensure it reaches each puncture. While all materials are important for this product the latex has the most important job of filling up that hole!
- Propellant – The propellant’s job is to thrust the product out of the can and into the tire. In the case of fix a flat the propellant is made up of hydrofluorocarbon and that can typically be found in car air-conditioning units.
- Corrosion Inhibitors – The corrosion inhibitors ensure that there is no rust created on the inside of the wheel from the spray. It would be a bad look to fix a flat to fix something and then cause other problems!
So once the latex is sprayed into the tire and it starts to foam it will slowly coat the entire tire and will reach the puncture hole. After it expands into the hole the foam eventually drys and seals up the hole completely.
The can will also fill the tire up with some air so that you can get to a nearby gas station to fill up the tire some more to ensure a safer drive to your final destination. But it is not recommended to drive far.
Is Fix A Flat Bad For Tires?
Fix a flat can be used for most tires because it was created to work with every compound tires are made up of. Also, because fix a flat has corrosion inhibitors it will also not negatively affect the wheels.
But, fix a flat is not recommended for quiet tires and run-flat tires. This is due to the fact that they both have a foam insert in them and the fix a flat foam will get absorbed into the tire’s foam and the fix a flat will not be able to reach the puncture. Plus, If you have a run-flat tire you have some time to get to a safe location because that is what a run-flat tire is supposed to do!
Best Fix A Flat Product?
Now some people use fix a flat as a general term but there are other products out there that can perform a similar role that fix a flat does.
Slime has a product called thru-core sealant that can be used to seal a puncture up to ¼ inch. The difference between this product and Fix a flat is that it doesn’t provide any air to the tire so you will need to ensure you have a portable air compressor on hand or an onboard compressor.
Tireject is more similar to slime in that you will need to inflate the tire. One big difference is the ease of use. With Tireject you have to remove the valve core which could be daunting for some but if the directions are followed then it should be easy for most.
Flat Out (formerly known as multiseal) has been recommended by others for your vehicles but the manufacturer is now recommending to not use them for regular passenger vehicles. This is because their sealant will plug the valve stem/tpms and can block the pressure plate of the tire sensor. This will cause issues with your tire sensors and you may never be able to turn it off unless you get a new tire.
While the other fix a flat products mention they are safe to use Flat out says that their competitors could have issues as well. Flat out does recommend their product for vehicles such as ATVs, trailers, and home lawn equipment.
Here is a table that breaks down some of the key differences between each product:
|NO Issue with Tire Sensors||Valve Core Removal Required||Puncture Size||Toxicity/Hazardous/ Flammable/Corrosiveness||Recommended For Passenger Vehicles||Typical Cost|
|Slime Thru-Core Sealant||No||1/4 inch diameter||Non toxic, non-hazardous, non-flammable, non corrosive||$12.99|
|Tireject||Yes||1/4 inch diameter||Non toxic, non-hazardous, flammable, non corrosive||$24.99|
|Flat Out||Yes||1/2!! inch||Non Toxic, Hazardous, Flammable, Corrosive||$22.00|
|Fix A Flat||No||1/4 inch diameter||Non-Toxic, Hazaradous, Non-Flammable, Non-Corrosive||$15.49|
From our review of the table and our experience on the road, we recommend the slime core sealant because it is non (toxic/hazardous/flammable/corrosive) and it’s a price that can’t be cheap. It is also one of the easier options to use.
If you need help fixing a flat check out our quick guide below!
How To Seal A Tire?
This is a quick how to to fix your tire from a small puncture in the tread area. The first thing that you need to do is confirm the puncture is only in the tread area and that it is not a complete tire failure/blowout of the side wall. There is no tire repair for those incidents just simply replacement.
Follow these steps to seal a small tire puncture caused by a nail or something small with a Tire Repair Kit:
Find the location of the leak
If you can’t visually find it (most of the time there is a nail or something you can see that doesn’t look like it belongs there) then you will have to put air into the tire. At this point, there is no need to put the vehicle up on a jack or stand.
Once the tire is as full of air as you can get it then you need to listen for air rushing out of the tire to locate it. You can also run your hand around the tire to see if you can feel anything.
If that doesn’t work get some soapy water and splash that on the tire. A bubble will form right over the location of the hole. Be sure to mark the location with some chalk or some tape once the tire dries.
Jack Up The Vehicle
If you need to take the tire off you can so at this point. Taking the tire off may offer better visuals or better access to the hole.
Ensure you are using a certified jack or jack stands that are rated for the vehicle. Do not use a jack from a Honda Civic on a Ford F-150. If you are using a jack from the car be sure to not work under the vehicle as they are not intended for this type of work. Always make sure you are on flat stable ground.
Pull Out The Object
If you can see something in the leak’s location then the best tool to pull it out is a set of pliers. You may have to dig into the tire to find any type of purchase so be ready to do some work.
If you are having issues do not try and push the object into the tire. This could cause damage to the rim and tire once you patch it up. This is an option if you plan on throwing the tire away right after you get home. This is not recommended.
Prepare The Hole
Get a reaming tool or a carbide cutter and work that into the puncture of the tire. Be sure to rotate the tool while you are penetrating it. You should also follow the angle the nail or object came out at so that you are not creating a bigger hole. This procedure widens the hole slightly while also preparing the surface to ensure a good plug.
You can use a drill bit and drill as a last resort. Verify that you use a small bit because a large bit will cause the hole to become larger. This can cause your plug to be ineffective.
Take this step slowly.
Plug The Tire
From your plug kit take the plug and place it through the eye of the insertion tool. Pull it through equally on each side.
Coat the entire plug in sealing cement that is purpose made for tires. Also, place some sealing cement in the hole of the tire the best you can.
With the insertion tool slowly insert it into the hole of the tire. Force may need to be used to get it pushed down so you may want to be standing over the tire.
By the time the plug is only showing about an inch out of the tire pull the handle of the insertion tool out. The tool’s eye will be able to come free at this time allowing the plug to remain in the tire.
After about a minute fill the tire to the recommended rated pressure. Sealing cement usually takes around 2-3 minutes to dry so by the time you have filled it up it should be ready.
Trim the excess plug leaving about ⅛ inch sticking up and wipe up any sealing cement that you may have been too generous with.
Do not instantaneously start driving on the tire but let it sit for another five to 10 minutes. Check the tire for any leaks around the area of the plug and ensure there are no other leaks that reveal themselves.
Homemade Tire Plug?
If you are out of luck and don’t have a tire plug from the store you can follow the steps above but use an old piece of tire that has been cut down to size.
This isn’t the best solution but if you are in an emergency this will satisfy it for a little while. Just be sure to take it into the shop or redo your work again when you have a proper plug.
How Long Does A Tire Plug Last
Plugs can last as long as your tire does just be sure to keep an eye on it for the next couple of days to ensure it has worked. Do not go for a long road trip until you are sure it is completely plugged.
If you don’t provide a proper seal on the plug or the plug was not installed properly then you could see that puncture come back quicker.
I have never had issues with tire plugs in my days of driving but if you want to be cautious simply get the tire replaced at your local tire dealer or mechanic shop.