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Why do my car tires keep losing air?

Why Are My Car Tires Leaking Air?

Why are my car tires leaking air? Attention: If you are reading this, it means your tires are leaking and losing air. Do not worry though—we can help!

Does it seem like you need to fill your tires with air regularly? This is not normal. A good tire, sealed to the wheel will hold air for some time without needing air.

Tire maintenance and service should be done for tire preservation.

Tires are what connect your car to the road, which is what makes them one of the most important parts of your car.

You may be wondering why your tires are leaking air in the first place. It could be that they have a puncture or there is damage to the tire itself. Whatever the case, we know how frustrating this can be for drivers. We want to make sure you get back on the road as soon as possible. We offer free inspections so come by our shop in Lakewood, Colorado today!

Common Causes of Tire Damage

Many tire pressure problems are the result of tire damage.

  • Tire punctures can create tire leaks. Do not forget to check your tires for nails or other tire penetrators that may have caused a hole in your tire.
  • Physical tire damage is also possible resulting in air leakage due to tire puncture. Air will leak out of cracks.
  • A poor Bead Seal, the seal between the tire and your wheel, can leak. This is frustrating as it is not easy to spot. One day your tire is fine, then the next it’s flat. Thoroughly cleaning the wheel rim and reseating the tire corrects the issue. Though there are times when a wheel becomes too corroded to seal in the air. This is unusual but can happen.
  • Environmental factors also play a role in tire pressure. In Colorado when the temperatures drop your Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor might illuminate. Noting your car’s tires are below the recommended factory settings. This results in a TPMS light illuminating on the dashboard. Do not ignore this important light. In most cases, the pressure is just off by a couple of PSI. Check the pressure and add a little air when the seasons change. Avoid the annoying TPMS light popping on after a chilly night in Lakewood.
  • The tire tread depth on tires wears down over time because of driving. Environmental factors (such as weather) and neglect through improper tire care.

How Tire Tread Depth Is Determined

Tread depth is measured by inserting a tire tread depth gauge into the grooves on your tire to determine what percentage of tire tread remains. If the tire has 1/16 inch or below, it needs immediate replacement because driving will be hazardous.

Proper tire pressure should always be kept in mind. As tire pressure directly affects tire tread depth. Cooper Tire, one of our favorite tire brands, has an informational video that shows tread depth measurement here.

Proper tire pressure is determined by the tire size and the type of vehicle you drive.

How Tire Pressure Is Measured

Tire pressure can be checked with most tire gauges, which are inexpensive and easy to use.

If tire pressure gets too low, such as going from tire pressure of 30 psi to 10 psi. Tire tread depth decreases, and tire pressure will drop even more.

If tire pressure gets too high (over tire pressure listed on tire). It can cause stress cracks and heat which causes tire tread to wear away faster.

Our team of experts will inspect your vehicle and let you know what needs to be done right away so that you do not end up stranded somewhere with a flat tire. We understand how inconvenient it is when something like this happens while driving down the highway at high speeds! That is why we are here for you with honest advice from our friendly staff who care about their customers’ safety more than anything else. So, stop by today before it gets worse!

Visit Merrill Automotive Today for A Free Tire Inspection and Get Back on The Road in No Time at All! You won’t have to ask yourself why are my car tires leaking air?

Why Your Tire Loses Air Slowly and How to Fix It

Any tire loses air slowly at the rate of 1-3 psi a month due to osmosis. However, a stronger leak may be the result of the following issues:

  • Wheel elements damage
  • Tire damage
  • Temperature change.
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If a has tire deflated more than 25% from the recommended pressure, the likelihood of a tire-related crash increases threefold. Therefore, it’s crucial to know about every leak your tires may have and fix them in time.

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Possible Reasons Why a Tire Loses Air Slowly

Wheel Issues

The two main wheel problems due to which a tire loses air slowly are:

  • Poor valve stem.Tire velve stemValve stems deteriorate and leak air due to the exposure to lots of chemicals on the road. Usually, drivers get a new set along with the new tires. However, if a tire loses air slowly yet over 1-3 psi a month, they may need replacement earlier. Over-tightening valve cores may also be one of the reasons of the leak. The torque should be about 4 inches per pound, so you may need a pre-set wrench.
  • Bent or damaged wheel.
    The wheel may partially lose its perfectly round shape due to corrosion or hitting a road hazard. Also, if corrosion is present at the surface where the tire is mounted, the air loss may be greater. A bent wheel will also contribute to the vibration of the vehicle, which may damage the tire’s bead, contributing to the air leak.

