Fix-a-Flat has been around for decades. But despite this, there are still some doubts about whether it’s effective and safe for tires. Does Fix-a-Flat work?
If it’s a nail hole in a tire—or any small hole for that matter—or a slow-leaking rim, Fix-a-Flat and other brands of sealants are good temporary solutions. Once it coats the inside of a tire (or tube), the slime hardens and plugs the hole.
Read on to learn more about Fix-a-Flat and if it will work or not for your car.
Does Fix-a-Flat Work Permanently?
Fix-A-Flat doesn’t work permanently. Other brands of tire sealants are also not permanent solutions. Fix-a-Flat is meant to put you back on the road in a few minutes so that you can get to the nearest automotive shop, gas station, dealership, or tire service shop.
This brand of tire sealant can instantly patch a hole up to 1/4 inch in size. Once it’s in your tire, it can last up to 72 hours or the first 100 miles, whichever comes first. If it’s still in the can, it has a shelf life of up to two years from the manufacturing date.
Two Goals of Fix-a-Flat
Inflate the Tire
Inside every can of Fix-a-Flat is a mixture of liquid tire sealant and air. When you press the button, the small amount of air inside the can pushes the liquid sealant out and into your tire. At room temperature, the liquid propellant turns back into gas.
This mechanism allows a small can of Fix-a-Flat to continue to expand until the tire contains enough gas to get the rim off the ground.
Seal the Hole
The propellant also contains polymer latex that patches the hole. Once inside the hole in your tire, the rush of air causes the air pressure to drop.
This, in turn, causes the latex to thicken and fill the whole tire, patching the hole. Again, this solution is temporary and should be enough to let you drive for 100 miles.
But the propellant doesn’t only patch the hole and inflate a tire. It also includes corrosion inhibitors to prevent rust formation and damage to the wheel.
Caveat: There’s a great chance that you’ll need to replace your flat tire, however big or small the hole was. Also, there are automotive shops that won’t fix a tire that has been treated with a chemical sealant.
Can Fix-a-Flat Ruin Your Tire?
The brand’s website says that it doesn’t ruin most tires if you follow the instructions.
How to Use Fix-a-Flat
Below are the instructions for using a can of Fix-a-Flat:
- Drive your vehicle a little way until the punctured area of your tire is at the bottom or 6 o’clock position.
- Vigorously shake the can for half a minute.
- Untwist the hose then attach and tightly twist it onto your tire’s valve stem.
- Hold the can upright and remove the safety tab.
- Firmly push down the yellow button for approximately 45 seconds or until the can is completely empty. Make sure the tire rim is completely lifted off the ground.
- Remove the hose from the tire valve stem, and then drive your vehicle 2 to 4 miles. This will help the sealant spread and increase the tire pressure.
It’s that easy! Remember: You have three days (or 100 miles) to have your punctured tire repaired or replaced by a professional.
Carry a Can of Tire Sealant for Emergency Cases
As a rule of thumb, most motorists would carry a can of tire sealant for emergency cases. However, if you’ve already seen what it does inside of a tire, you know better not to use it unless it’s essential—like when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere or don’t have the know-how on changing tires.
Fix-a-Flat Can Clog the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Sensor
If you don’t have it appropriately cleaned right away, there’s a chance Fix-a-Flat can clog your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensor. A tire pressure monitoring system is a small, cylindrical sensor that lets you know when the air pressure inside your tire drops. You’ll usually find this sensor inside your tire, specifically on the inner area of the rim.
What If Fix-a-flat Permanently Damages Your TPMS Sensor?
Well, you’ll most likely need to replace it. On average, it costs between $30 and $70 per piece. Depending on your vehicle, you also need to pay for the labor cost, ranging from $50 to $250 for each sensor.
Why Many Technicians Do Not Like Using Fix-a-Flat
And the truth is many technicians resent tire sealants like Fix-a-Flat for many reasons:
1. Messy and Sticky
Tire sealants leave the inside of a tire with a messy residue, which tire technicians have to clean. It takes a lot of time and effort, especially if the slime is already dry.
Some, if not most, tire technicians don’t get paid enough to spend extra time on repairing tires with Fix-a-Flat. On top of that, they have to meet the quota set by their management.
Unfortunately, many vehicle owners don’t tell the tire technician they used Fix-a-Flat or another tire sealant brand. Due to this, the tech is caught off guard when he pops the tire off.
Tire Sealants Can Cause Irritation
Tire sealants can irritate if they contact the eyes and skin. Some technicians say sealants are painful and can cause a burn if they get into a cut.
Can Start a Fire or Minor Explosion
It’s also dangerous because it can start a fire or minor explosion. A tire sealant propellant needs to ignite an ignition source, such as a lighted cigarette and a spark from removing a nail from the tire. But, the company claims that Fix-a-Flat is non-flammable and generally safe.
Important: Always tell the tire/lube service shop that you’ve used a chemical sealant, so their staff can adequately prepare and protect themselves.
Again, does Fix-a-Flat work? Fix-a-Flat works well for holes in tires due to nails or if your tire leaks the rim. However, note that Fix-a-Flat is only a temporary solution. Fix-a-Flat hardens inside the tire, which covers the tire’s hole.
Which Is More Effective: Fix-a-Flat or Slime?
Fix-a-Flat is just one of many tire sealants available in the market. One of its strong competitors is Slime’s tire sealants. To save both your time and money, it might be in your best interest to compare the two to know which is a more effective choice for you.
