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Tire sealant saved my ass and it can save yours too

Behold the most star-studded write-up about what’s seemingly the most lazily hashed-together roadside solution to ever come with any new car or sit on shelves at your nearby Autozone. But! I insist it’s worth talking about. Hey, you clicked on this, didn’t you? You made that choice. Now sit here and read about me rambling all about tire sealant and tire repair kits.

Story time!

You know, those gimmicky little toy chests that come under the back seat or in the trunk of your shiny new car? Or perhaps you’ve seen them collecting dust on shelves at stores. They’re those things you read about in dealership brochures or press releases and think, “Oh geez, I really wish you just included a damn spare tire at that point.” But turns out, at least for anything short of your tire exploding or being straight-up stolen, we shouldn’t underestimate tire sealant.

While we’re on this, allow me to also state that road debris should not be scoffed at, no matter how small. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this stupid article. But no. Some missing chunk of someone’s crap-pile jalopy at a turnout in Angeles Crest Highway chose me as its lucky winner and dressed the tire of my Integra Type-S loaner as Venom Snake from Metal Gear Solid V. There was a triangular shard in the center tread block, which would have been repairable if not for its size creating a big enough slash for America’s Tire to deem it as a must-replace.

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

Thankfully, the Acura press fleet manager notified me that they had full replacement wheels and tires on hand and could swap out the impaled rubber so long as I could make it from my friend’s place in Palmdale to their HQ in Torrance. So I made the journey the morning after the puncture after having already racked up 50-ish miles and was about to rack 80 more. As sketchy as that was, it was a trip I couldn’t have completed if the tire sealant kit in the trunk didn’t do such a commendable job at, well, its job.

People always taught me sealant kits were gimmicks and to never bother with them. And to a degree, which we’ll discuss at the end, they’re kind of right. But man, in a pinch, these can save you from being stranded waiting for a tow atop a mountain or the annoyance of working a shitty car jack to mount some shitty spare donut. The bag-o’-goo sloshed inside the tire, made its way to the puncture, and sealed just enough to hold air pressure for the following evening and morning until I could limp it to an America’s Tire and the press fleet HQ in Torrance, totaling well over 100 miles on the still-impaled tread block. Tire sealant works. It’s not the best nor the most permanent. But it works.

It spared me a weekend of headaches and can work for you, too. Yes, this is propaganda. Here are some preemptive solutions to any future tire woes you may or may not have, followed by the facts on what’s the deal with tire sealant.

Tire sealant kits for sale

Fix-a-Flat Tire Sealant 2-Pack

What’s better than one can of Fix-a-Flat? Here’s a perfect pick for a multi-car garage or if you’re just unlucky enough to keep having this problem. This two-pack of aerosol cans can come in larger quantities or be changed to a six-pack if you’d like.

STP Tire Fix Sealant and Inflator

Presenting yet another gift from a household name in car-care goodies. STP, also known for its filters, fuel additives, and oil treatments, delivers a quick and easy way to have some peace of mind on the road. This 16-ounce aerosol touts its ability to create a proper seal for punctures up to a quarter-inch wide for up to three days.

Slime 2-In-1 Tire & Tube Premium Sealant 1-Gallon Jug

Now, here’s a fun one for owners of off-highway toys or trailers. Or maybe you’re just especially unlucky, and the tire gods hate you. Either way, this one-gallon unit is great for tending to tire impalements for non-car applications like motorcycles, ATVs, or trailers. Because yes, even the tow rig needs a hand from time to time. Keep an air compressor handy, however, as there’s no method of inflating the tires with what’s essentially a repurposed Fast Orange jug. 

FAQS

Q. Is tire sealant a permanent fix for a punctured or flat tire?

  • No. Absolutely not. So don’t even think about filling your tire with that sticky slop and calling it a day for the next 10,000 miles. If anything, tire sealant kits are the least “permanent” and most volatile method for fixing a tire. Like my situation, it’s best in a pinch, and even I pushed it much farther than the generally recommended maximum of three days or 100 miles. After use, it’s best practice to hurry to a tire shop for repair or replacement. So don’t be me and push your luck.

Q. Is tire sealant and a tire repair kit the same thing?

  • Kind of. Technically, tire sealant is a type of tire repair kit. Tire repair kits can generally be anything from a patch kit or plug to that gooey stuff in a can that auto stores and automakers love so much. But no, a tire repair kit is not exclusively a tire sealant kit, but a tire sealant kit is definitely one of many forms of tire repair kits. 

Q. What are the disadvantages of tire sealant kits?

  • A big reason for tire sealant’s lack of permanence is that the formula can dry out and harden over time, reducing its ability to maintain its seal over the puncture. It’s also easy to use improperly. Additionally, failure to properly distribute the sealant evenly around the tire could possibly result in a weight imbalance that causes slight wheel vibration. So use with care and follow those instructions, folks. 

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