Everything you need to know about slow punctures

It will often take a while for even the most aware of drivers to spot that their car is suffering from a slow puncture. 

It’s always such a hassle to get a tyre fixed or to buy a new one, especially if we can talk ourselves into that it might not even be damaged in the first place.

The bad news is, if you have convinced yourself you’ve simply lost a little air hitting a pothole, riding a kerb or rolling around a sharp bend, you could be doing a lot more damage than you think.

A flat tyre

The dangers of driving on a tyre with a slow puncture

Any damage that can lead to a puncture or a tyre blow out is a serious hazard. High-speed blowouts are difficult to control and will often lead to dangerous crashes and collisions. 

Hitting a kerb or driving over anything left in the road can cause damage to your tyres that isn’t always immediately detectable.

Over time and with significant wear, your slow puncture could lead to a real catastrophe.

The tell-tale signs of a slow puncture

The Highway Code dictates that we should all carry out a visual inspection of our cars before we drive them.

It’s absolutely the right thing to do, but how many of us actually carry out this simple action? My guess would be less than 5%.

So, what should we be looking for?

  • Sagging tyres
    Are any of your tyres a different shape to the rest? Do they sag under the weight of the car? Is one tyre flatter and softer than the others?

  • Sidewall damage
    Is there damage to the walls of your tyres? Has any of the numbering and detail worn away with contact to the road?

  • Are there any obvious foreign bodies stuck in the rubber?
    Can you see a screw, a nail or any other debris your tyre could have picked up from the road lodged in your tyre’s tread?
    If you spot something, don’t pull it out—it is more than likely the cause of your slow puncture, but if you remove it, you’ll be removing the only thing that’s temporarily sealing the hole. Change the tyre for the spare. Or if you can get it to a garage safely, do it immediately.

You might also be able to hear signs that can reveal the cause of your slow puncture.

  • Listen for repetitive clicking or ticking sounds
    Any clicking sounds coming from your tyres, that increase as you drive faster, are a sign that something could be stuck in one of them. Every rotation provides the offending article to create a sound as it makes contact with the road. You should be able to spot the culprit item once you’ve decided which tyre the sound is coming from.

Signs of a slow puncture you can detect while driving

 

  • Poor performance and handling
    If your car pulls one way when breaking, or ‘rolls’ as you navigate bends and corners, it’s a sign that one of your tyres is softer than the others.
    You should be able to feel that the drive of your car is also slightly softer than if your tyre is filled to the correct pressure.

 

What can cause a slow puncture in your car tyres?

Items piercing and getting stuck in your tyre

As previously mentioned, the most likely suspect causing a slow puncture will be a foreign body causing damage to or penetrating the tyre surface or wall.

Tyre or wheel corrosion

The rubber of your car tyre will perish over time. Wear in other areas from constant contact against another component, kerbs or small walls can also impact the integrity of your tyre. 

This will weaken the structure and in many cases allow air to find a way out of the previously sealed tyre.

Corrosion around the wheel rim is also a typical cause for slowly releasing air. All it takes is the smallest area of rust, paint flaking or alloy perishing on your rim to allow the air to escape at an almost undetectable rate.

Checking your car tyre pressures

A tyre pressure gauge is a very simple and easy to get hold of piece of equipment, that every motorist should have in their toolkit.

A foot-pump or automatic tyre inflator will also feature a pressure gauge; any of these will allow you to check the air pressure in your tyres against the recommended amount shown on the tyre wall or in the vehicle’s manual.

Any regular reduction in pressure will alert you to a probable slow puncture.

Air loss through old or damaged tyre valves

While you’re checking your tyre’s pressure, it’s worth checking that the air isn’t leaking from your tyre’s valve.

Pour a little water into the valve and see if tiny bubbles appear. If so, the repair might be as simple as a valve replacemen