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Old 09-30-2011, 11:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Tire valve stem has a crack and leaking air!

This morning I discovered that the front passenger-side tire was halfway flat. Thought I might have run over something, so I decided to pump it up to see if it would hold air. Everything was going fine until I heard air coming out. It looks like the base of the stem valve has cracked and slowly leaking air.

So what does this mean? New tire or can the valve stem just be replaced? The tire will need replacement soon, but it still has lots of mileage left on it.

I dread taking it to the tire shop (thinking of Pep Boys or Just Tires) and having them put my car on a lift or just jacking up one side of the car because I'm afraid they might not know where the jacking points are located under the car. Heck, I'm not even sure myself.

So what are my options?
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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They can install a new valve stem, no new tire needed. Charge should be minimal overall.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Awesome! Gonna call Just Tires or Pep Boys and get this done asap!
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dirty hippie View Post
...... I heard air coming out. It looks like the base of the stem valve has cracked and slowly leaking air....
So what are my options?
Sounds like you should replace the valve stem for sure as you have spotted a crack in the rubber; they deteriorate with sun, oil and age. May as well do all if they are about same age when appropriate to be on the safe side.

To find the precise point of the leak, soapy water solution or even spit can pinpoint the exact location via visible formation of bubbles. A hiss is sometimes tough to find, but a wet finger can sometimes feel the small cold escape of air.

If checking valve stems, where cracks may not yet be visible, and an air leak is not actually yet coming from the base of the stem, you could test with a soapy solution to see if there are any bubbles arising at the top of the stem from the small needle valve at the core.
If the needle valve is the source of the leak, you well may be able in the short term, to remove the valve inside. [using the inverted cap of an old bicycle tire cap /or small tool you could buy]. After deflating the tire, replace a new valve in the stem and save dismounting the tire. [Try and be careful with air blast releasing the valve, bleed down first, and eye protection, jackstands etc etc]

Regarding the jacking points, the Honda Insight Owners Manual, referring to 'changing a flat tire says:
"Locate the jacking point nearest
the tire you need to change. It is
pointed to by an arrow molded into
the underside of the body."
HIOM.pg 209

nb. Make sure to get the proper length of valve stem:
If the valve stems are overly long sticking beyond the tire, what could cause a crack prematurely is if they would be snagged on curbs when parking and bent sideways as so to crack.
[In the unlikely instance you have old school hubcaps on steel rims or somesuch , make sure the valve stem holes in the hubcaps are properly aligned with the valve stem protruding out it's hole in a hub cap and not bent.]

If valve stem is cracked, the others might not be far off so preventive maintenance might pay off.
The valve stem afaik is replaced by being pulled from the inside out, and is something you may be able to do yourself if you have access to sufficient air pressure to re-seat the bead after breaking it and installing a new stem. Use a bit of the soapy liquid stuff they brush on. I did this with an old pickup truck tire recently because of a crack at the valve stem base as well.
There may be a DIY shop with a tire dismounting machine in your area that makes dismounting the bead easy. Their charge is $4 per tire if you do it yourself.

Be sure there's caps on all the valve stems as a first line of defense for leaking tires.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Took my car to Just Tires and they charged me just $10 for labor! I was a bit impressed by the professional work. First off, the technician actually put plastic wrap over the seats, floor mat and even a special steering wheel wrap! This made a good impression on me, as not many places even bother to do all this. If they do, it's just a paper floor mat. Before the tech raised my car, I made sure to point out the jack points in the most polite way possible so as not to sound like I was demanding or showing him how to do his job. Years ago, I had taken a car to GoodYear for the third time because one wheel balancer kept falling off. The guy who was going to jack up my car was going to put it in a VERY bad location--under my belly pan where there is absolutely no structural point to place a jack. I was being absolutely polite about it and he got offended and became rude. He was the manager too. But anyway, I digress. The tech knew exactly where to place the lift arms and once the car was up he checked all 4 tires. In certain areas, he applied some liquid (soapy water?) to check possible leaks. I know there is one tire that has a nail embedded in it.

The only thing that I forgot to tell the tech was to pump tire to 50psi. The invoice shows 32! Gah! I don't know if he torqued the lug nuts to spec, as it wasn't specified on the invoice even though there is a section for it.

The manager pointed out that I'm due for new tires. He wasn't trying to sell me tires I didn't need. I knew he would bring it up because I have 3 tires that are due for replacement. The front driverside is fairly "new." He said it's best to get all 4 tires replaced at once. He quoated me $90 for the Potenza tires and $490 installed. Is this a good deal? If the tires are $320 total, then that leaves $170 for labor, valve stems, and balancers (not sure if this includes alignment). Isn't that a bit much?

AbCaRed: I read your post after I got this done. That's a good point you made about having all the valve stems replaced. I think I will be more careful when pumping my tires now. Never knew valve stems can go bad. I use a quality bicycle pump to adjust air pressure to 50psi, and sometimes I really have to yank the pump valve from the valve stem due to some sort of vacuum sealing. Maybe that's what caused the crack in the vale stem. I dunno.
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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$490 installed for the Potenzas isn't a great deal, but it's not a total ripoff either. But the tires are $360, so labor would be $130. It's about right for a generic tire place.

You use a bike pump to inflate your tires? That's..... odd.

That's probably what happened though. All rubber wears out eventually, and working a bike style tire chuck on and off of the valve stems probably fatigued them much faster than a traditional automotive style tire chuck would.
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:28 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Eli: I don't use a bike pump to inflate my tires from flat to full; it's just used to add a few psi. I check my tires maybe once a month, and if a tire is off a few psi from 50, then I pump it so that all 4 tires are running 50psi. I do this when car has been sitting over night and tires are cold. Driving to a gas pump to pump air would heat up the air molecues inside the tire and thus give an inaccurate reading. Or so I think. I'm OCD like that.

When the guy quaoted me $490 installed I thought it was a good deal becasue I remeber reading that people were paying around $500. I may be mistaken. I'll still shop around when it's time.
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I know what you mean, I'm OCD in many regards too. Our tires are low rolling resistance though. I only have one experience with this, but it was fairly profound:

When we were driving Insight #2 back home from LA, we stopped at a rest stop for a break. For some reason, I decided to feel the tires on both cars. The non-OEM, non-LRR tires that were on Insight #2 were quite warm, while the OEM tires on #1 were barely warm to the touch. I wish I would have had my IR thermometer with me so I could put some numbers behind that, but yeah.

This experience leads me to believe that our tires barely heat up while driving for hours on the highway, let alone a quick jaunt to the gas station. I would be more worried about the inaccuracies of a tire gauge than any PSI increase from warming up. Besides, you're already over the maximim sidewall of the tire, I don't think an extra PSI or two is going to matter much.

Regarding the price, yes, that's about normal for a non-deal. Some of us wait for places like Costco to have deals; I had four new RE92's installed for $360 during a Costco promotion earlier this year.
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Last edited by Eli; 09-30-2011 at 07:49 PM.
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