We get a lot of questions about these. It’s because the majority of new cars don’t come with a spare wheel. Instead, they’re either equipped with a space saver spare wheel or an inflation kit. If the latter is the case, you’ll find a small pack in the boot that contains a compressor and some fluid. But do these tyre inflation kits work? Read on to find out.
Are tyre inflation kits effective?
There is no simple answer to this. It really does depend on the kind of puncture you have and where it is. For smaller punctures in the tread area, for example from nails, stones or glass, a tyre inflation kit should work very well.
However, if the puncture is in the sidewall of the tyre and it’s perhaps a gash or a cut, then a tyre inflation kit is unlikely to do the trick.
How are tyre inflation kits effective?
Their ability to repair punctures is largely down to how these kits work. The inflation kit contains a mousse and a compressor. The idea is that the mousse plugs into the compressor. The compressor plugs into the car’s 12v power outlet (what used to be the cigarette lighter) and the tyre. It will then pump mousse and air into the tyre. The air pressure forces the mousse towards the hole where the air is escaping. That forces the mousse to seal the hole and keeps the air in the tyre.
How far can you drive after using an inflation kit?
Put it this way, if you have a puncture in Calais, an inflation kit isn’t going to get you to Cannes. What it will do is enable you to get a few miles to a garage or tyre retailer so that you can have the tyre fixed or buy a replacement for it.
When don’t they work?
If there’s a gash, the air pressure will just force the mousse out through it. It won’t be able to build up and therefore won’t plug the hole. Tyre maker Continental claims that an inflation kit will be suitable in about 70% of punctures.
Can tyres be fixed after using an inflation kit?
Use an inflation kit on a tyre and you might be surprised to hear that it can be fixed. However, the majority of repairers will claim that they can’t. This is because in order to repair the tyre, they have to clean the mousse out of the tyre and off the wheel. It’s a very messy business and they don’t like doing it.
What they’d rather do is charge you for a new tyre instead of just a repair. Then they get more money and their technician doesn’t have to get all messy. It’s a win-win – for them. What you should do is insist that the tyre can be repaired (assuming of course the damage is in the ‘minor repair area’ and the tyre can be legally fixed.)
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.