We’ve all been there: you’re driving down the highway, trying to keep a low profile while singing your heart out to “Carry on My Wayward Son,” when all of a sudden, you hear the telltale rumble of a flat tyre.
Fix-a-Flat and other products that seal and add air can save your life in this situation. The goal of these products is to help you fix a flat tyre, stop the leak, and get back on the road in less than a minute.
You’re not the only one who thinks that sounds too good to be true.
Even though a lot of drivers swear by the way Fix-a-Flat works as a patch-over, many auto experts and savvy consumers are still sceptical. It’s a debate that needs to be looked into more.
How long does Fix-a-Flat stay effective? How well does it do what it says it will do?
How Long Does Fix-a-Flat Last?
Fix-a-Flat can be used for three days or 100 miles, whichever comes first. This is what the manufacturer says. That should be more than enough time or distance to get you to a mechanic for a proper fix.
Fix-a-Flat is meant to help you help yourself in commuting emergencies when you don’t have time to wait for roadside assistance. It’s not meant to let you go back to joyriding or put off getting repairs that need to be done.
If you get a flat tyre and decide to use a two-in-one sealant to fix it, the next thing you should do is run as fast as you can to the nearest open garage.
If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be that you shouldn’t use aerosol sealants to fix flat tyres unless you have to. When you do have to, you should drive as little as possible on the sealed tyre before getting more permanent repairs done.
Is Fix-a-Flat a Permanent Fix?
Fix-a-Flat is not a permanent solution, despite what its name might suggest. Even worse, it’s not a very long-term one!
Fix-a-Flat and other tyre repair fluids are designed to get you a maximum of 100 miles. That’s not very far, but it’s the most they can do. It’s likely that you’ll only go a portion of that distance before the sealant fails and the air starts to leak out of your tyre again.
As someone who has tried these kinds of solutions and seen how they don’t work in real life, I cannot stress this point enough: Fix-a-Flat and other aerosol sealants are only good as very short-term fixes.
How to Use Fix-a-Flat (Properly)
If you get stuck on the side of the road and have a can of Fix-a-Flat with you, here’s how to use it to get moving again.
First, move your car just a little bit forward or backward, if you can, so that the damaged part of the tyre is at the bottom. This will make it much easier for the liquid polymer latex, which is what makes the seal and is the active ingredient in Fix-a-Flat, to get to where it needs to be.
Get your Fix-a-Flat can and shake it hard for at least 30 seconds.
Take off the top of the can and connect the hose that came with it to the front stem of the nozzle.
Make sure the other end of the hose is securely attached to the valve stem of the flat tyre before moving on.
When the can is standing straight up, press and hold the big yellow button on top to start pouring.
Don’t stop spraying until the whole can is gone. It should take between 45 seconds and a minute to do this.
Last but not least, get back in your car and drive slowly for 2–4 miles. This step is important because it helps spread the sealant over the hole more evenly and gives the propellant (the stuff that inflates the tyre) time to expand and bring the tyre pressure up to a good psi.
Remember that this kind of plug-and-play fix will only give you enough extra miles to get your car to an auto repair shop nearby.
Don’t take your time after you’re done unloading the can, and don’t stop for no reason along the way unless it’s at a gas station air pump to finish filling up the tyre.
Will Fix-a-Flat Fix a Completely Flat Tire?
Fix-a-Flat is not able to fix a totally flat tyre, though. The can doesn’t have enough propellant that makes the gas expand to fully fill a tyre that has lost all of its air.
There might not even be enough to fill one that’s only partly flat.
And why would you think there would be? That’s probably too much to expect from a $14 can the size of an air freshener.
I suggest keeping a portable air compressor in your car to make sure you have enough air in your tyres to get where you’re going safely. So, you can continue where the Fix-a-Flat left off and add as much air as you need before heading to the service centre.
Fix-a-Flat is also not meant to fix big holes, gashes, tears, or other damage on a large scale. It also won’t help at all if the hole is too close to the sidewall.
If your tyre is FUBAR, you will have to call a tow truck or a mobile tyre repair service.
Can Fix-a-Flat Permanently Fix a Slow Leak?
You bet. Fix-a-Flat was designed to fix exactly this kind of damage.
Let’s say you picked up a nail or drove over a sharp piece of metal and got a flat. In these situations, the hole is usually small enough that an aerosol sealant can fix it without causing any major problems.
When you pour the contents of a Fix-a-Flat can into a slowly deflating tyre, the liquid polymer latex makes its way down to the opening, where it fills any holes where air may be escaping and then hardens into a dense but flexible foam.
This foam is pretty strong and can be used to fix small holes caused by nails, screws, and other common road debris.
Fix-a-Flat gets a point!
Can You Use Fix-a-Flat More Than Once?
Fix-a-Flat is a one-time-use item that can’t be used again.
If you do everything exactly as the directions say, you will have used up the whole can by the time your tyre is fully inflated. This can only be used for one repair at a time.
No matter what, you should never try to use one can on more than one tyre. And if you’re thinking about trying to use Fix-a-Flat to fix a tyre with more than one hole, don’t. There’s no way that could work out well.
Fix-a-Flat is only good for about 2 years after the date on the can, even if you have some fluid left over. After this point, the chemical breakdown could make the product stop working the way it’s supposed to or even hurt the tyres on your car.
Aerosol sealants are already dangerous enough without having to worry about how they change over time and how that might affect the way your car is built.
Why Do Mechanics Hate Fix-a-Flat?
Tire repair kits like Fix-a-Flat are looked down upon by car experts because they give people a false sense of security. They may or may not get you a hundred miles.
Between now and then, your chances of getting a flat again or getting into an accident because of a blowout are through the roof. If you drive for too long on a tyre that isn’t stable, you become a fast-moving danger to yourself and other drivers. In other words, there is also a part about road safety.
Your best bet is always to have a qualified tyre repair specialist look at your tyre as soon as possible.
But there’s more. Most of the time, aerosol sealants make a lot more work for the people who will have to fix your tyre in the end.
It only takes 45 seconds to put the stuff on, but it takes a lot longer to clean it off the inside of the tyre, the rim, the wheel well, and any other part of the car it gets on. This kind of mess can make a simple repair job hard to do and cause your friendly neighbourhood “grease monkey” a lot of extra stress.
In the worst case, the sticky leftovers could even gum up or rust your tyre pressure monitoring sensor if it sits for too long.
If your TPMS breaks in a way that can’t be fixed, you’ll have to pay for a new one or drive around without knowing how much air is in each tyre. To say the least, neither choice is the best.