Corroded wheel bead seat.

If you see any of these issues, make sure to visit a technician and get a consultation on changing the valve stem or repairing the wheel.

Tire Damage

There are several common tire-related reasons why a tire loses air slowly:

  • Nails.
    They can puncture the tire and cause air to leak at the rate of 2-3 psi a day. A nail may remain in the tire and cause seemingly insignificant air loss. But it still needs to be extracted. If it isn’t the leak could get worse and your tire may need an urgent repair to make sure you don’t get a flat tire.Nail in a tire
  • Bead damage.
    Any sealing surface between rubber and metal can cause loss of air. Bead chunking, a small piece of debris between the rim and the tire etc., can open a small window for the air. Damaged tire beadAge also contributes to the seal breaking, as the rubber weakens over the years, losing its elasticity. That’s why it’s so important to know the age of the tire before you buy it.
    Finally, the bead may sit improperly on the rim due to inexperienced technician work, and as a result, the tire loses air slowly.
  • Another damage due to road hazards.
    Driving over a large pothole or a curb may flex the tire sidewalls and make the tire lose air. If there is no damage to the tire-wheel unit, you may just need to re-inflate the tire. However, check for any sidewall bulges, cuts, and punctures. These may indicate an internal or external damage that could contribute to the leak.

When you notice your tire loses air slowly or it’s time for a routine check at a mechanic, make sure to look for all this damage. Some of them, like a small puncture, may be reparable, and the sooner you do it, the better.

Temperature Change

A tire loses about 2% of the air with every 10°F drop in temperature. Accordingly, it rises 2% with every 10°F rise. So, light passenger cars may lose/gain about 1 psi, while pickups and buses may lose/gain 2 psi. In most part of the US, the difference between day and night temperatures is about 20°F. So, if your vehicle spent a night outside in the cold and you find the tires are underinflated in the morning, don’t rush to add pressure. While you drive, the inflation will return to the norm by the afternoon.

Pressure changes according to the temperature because air expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. The amount of air is still the same, so if there is no other damage, keep the pressure as it is.

Locating the Air Leak

If your tire loses air slowly, there are several ways to find the leak:

Air leak in a tire

  • By sound or feel.
    In the easiest cases, you may manage to find the leak by sound or feel. There will be a distinctive hissing sound, intensifying as you get closer to the leak. Touch the tire in that place and feel whether there’s air loss. If the tire is hot, the place with the leak or damage will feel hotter.
  • By using soapy water.
    You can add any soap or 20% detergent into a spray with water and spray the tire and rim edge. Cover the valve stem with the mixture first, then the inside and outside edges of the rim. You can also pour some on the tire sidewalls and tread to see if there’s any damage you might have missed. Bubbles will appear where the leak is present. However, remember that you may need to wait about 5 minutes before you notice the place where your tire loses air slowly.
  • By putting the wheel into water.
    Remove the wheel from the vehicle and put it into water. The leaky part will start to release small bubbles and show itself. The puncture or other damage may be on the other side, so if you don’t see it in 5 minutes, turn the tire over.
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Usually, the soapy water method works perfectly even for small punctures. It’s also the easiest and least time consuming, as you don’t have to demount the tire.

Fixing the Issue

If your tire loses air slowly, here are the things you can do:

  • Repair the tire
  • Repair the valve stem
  • Repair and/or restore the rim.

NOTE: Not all damage to the wheel and tire are reparable. Some repairs are temporary, giving you some time to get to the nearest tire shop. But you should never drive with temporary or poor-quality repairs on a daily basis.

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Repairing a Tire

You can repair a puncture at a technician workshop or at home. If you want to do it yourself, use tire sealants or a special plug kit.

Using a Sealant

You will need a sealant, an air pump, and a pressure gauge.

