Dear Car Talk: We were on vacation and got a flat tire which was caused by a screw. A good Samaritan saw our dilemma and offered us a can of aerosol flat fixer and aired our tires for us so we could go to a repair shop.
Once the mechanic at the shop told us that the tire could not be repaired because of the aerosol product we used. We had to buy a new tire and were wondering if a tire is really toast after using this product, or if he just wanted to sell us a tire. – Rita
Dear reader: He will sell you a tire instead of cleaning your old tire. Products like Fix-a-Flat can be helpful in an emergency if you have a small puncture — such as a screw in the walk.
They inject a pulpy substance into the tire and then deliver some air from the can, hopefully giving you enough tire pressure to limp to the repair shop. But this is a temporary solution. That mess has to be cleaned out of your tire if you want to repair it and keep using it. Goo gets unevenly distributed, and when it dries, it becomes impossible to balance the tire. It should be cleaned within 100 miles of use.
Cleaning that goal is a messy, unpleasant job. It’s the tire shop equivalent of changing the diaper after your baby has played in the bounce house for four hours. And that’s why your repair shop said “No thanks.”
Some shops will do it but will charge you extra for it. Others may refuse.
Another disadvantage of fix-a-flat, and its like, is that they often don’t work on larger punctures than, say, 2-3 millimeters – or a thicker screw.
The best solution, of course, is a full-size spare tire. This allows you to continue driving indefinitely. But these days fewer cars provide full size parts.
The next best option is a mini-spare, which will let you drive 50 miles and not do any more damage to your flat tyres.
Next on my list is a tow truck. If you have a car club membership or roadside assistance, you can take it to a repair shop and possibly get your old tire fixed.
If you’re stranded and none of these options are available to you, we prefer flat-tire “kits” that include a liquid sealant combined with a small air compressor that can power your car. Plugs into port. Kits, such as the Airman Rescue Pro+, work better on large punctures of up to 5-6 millimeters, and allow you to fill the tire with enough air to salvage the tire when you find a repair shop.
Those tires still have to be either cleaned or replaced, but they’re more likely to allow you to drive than the less-effective one-off-cheap approach.
What’s more, any of these products can be used if you’re not in a safe place or can’t wait. But it’s like throwing a big party. That’s all great, but then you have to clean up.
Dear Car Talk: I have a 2007 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck. It is in great condition and has few miles. I would like to install (or install) one of the latest security options – Blind Spot Warning.
Is there a good aftermarket blind spot warning system you can install on an older car? – And
Dear reader: Blind spot warning is one of the great safety inventions of our time.
The only people who disagree are chiropractors, who are losing business because people no longer need to violently whip their necks to see what’s in their left alley.
You can install an aftermarket blind spot warning system on an older car. They are not as good as factory installed systems, but some are close.
The downsides of aftermarket systems are that they require a lot more work to set up and their accuracy varies more than factory systems. By precision, we mean they give you more false positives, detecting things that aren’t always the cars coming in the next lane behind you.
That said, the best among them seems to be the Brandmotion RDBS 1500. It costs around $600, and you might pay again to have it professionally installed.
Installation includes internal wiring, removing the bumper, modifying it to hold the sensor, and modifying the internal A-pillars to install warning lights.
Not only does the BrandMotion have great accuracy, but it also includes a rear cross-traffic alert, which alerts you – while you are backing up – if a car is approaching you on the road from any direction.
It can be installed on 2007 and newer vehicles but not vehicles with metal bumpers so you will have to check with them and see if it will work on your truck. If not, you’ll have to keep looking.
For installation, I would check with your dealer or, more likely, a high quality shop that installs stereo and alarm systems. They’re used to doing that kind of wiring without making the interior of your car look like Apollo 11.
Most importantly, try to find a shop that has done this before. You won’t be patient zero if you can help it.
Ray Magliozzi gives car advice every Saturday at Car Talk. go to email him cartalk.com