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QUESTION: I need some advice...I have a set of tires (General Grabber AT) that are almost 6 years old, with extremely low mileage. They cost $108 a tire and I like them a lot, but one of them has a slow leak that they can't find, they did everything including resealing the bead. It leaks 3 pounds a week. I could either buy a new tire of the same kind, buy a cheaper replacement mismatched tire, buy a new set of four of the same kind since they are going on 6 years, or live with the leak and add air every couple weeks. I should add that I hope to get a new vehicle in a couple years. As a tire expert, what would You do? Thanks

ANSWER: Lee,

First, the age limit on tires has been expressed many ways, and my take on it is that if one lives in the hot regions of the US - AZ, CA, NV, TX, and FL - the limit is 6 years.  And if one lives in the cold parts - MT, MN, WI, ND, and ID - the limit is 10 years.

I would judge CO to be in the 8 or 9 year area.  That means you have 2 or 3 more years before the tires need to be replaced due to age.

Second, the source of the leak has to be determined.  This may take some time to investigate - something tire shops usually do not want to do.  They want to be doing things that are more productive.

So I will suggest you do it yourself.  Spraying soapy water on the tire or immersing it in a tub of water (like a kiddy pool) is the best way.

The reason you need to find the leak is that it just might be the wheel - and changing tires isn't going to fix that.

So, as an expert what would I do?  Find the leak and proceed from there.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The first thing they did was immerse the tire in water, no leak found. They did see some bubbles around the weight and moved the weight. Then they resealed the bead. After doing that, the leak went from 13lbs a week to 3lbs (normally takes several months to go down even that much). So what they did helped slow the leak but didn't get rid of it. They said the next thing would be to swap out the spare wheel with this one to see if that makes a difference. If it doesn't, then it has to be the tire, even though the leak doesn't show up. Does that sound like a reasonable next step, switching wheels?  Thanks

ANSWER: Lee,

As I said it might be the wheel - and given what they have done, it sounds like it is indeed the wheel - or more precisely, the interface between the tire and the wheel.

Getting new tires may or may not solve the problem.

I'm not a fan of their proposal.  I would still want to verify where the leak is.  Swapping out the wheel might make the situation better, but I don't think it eliminates either the tire or the wheel since it is the interface that is the problem.  Simply moving the tire on the wheel might work as well.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Barry, sorry to beat this to death and I won't bug you again about it, but I must ask... I agree the best thing would be to verify where the leak is, but considering everything they did- spraying the tire with soapy water, immersing it in a tub of water, inspecting the tire and wheel and then resealing the bead, what else could have been done to verify where the leak is?? Thanks one last time.

Answer
Lee,

As I said earlier, it sometimes takes some time and effort to find a leak such as you are describing - time and effort some tire shops aren't willing to devote to such a project.

Leaks are always detectable, and finding where the leak is coming from can eliminate doing work that doesn't yield results.  Unless the leak is found, exchanging parts - whether it is tires or wheels - is a hit or miss process.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but the quality of the effort was lacking.  In some respects it is understandable because the shop wasn't going to benefit financially from finding the leak.  Replacing tires - which is a costly option from your perspective - was the only financial incentive they had.  I can't particularly fault them because they didn't cause the problem.

So if they want to swap a wheel - well, that might work, but even if it does, what about the wheel that they discard?  Are you going to replace it?  How much is that going to cost?  Is it worth being SURE the leak is through the wheel.

What if swapping out the wheel doesn't work?  Now you are looking at replacing the tires at full price, because the tire manufacturer is not going to warrant them due to the age of the tires.  

And even then, you can't be sure that the wheel wasn't the problem in the first place.  Some years down the road, the leak may surface again.  That would be a costly non-solution.

But do what you would like. Unless the leak can be found, you're shooting in the dark.

Good Luck  

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Barry Smith

Expertise

I have over 30 years experience in the design, manufacturing, and testing of tires. I have served as the technical advisor to the "800" number. I have authored or co-authored many publications - usually without credit. I can answer almost any technical question, but please don`t ask me to compare brands. I probably have prejudices because of my work experience.

Experience

Member SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Member Tire Society (Tire Technical Organization) SCCA Regional Competiton License holder Authored many training manuals on tires, their care and use.

Organizations
SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Tire Society

Publications
You may want to visit my web site: http://www.barrystiretech.com/index.html

Education/Credentials
I am a graduate of the University of Dayton, Dayton, OH - BME, 1971 I attended graduate school at the University of Akron - but did not complete my PhD - something I regret.

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