Insert the nose of the sealant into the puncture where the tire loses air slowly from, or the valve. Make sure you adjust it so that the sealant is pouring right on the inside surface of the tire. Pour it carefully until you use a whole standard bottle.

It will work as a protective layer inside the tire, so when you pump it up, the pressure will push the mixture into the hole. Thus, it will form a rubber-like plug, repairing your tire.

How tire sealant works

There are pre- and post-puncture sealants, so buy the latter if your tire loses air slowly.

NOTE: Make sure you look for propylene glycol sealants. There are also those based on ethylene, which is toxic for humans and may be dangerous for tires after some time.

Using a Plug Kit

A standard tire plug kit.

A plug kit consists of a set of plugs, rubber cement, reaming tool, and a plug tool. Also have pliers or another tool ready to take the nail out of the tire. You may need a car jack and a lug wrench if it’s more comfortable for you to repair the tire on a removed wheel. However, you can do it with the wheel on the vehicle.

Firstly, remove the nail from the tire and use a reaming tool to clean the hole and make it fit the plug. Be careful not to make the hole too large, or you can do more damage so your tire loses air slowly or go flat instantly. Then, insert the plug into the plug tool and cover the tip of the tool with a bit of rubber cement. After that, insert the plug into the hole in the tire and pull the tool out of it. Cut the plug that remains on the surface as close to the tread as possible. After it dries, you can pump the tire up and drive safely for some time.

NOTE: Remember that such repairs are suitable only for tread damage. If you fix the sidewall like that, the tire may blow out any moment.

Repairing the Valve Stem

You will need a valve removal tool and a new valve core. You may also need a car jack and a lug wrench to remove the wheel if you find it easier.

Remove the valve core on the wheel where the tire loses air slowly by inserting the removal tool tip into the stem and rotating it counterclockwise. If you see signs of corrosion, make sure to clean the stem before installing a new core. Screw a new core in place and pump the tire up.

NOTE: Make sure to wear protective glasses, as the old core or debris from the stem may hit you.

Repairing and/or Restoring the Rim

If you have a bent wheel, it’s better to go to a mechanic that offers hydraulic assistance. This is one of the newest and most efficient ways to straighten a wheel.

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NOTE: Never hammer your aluminum alloy wheels, or they may become totally broken. Aluminum is quite brittle, so more gentle means should be used to fix such rims.

What you can do yourself is clean the wheels from corrosion, as this is one of the reasons why a tire loses air slowly. You will need to remove the wheel from the vehicle and dismount the tire. Then you will need sanding tools, aluminum metallic polish, and wax (optional).

Clean the wheel and degrease it, then remove all the paint and previous finishes. Sand all its parts thoroughly, including the space in between the spokes and inside the lug-nut holes. Use a low-speed sander to clean the center of the rim, and polish it all until it gets shiny again. Let it dry and apply wax if you find it appropriate.

NOTE: This is only one of the methods for cleaning a wheel of signs of corrosion. You can alter it according to your wheel type and manufacturer specifications. You should also wear protective glasses and gloves to ensure safety.

Maintaining Proper Inflation

  • Check routinely.
    Check air pressure in your tires once a week to make sure you know whether any tire loses air slowly but more than the others.
  • Check when cold.
    Make sure you check the tires while they are cold. It’s not mandatory to wait for a lot time for the tires to cool down – 2 hours should be fine. Also make sure the car has been in the shade before you check the pressure.
    If you’ve been driving for over 15 minutes or the car has been in the sun, remove 2 psi to see the real inflation rate.
  • Use a calibrated pressure gauge.
    At some tire stations they calibrate pressure gauges, and you should do it to get the right reading. As a tire loses air slowly, every psi loss is important to notice. Even a new gauge may show about +/- 3 psi, which is quite a lot of change for light passenger cars. Also, choose the most appropriate tire gauge type for you: stick, digital, or dial. You can see their benefits and drawbacks by reading a buying guide.

Searching for Recommended Air Pressure Information

Read your vehicle owner’s manual or look for the information placard on the door jamb. There you will find both the maximum load/inflation and the recommended amount.

