Tyre Punctures, in general, are bad news. But unlike the ones that happen without any apparent warning, slow punctures, as their description suggests, tend to sneak up and hang around, causing the poor tyre to quietly suffer losing air and pressure, until it, quite literally, can’t stand it anymore!

What exactly is a slow puncture? 

Unlike an easy-to-spot standard puncture, a slow puncture can easily remain undetected for a long time. The slow loss of air and ultimate drop in pressure hampers the tyre’s performance and compromises driver safety and comfort. It’s basically a flat tyre taking its time.

The usual culprits Nails. Bent nails are usually poised to puncture, but even ones that are not bent, can be flipped over on impact, pointy side up, positioning them to puncture. It could be the car in front of you that kicks up a nail or even your own front tyre that does the deed, which can end up puncturing your rear tyre. In reality, a greater percentage of punctures do happen to rear tyres.

Screws/bolts. Like nails, screws and bolts that have fallen from somewhere or rolled onto the road can do damage to tyres.

Sharp rocks. If driving off road especially on rough terrain, or on roads filled with potholes or washed out by rain, it is likely that your tyres will encounter sharp rocks that could do the damage.

Broken glass. Keep an eye out for carelessly tossed glass bottles in parking lots and near garbage bins.

Construction debris. Metal sheets, glass shards, steel parts, and pieces of wood all have the potential to puncture or damage tyres.

Corroded wheels. On a steel wheel, rust can cause gaps on welded parts. On alloy wheels (especially magnesium alloy wheels), severe corrosion could make the metal porous, causing the air to slowly seep through.

Faulty valves. Air leaks in a faulty valve can also cause a tyre to slowly deflate.

Worn treads. Excessively worn out treads can also be easily punctured by regular road debris.

How to detect a slow punctured Tyre

Pulling.Drive your vehicle on a flat road and relax your grip on the steering wheel. If the vehicle pulls to the left or right it indicates low pressure in one or more of your tyres.

Tyre Pressure drop. If the pressure in one tyre is considerably less than the others, it’s a good idea to check for a slow puncture. A loss of more than two pounds of pressure in a month may indicate a slow puncture.  

Handling Responsiveness.If you notice any changes in vehicle handling – difficulty in steering the car, or if the suspension feels harder than usual, check your tyre pressure and look for evidence of a puncture.

Vibration. If the steering wheel shudders, especially when driving at a high speed, it could be a sign of an unbalanced tyre because of air loss.

Audible cues. Road noise from a tyre with less air pressure in it, or clicking sounds from embedded debris in a tyre, are other clues to a slow puncture. If you think you’ve heard something out of the usual, turn off the radio and roll down the windows to identify the sound.

Visual inspection. Sometimes all it takes is a regular visual inspection. A tyre with an irregular shape could be another indication of a partial deflation. Or perhaps the piece of debris causing the damage is quite obviously embedded.

How dangerous is it to drive on a slow puncture?

The longer you keep driving on a slow puncture, the greater the chances of it become a fully flat tyre. So the sooner you attend to it, the better.  

What to do when you discover a slow puncture

It may be tempting to simply top up the tyre with air when it looks a little flat and carry on as normal. Don’t. You are only compromising your safety. A tyre that’s partially deflated is unstable as it has a lower grip, which, in turn, could make your steering unsafe. In the case of a blowout, especially one that occurs at speed, it could result in injury or even a fatality. Also, a tyre that’s continually driven on in such a condition may not be repairable.

Can a slow puncture be repaired?

Tyre repair on a slow punctured tyre is difficult, depending on the cause and duration of the puncture, but it is possible. This really depends on the cause and duration of the puncture. Taking your car to a tyre repair specialist at the earliest is perhaps the best thing to do. If not, your best bet is to get a tyre replacement.