This post may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we'll receive a commission at no extra cost to you. This support helps us maintain and grow our site. Thank you for your support!

A slow tire leak can be annoying, and without eventual attention, potentially dangerous and expensive. So how do you fix a slow leak in your tire?

Slow leaks have a variety of causes and a variety of fixes. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to alleviate a leaking tire with something simple.

A slow leak in a tire is most often fixed by a tire patch. The method of fixing depends on the issue with the tire though and could require bead sealer for a damaged wheel – and in some cases, replacing the tire entirely.

So what are common causes of a slow tire leak? Wear? Nails? Did someone do something to your tire? We'll explore many of the possibilities that lead to a tire issue.

We've done some research on the most common causes of tire problems. We'll introduce safe, effective ways to get your tire fixed – or how to figure out if you just need a new tire for your vehicle.

Table of Contents

What are some common causes of slow tire leaks?

There are several common causes for slow tire leaks. Most of them can be confirmed by visual inspection, though most vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that will readily tell you when your tire pressure isn't high enough for safe, comfortable driving. When your vehicle starts beeping and flashing warning signs, you will definitely know.


It's possible that a slow leak is caused by a small puncture. While tires are tough, they can be damaged by traveling through a construction zone with nails and screws, or even by running over a glass bottle – believe me – I'd know! A small nail in a tire, properly situated, can cause a slow, annoying leak.

Wheel damage

Wheel damage can be a bit tougher. The most common cause is an issue with the bead sealer that helps holds the tire firmly on the rim itself.

Excess wear

Simple wear and tear can start to cause leaks. Treads and sidewalls can start to pull apart and result in slow leaks. Excessive wear is visually obvious as the internals on the treads will start to show and the car won't perform as well as it used to.

How do I fix a slow leak?

There are a variety of ways to fix a slow leak, some of which can be done in your garage. The first thing you are going to want to do regardless of what method you choose is to fill your tire up to the proper PSI. Check the driver-side door for the proper amount of air to put into your tire, first. We suggest doing this with equipment that can accurately measure PSI, like a tire pressure gauge.


For a small, nail-sized hole, a plug can work. Plugs are made of rubber and plastic and can be inserted into the tire hole covered in glue. This process is a little like putting wood filler into the nail or screw holes.

Plug kits can be found in hardware and automotive parts stores, though a local tire shop might be capable of putting one in for you too. While this doesn't require any specific equipment, you'll want some muscle to push the plug into the hole, some serious glue that might come with the kit, and a knife to trim off the excess plug.


A patch is a bit different from a plug. A patch on the inside of a tire will require you take the tire completely off. Patches are basically a rubber adhesive that bonds with the original rubber. One of the more important actions to take before patching a leak is to thoroughly clean the site with soap and water, then let it try, as you don't want debris between the special glue and the tire. Patches are often effective, especially on the inside of a tire.

Tire Beads

Tire breads are a bit hairier. Tire breads are the part, as mentioned earlier, that keeps the tire held onto the rim – they form the proper seal. If the tire bead is broken, there is a chance that you'll be able to do it yourself at home though we recommend bringing it a pro, since the process if a bit more cumbersome.

Valve stem

A vale stem can start leaking. Thankfully, a valve steam is also replaceable. You can do it in your garage with the right tools and some time, though you can also go to an auto repair shop and get it done fairly cheap.

When should I get a new tire?

The hardest part about answering this question is because it depends on the age. You want your tires to have even wear across the board. This usually means buying tires in a set of four. If you are seeking how to repair a tire, it might also mean you are avoiding replacing your tires instead.

Our best advice here is to ask an expert. Find a local shop that offers both tire repairs and new tires. They can also do a thorough inspection and see if the tire has any further damage and evaluate what you need to do with the tire. It's also worth noting that in some cases, a tire shop might appreciate the idea of patching a tire because many tire stores make more money off installing a tire than selling one – and you'll still be paying for labor – which is still cheaper for you and more beneficial for them.

Finding a leak

Besides your vehicle's tire pressure monitor system going off, issues keeping the tires on the road, and obvious visual differences in tire inflation – there is one more step to fixing a leak. You have to know where it is, especially if it's not immediately clear.

The best way to find a leak is also very simple: Spray a bottle of soapy water in a thin layer on the tire. Escaping air will bubble into the soap, so you'll quickly know exactly where the leak is. You might also need to remove the tire to see any leaks on the inside part of the rim.

Part of the issue could be rim corrosion and movement that results in air escaping between the tube and the rubber.

How long can I drive on a slow leak?

So long as you have the ability to keep enough air in your tire to have the rim stay off the ground and drive safely, it's possible to drive on a slow leak and not even notice it for a while. We suggest you have coins in the car for gas station air pumps or just bring a compressor with you.

Once the leak gets bad enough to require frequent air refills, you might want to replace the tire just for convenience sake. A slow leak is not going to get better.

What else can cause a slow leak?

Extreme temperature shifts can actually cause air leaks or a lack of pressure in tires. This writer happens to live in the upper midwest, where the tire pressure monitor systems sometimes chime in the dead of winter, when pressure is lower because the air itself is cold and not having as well. The problem can go away after a little travel, though you should still get your tires checked out if the problem persists into warmer weather.

What kind of leaks can't be fixed?

If the tire puncture is more than a quarter inch, you usually shouldn't attempt to apply a tire patch. Also, if the puncture is within the steel belt on the tire, you will definitely want a new tire. The steel belt within the tire helps uphold structural integrity and will corrode after punctured because at some point, you'll expose it to water – even if you try not to.

A tire expert at your local tire shop will probably give the same advice. The chances of a patch failing on a larger leak is much higher and could lead to tire damage. It's important to avoid driving on the rim if possible, and losing more air increases your risk of having this happen.

How To Fix Slow Leak In Car Tires?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding