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April 18, 2013

Fix-A-Flat and Replace Your Tire (and Wheel)?

Dear Bree,

I got a flat tire last week and I used some stuff that my boyfriend put in my trunk called “Fix-a-Flat.”  Obviously, it got me home, and it’s been getting me along for the past week!  Hurray!  While I was riding around today feeling super-smart, I started to wonder: Is this a little too good to be true?  All I had to do was shoot some goo into my tire, and presto-change-o!  New tire!  Break it down for me, Bree—am I riding on borrowed tire time?

Handy Mandy (my new self-appointed nickname)

Charlotte, NC


Dear Mandy,

Don’t get too attached to that nickname.  I’m taking Handy back for now, though I love that you are smart enough to question your “too good to be true” moment.  Yes, Mandy, it is too good to be true.

Fix-a-Flat will save your tush in an emergency—when you’re stuck, you can’t use your spare and you have to get off the road.  It will get you off the side of the highway and hopefully back home, but you didn’t put a band-aid on your boo boo—you might have just cut your arm off.  Fix-a-Flat is a last resort.  Sister, where was your spare?

In my last blog, I talked about the difference between patching and plugging—your basic tire band aids; and I talked about the best way to repair a tire—the patch/plug wire pull-through.  So, this week, let’s talk about amputation.  Here’s the way Fix-a-Flat works:  This stuff comes out of the can under pressure as a liquid and seals the hole in your tire so you can get the heck out of Dodge.  Did you catch the “seal” part?  It seals the hole through a chemical reaction.  When the liquid comes into contact with the air (through the hole in your tire), it starts to harden and a change happens.  Now, this is good for you in the short term—sealed hole, back on the road–but what about the long term?

The chemical change doesn’t just stop when it fills the hole.  You’ve got a little high school chem lab going on in there.  There’s still liquid bumping around, hardening up, and taking whatever shape it wants as the air hits it.  That Fix-a-Flat substance just keeps on reacting with whatever it comes into contact with:  rubber, valve stem, your wheel, etc.  If you leave it there, you’ll need a new tire, but leave it long enough and you’ll need a new wheel too.  Eventually, the substance you squirted in there will start to eat away at the rubber of your tire; then it will start working on the paint and finish on your wheel, and so on.  Your future issues:  a tire that will never balance, a valve stem that won’t seal because the diameter of the stem got eaten away by goo, etc., etc.  Do you see where this is going?

You can have the Fix-a-Flat removed from the tire but it takes time, and some brands are tougher than others to clean up; but most of the time, Fix-a-Flat prevents proper tire repair from the inside. Come see us at RNR ASAP, and we’ll see what we can do to get your tire fixed up, Mandy.   And next time, use your spare.




P.S.  Here are some directions on how to change a tire.

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