Tire Sealant Products: How Reliable Are They?

A tire filled with slime

Have you ever found yourself wandering around the automotive section of a store and you come across a few cans of Fix A Flat on the shelf? Have you ever wondered what is was for or if it works? Here is a little bit of information based on our personal experience with it and similar tire sealant products. 

First things first, what are we talking about?

Aerosol tire sealants advertise that they are a flat tire fix in a can. Essentially, they are a cans filled with tire sealant and compressed gas. When your tire is flat you simply hook the cans nozzle onto your tires valve stem, push a button and *voila* your tire is “sealed”. The compressed air is used to push the sealant out of the can and into the tire spreading the sealant around your tire to reach the affected area. 

Does it really work?

The best answer here is sometimes. In order for the tire sealant to work, there has to be zero size wall damage, the hole has to be fairly small and the tire can’t be completely flat. Here is a little tid bit from an article we wrote about spare tires a while back where we looked at the inflation kits they are putting in newer cars. The inflation kit consists of a can of tire sealant(much like Fix A Flat) and a small air compressor:

“Yes the inflation works but only with certain puncture scenarios. The puncture has to be located in the tread area with the object still stuck in the tire.  Also, you would have had to stop and pull over IMMEDIATELY to avoid inner tire damage.  So if there is damage to the sidewall, the tire was driven on “flat”, the tire was a “blow out” or the object well out that inflation kit is useless. 

No the inflation kit doesn’t work in case of: blowouts, large punctures, holes with no object in it or sidewall damage of any kind.”

Just the other day, we had a customer drive onto the lot with their spare tire on because they had a leak in their tire. The source of the leak was a small pin hole in the tread of their tire. They used a can of fix a flat in the tire and inflated the tire with an air compressor. The tire would not hold air. We were able to  successfully repair the tire after clean the tire, wheel and TPMS sensor. 

So in this instance, no, the fix a flat did NOT work. 

Is there any down side to using a tire sealant?

If your vehicle is equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System then a tire sealant could possibly ruin a TPMS sensor. How? Well, that sealant that coats your tire and “plugs” the hole will also coat the sensor. If the tire is not cleaned off properly, or if the sensor is coated in the tire sealant too long, it can damage or plug up the sensor. 

If you use a tire sealant and it works for you, you’re still going to need to get that tire repaired sooner than later. Tire sealants are temporary fixes.

Are tire sealants all bad? Absolutely not. Are they a guaranteed fix? Also no. But if you are on the side of the road and all that you have is a can of tire sealant then you then heck yes you should try it out! But is it a great replacement for a spare tire? No way. But it could possibly get you to where you’re going. 

TL;DR we’ve seen tire sealant products fail more times than they’ve helped.