Info placard on a vehicle door

It’s crucial that the tire load index is the same or exceeds the index you see on the placard. The information on the load index can be found on the sidewall of the tire as a part of its code.


Tire Pressure Monitoring System is present in every vehicle manufactured after 2007. It helps detecting whether any tire loses air slowly and excessively. When pressure goes lower than 25% from the recommended standard, the system warns the driver with a sign.

Tire pressure monitoring system alarm

Unfortunately, according to a survey, only 58% of drivers can identify the sign. 21% won’t believe their vehicle systems and will continue driving until they can see the damage themselves. Nevertheless, TPMS is a mandatory system approved by NHTSA and a great help for those who use it.

Why Tire Pressure Is Important

Tire pressure influences the following things:

  • Safety.
    About 75% of roadside flat tires happen because of negligence when a tire loses air slowly.
  • Load-carrying capacity.
    A vehicle only can carry the specified load if the tires have enough air in them.
  • Tire lifespan.
    Proper tire pressure prolongs the tire’s life, as if over- or under-inflated, the tire starts to wear irregularly.
  • Fuel consumption.
    Improper tire pressure may increase fuel consumption by about 3%.

Improper pressure will provide less stability for the vehicle and more risk of flats and blowouts. For light passenger cars, the average psi standard is 35, and such tires become dangerous at 28 psi. So, even 5-7 psi makes a difference. Therefore, when one tire loses air slowly but more than the others, it needs attention.

Why Do My Tires Keep Going Flat or Losing Air?

There are many different reasons your tires may be going flat or losing air. These can include more obvious reasons such as an object that punctures the tire or tire damage but less obvious reasons such as improper inflation, weather, valve steam leakage, and sealing issues may also contribute.

Depending on which one of these things you experience and how severe the problem is will also determine the amount of time it takes for all the air to escape your tire.

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It is not common to have to inflate your tire every day or once a week. Usually having to inflate your tires once a month can signal an issue under ideal circumstances.

How Often Should I Inflate My Tires?

checking tire pressure

Even though you should not necessarily have to re-inflate your tires every month, it is a good rule of thumb to check their pressure every month, especially when it gets colder.

Cold air causes air to contract and your tires to lose pressure as a result. This does not mean that you should not check them during the warm months of the year, nor does it mean that having to put air in your tires once a month is normal for you.

You know your vehicle the best, and if you have to start consistently adding air to your tires when the TPMS light comes on, you may want to investigate the possibility of a slow leak. Usually, when you have to start re-inflating your tires once every week or two, they need to be checked more thoroughly to see what is happening.

What Causes Air to Leak from Inflated Tires?

All tires lose air, regardless of how well they are mounted, how good the weather is, or how new the tires are. There is also a difference between this type of natural deflation and a slow leak.

Slow tire leaks happen over a short period of time compared to natural deflation, but they usually also happen much slower than a typical flat tire. There are several causes of slow leaks, all of which should be addressed when discovered. Any damaged or underinflated tire has the potential to affect the vehicle’s driving dynamics or cause a tire to rupture. Both of these situations can lead to additional vehicle damage or accidents if not repaired.


cold air tires

It is well-known that cold air causes tire pressure to drop. For every ten degrees drop in temperature, air pressure within a tire decreases one pound per square inch.

This means that if you inflate your tires to 35 PSI when it is sixty degrees outside, your tire pressure will have dropped to about 32 PSI in the morning when the temperature has dropped to thirty degrees.

A lesser thought-of tire pressure phenomenon is that the opposite happens in hot weather. Just as air condenses when it gets cold, it expands as it gets warmer. Just as many flat or deflated tires are seen during the summer as during the winter.

This is because the expanding air within the tire puts extra pressure on the tire, and can leak out of the seal. There is not much you can do about the weather, but the outdoor temperature is much less likely to affect your tires if you have a garage or other climate-controlled shelter or if you live in a climate that does not feature severe and frequent temperature swings.

Valve Stem Leak

Valve stem leaks are one of the most common reasons tires keep going flat. The valve stem is the part of the tire into which more air is allowed to be pumped.

