Keeping your tires inflated to their correct levels is critical to maintaining your car's safety and handling. A tire with low air pressure will lead to reduced fuel economy, unstable driving characteristics, and, eventually, catastrophic failure. Unfortunately, it's often easy to ignore tires that lose pressure slowly, especially if you can easily add more air every few days. While a slow air leak might not seem like a dangerous situation at first, it's not something you should ignore. If you've been driving with a tire that's slowly losing air, consider these three reasons why it might be time for a replacement.
1. Leaks Often Get Worse
A slow air leak may result from a filled puncture. For example, a nail or another sharp object might puncture your tire and seal the hole. This seal can allow your tire to maintain some pressure while still allowing small amounts of air to escape. Over time, driving on the damaged tire can cause the leak to expand, ultimately resulting in more rapid tire pressure loss. If you don't stay on top of the problem, you can find yourself with a tire that suddenly loses substantial pressure, leaving you stuck with a flat tire. In a worst-case scenario, your tire might begin to deflate as you drive, potentially destroying your tire or causing you to lose control of the vehicle. Getting a few hundred more miles out of a leaky tire is rarely worth the potential risks.
2. You May Have a Damaged Wheel
An air leak that comes out of nowhere may also be a symptom of a more significant problem. Bent wheels can cause the rim to pull away from the tire, creating a gap that allows air to escape. This situation will create a slow leak in addition to other problems resulting from the bent wheel, such as vibrations or poor wheel balance. Although you might be willing to put up with occasional vibrations, driving on a damaged wheel can eventually cause the tire to deform, causing more severe damage. If you suspect that you're losing air due to a damaged wheel, you should have your tire inspected by a professional as soon as possible to avoid a more severe failure.
3. It Might Be a Simple Problem
Finally, your slow air leak may be due to a simple and correctable problem: worn valve stem seals. A faulty valve stem seal can cause your tire to lose air over time. Although this problem can eventually lead to more severe tire damage, catching it early enough will allow you to replace the valve stem and stop the leak.
The causes of a slow leak can range from relatively minor to urgent and severe. If you're slowly losing air from one of your tires, getting it checked out quickly is often the best and most cost-effective solution.