Both Can Quickly Stop Slow Leaks and Seal Punctures up to 1/4-inch Size
Fix-a-Flat and Slime can quickly stop slow leaks and seal punctures up to 1/4-inch size. Slime’s black-label and red-label sealants can fill 1/8-inch holes in tubes.
Work in a Slightly Different Way
While both tire sealants are used for the same purposes, they don’t have the same formula. Therefore, they work in a slightly different way.
Fix-a-Flat seals and inflates punctured tires through a series of chemical reactions. Meanwhile, Slime uses a special mixture of physical particles called Fibro-Seal technology.
What Is Fibro-Seal Technology?
Instead of compressed air and polymer latex, Fibro-Seal technology contains a mix of rubber particles and long and short fibers. To help people understand better, they compared how this technology works to blowing up a balloon:
You usually pinch the neck with your index finger and thumb when you blow up a balloon. Now, imagine you unintentionally let go of the neck of the balloon. Air would come rushing out of it.
Similarly, air will naturally escape when a sharp object, such as glass or nail punctures a tire. During this process, the air rushing outside brings the Slime sealant towards the puncture site, where the rubber particles and fibers will plug it up.
Both Tire Sealant Brands Give Customers Options
Both tire sealant brands offer options. Fix-a-Flat is available in different can sizes, while Slime comes in four versions, each formulated to solve a different type of flat tire repair.
Fix-a-Flat Is Easier to Use
What’s great about Fix-a-Flat is it’s relatively easier to use. You don’t need any tools to use it since it’s already pressurized. On the other hand, Slime sealants require you to use a tire inflator or an air source of your choice after discharging the content in your tire.
Fix-a-Flat Is Less Effective at Temperature below 32°F (0°C)
Temperature does affect the effectiveness of tire sealants. Fix-a-Flat becomes a lot less effective when the temperature falls below 32°F (0°C). The good news is the freezing temperature doesn’t damage it. You need to thaw it using your vehicle’s heater vent, so you can use it again to fix the hole in your tire.
Slime Sealants Remain Effective Even If Subjected to Extreme Temperatures
According to the manufacturer, Slime sealants remain effective even if subject to extreme environmental temperatures. It has a freezing point of -35˚F (-37.2˚C) and a maximum separation point of 182˚F (83.3˚C).
Which of the Two Tire Sealants Should You Use?
There’s no definitive answer to that question, especially when they work under the same sealing principles. If you’re looking for a sealant that’s quick and easy to use, Fix-a-Flat is a good choice. If you want something that’s slightly longer-lasting and you don’t mind carrying around a tire inflator, then Slime sealants might be a good option for you.
Cases Where You Should Not Use Tire Sealants
Keep in mind that both tire sealants aren’t always the best solutions for certain situations:
1. Not Suitable for Fixing Punctures in Quiet Tires
They’re not suitable for fixing punctures in quiet tires. Using any of the two will result in tire vibrations. It’s also next to impossible to remove the sealant from the foam. So, you have to replace the defective tire.
2. Manufacturers Don’t Recommend Sealant for Run-flat Tires
The manufacturers don’t recommend using them for run-flat tires. In case you’re unfamiliar, a run-flat tire is designed to allow you to keep driving after a puncture at reduced speeds and for a brief period. Some run-flat tires have a foam insert, rendering tire sealants useless because they’ll never reach the puncture site.
3. Don’t Use Fix-a-flat in ATV, Bicycle Tires, and More
You can’t use Fix-a-Flat in tires on ATVs, bicycles, golf carts, lawnmowers, motorcycles, scooters, and tractors, among others. It’s strictly used in vehicles with highway tires, such as cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Please let a tire technician know the brand and type of sealant you used. The repair process is different for tires that have been exposed to these sealants.
What Is Fix-a-Flat?
Snap Products developed Fix-a-Flat in 1970, making it the first emergency flat tire sealant. Like what the name suggests, it’s a water-based aerosol sealant that you can use to repair quickly and inflate a flat tire in just a few minutes. No need for a jack or tire repair tools.
Fix-a-Flat contains a non-flammable, gaseous propellant called hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)-134a. This propellant contains other substances, such as polymer latex. Once released from the can, the polymer latex—along with other substances—plugs the hole and prevents rust formation.
Fix-a-Flat is available in four can sizes:
- 12 oz. for compact tires
- 16 oz. for standard tires
- 20 oz. for large tires
- 24 oz. for extra-large tires
Fix-a-Flat’s Online Calculator
How do you determine what can size to use for your vehicle? The easiest way to know the correct can size that you should use for your tires is by using Fix-a-Flat’s online calculator. All you need to do is input specific information about your tire, namely:
- Aspect ratio
- Rim size
For example, the tire size is P205/55R19. The first three numbers (205) are the width in millimeters. After the forward-slash mark, the following two numbers represent the aspect ratio delivered in percentage.
In the example, the aspect ratio of 55 means the tire’s height is 55% of its width. The last two numbers (R19) represent the rim size in inches.
Conclusion – Does Fix-a-Flat Work?
Ideally, your spare tire is your best option if you get a flat tire. But if you don’t have a spare on hand or the tow cost is out of your budget, that could be where Fix-a-Flat comes in handy.
Fix-a-Flat works on slow-leaking rims and holes not bigger than 1/4 inch. Unlike Slime, you don’t need any special equipment for it to plug a hole. If you use it correctly, it can last up to 3 days or the first 100 miles.
However, it’s not a permanent solution. And tire service shops might end up refusing you service or charging you more for repairing or replacing your tire that has been exposed to Fix-a-Flat (or any chemical tire sealant) because of the extra time and effort required to clean it up.