As such, it is the easiest area for air to escape as well since it is the one area that is supposed to allow air to pass. If the valve stem is manufactured incorrectly or is damaged, it will cause leaking.

It can be damaged by numerous things including anything on the road that gets kicked up, a minor accident, or even during the mounting process.

Improper Mounting/Sealing

Improper mounting and sealing of a new tire are another one of the most common causes of slow leaks. If the tire sealant is not applied properly or a spot is missed, air will be allowed to escape.

Sometimes, the sealing itself is not the issue. If the wheel of a car is damaged or there is severe curb rash – when the rim of the wheel contains shallow damage – the seal may not be able to prevent air from escaping from the damaged wheel edge.

Slight Tire Damage

Damage to the tire itself is not as common of an issue for slow leaks. Tires are more resilient than they might seem, and any object that causes damage to a tire and doesn’t make it go flat relatively quickly would have to be very small and very rigid.

This does not mean that it cannot happen. Road debris is everywhere, and even something as small as a stone that is run over the correct way can cause damage.

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cracked tires

Age is a factor in nearly everything because everything wears out. Tires are the same. As they become older, they crack and become hard. Because of this, they slowly lose their ability to hold air.

Just because a tire has plenty of tread, does not mean there may be another issue with them. This is especially true when buying used tires to try and save money. Tires can be expensive, and buying gently-used tires to try and save money is a common practice. Examining used tires for cracking and rotting is an easy way to avoid air loss and potentially dangerous driving conditions.

What Causes Flat Tires?

Most people think of getting a flat tire as a quicker event than a slow leak. Slow tire leaks sometimes take several days before being noticed as an issue. Flat tires usually take a day or less since the issue is usually a bit more severe. There are two main reasons vehicles get flat tires.

Extensive Tire Damage

Extensive tire damage is most often caused by a larger than normal or sharper than normal piece of debris in the roadway that someone just happens to hit on the road.

The result is a puncture that can quickly drain a tire of air and requires the spare to be used. Extensive tire damage can sometimes be patched, but if the damage is extensive enough or the puncture is large enough, a new tire will be needed.


A blowout is a sudden failure of the tire, and it can be caused by just about anything that has been mentioned thus far. They create dangerous situations and are a large reason that leaking tires, whether slowly or quickly, should be addressed as soon as possible.

Age, any kind of tire damage caused by a puncture, driving with low tire pressure, driving with over-inflated tires, improper tire mounting, stretched tires, and sealing can all cause a blowout.

How Can You Prevent Tires From Going Flat or Losing Air?

There is not anything you can do to prevent a flat tire when it is caused by a random object that creates a puncture that deflates the tire. This is usually a random event that affects everybody at one point in time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can prevent tire leaking that will eventually lead to a completely flat tire. The best way to prevent this is by regularly examining your tires and monitoring their pressure.

Most vehicles have a tire pressure monitoring system that alerts the driver to abnormally low tire pressures, but this should only come on occasionally or when there is an issue.

Another thing you can do to avoid leaking tires is to find the cause and fix it. Obvious leaks and large punctures are identifiable by the sound of air leaving the tire.

Slow leaks are harder to diagnose and usually have to be found by a vehicle technician. Taking your vehicle to a mechanic is worth it though since so much is literally riding on your tires. Ignoring leaks can lead to potentially fatal consequences.

Final Thoughts

Tires can lose air for multiple reasons. Tire damage, valve stem leakage, improper sealing and mounting, and age can all cause leaking tires. Of course, flat tires that deflate quickly are usually caused by random objects in the road that cause punctures. These are hard to avoid, but taking regular tire pressure measurements and visiting your mechanic if your tires start to leak is the best way to prevent and fix leaky tires.

I have been a vehicle hobbyist for as long as I can remember as well as a freelance writer for the past three and a half years. My clients have included Vehicle Scene, Autolist, CarGurus, and now The Vehicle Lab. In addition to my current clients, I also maintain my own blog where I am able to share my knowledge and experience through vehicle reviews, car-buying guides, how-to guides, and list articles.


The Vehicle Lab looks to cover all aspects of the automotive industry: News, Maintenance & Repair Guides, and Product Reviews

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