Valve stems are the small aluminum, steel or rubber protrusions on the rims of tires. Air passes through the valve to the tire when the pin in the middle gets pushed down by the air pump. When the pump gets withdrawn, the pin will immediately pop back up to prevent the air from escaping.
Given time, the valve stem may become loose, allowing air to escape from the tire. When this occurs, you must immediately tighten the valve stem or risk having a flat tire at an inopportune time.
There are a few easy steps involved in tightening a loose valve stem:
- Remove the stem cap.
- Use your fingers to turn the stem clockwise.
- Use a valve core tool to tighten the valve further.
- Remove the valve core tool.
- Replace the stem cap.
Tightening a Loose Valve Stem
Tightening a loose valve stem is an easy task; the primary tool you’ll need handy is a tire valve stem tool, and the tightening process is as follows.
- Take off the plastic valve stem cap to access the valve stem.
- Hold the valve stem between your fingers and twist it clockwise until it feels tight.
- Keep your fingers on the valve, and using the other hand, place the core tool over the top of the valve stem.
- Use a valve core tool to further tighten the valve.
- Carefully remove the valve core tool. You may need to turn it anticlockwise slightly.
- Screw the valve cap back into place.
Take care not to overtighten the valve core tool, as doing so may cause it to break, releasing all the air in the tire.
How to Fix a Leaking Tire Valve Stem
Loose valve stems aren’t the only valve-related issue that causes flat tires. Sometimes, the valve stem might be on tight and still leak air. When this happens, you’ll need to repair or replace the valve.
Valve replacement and repair at a tire shop can cost up to $25. However, the process is inexpensive, simple, fast and you can do it yourself at home. You will need a few tools, such as a core removal tool and a replacement valve core. Both of these are readily available in an auto parts shop or online, and buying one will not break the bank.
Here are the steps on how to replace a valve stem.
Step #1: Run a Diagnosis
Before you go about fixing the valve, it’s best to make sure that the valve—not a discrete puncture—caused the leak. The easiest way to identify a faulty valve is to rub soapy water over the valve; bubbles will form over the valve stem if there is a leak. If no bubbles form, then there’s a leak someplace else on the tire.
Step #2: Deflate the Tire
It’s crucial that you remove any remaining air in the tire before you attempt to repair the valve, as the pressure in the tire can eject the valve core at high enough speeds to cause bodily harm. Consequently, it’s always good to wear eyeglasses to protect the eyes from an ejected core or debris.
Unlike other tire repairs, it’s not necessary to take the tire off the car; you’ll only need to do this if the vehicle is already standing on a jack.
Step #3: Remove the Valve Core
Having deflated the tire, use the valve core tool to remove the core. Typical valve tools have four different ends that serve different purposes—accordingly, the forked end is for removing and installing valve cores.
Insert the forked end into the valve, and adding a little pressure, turn the tool counterclockwise to remove the core. Next, use the tapered end of the tool to clean the valve’s inside, making sure to remove any dirt and debris in the valve.
Step #4: Install a New Valve Core and Inflate the Tire
Insert a new core, screwing it in place with the forked end of the valve core tool, but twisting clockwise this time around. Ensure that you don’t make it too tight, as you risk damaging new valve cores when it’s overly tight.
Step #5: Replace the Stem Cap
Replace the cap after inflating the tire and checking the pressure. While caps don’t directly contribute to holding the tire’s air, it’s still essential that you put it back on after inflating a tire.
Valve stem caps protect the valve’s interior from debris and corrosion caused by moisture and chemicals on the road. Dirt and corrosion around the core can result in leaks.
When Should You Replace a Valve Stem?
Valve stems are one of the smaller and often neglected parts of a tire. However, a cracked or damaged valve stem can be just as problematic to the tire and (your wellbeing) as driving over a sharp object. As such, you shouldn’t neglect a valve stem tire.
Although you can quickly tighten a loose tire stem valve or replace a faulty stem core, there are times when it’s best to replace the entire valve.
Change the valve stem when:
- It appears worn out.
- You take the tire off the car.
- You service the tire and wheel.
What Causes Valve Leaks?
New tires come with new valve stems. However, with time and continued use, the valve stems can wear out from exposure to chemicals on the road, impact from bumps and potholes and corrosion from moisture. Additionally, the rubber components of valve stems can dry out and crack from continued exposure to the sun.
A damaged or worn-out valve stem will, of course, perform poorly, allowing air to slowly but continuously leak out. Leaks can appear anywhere on the valve stem, and at the point where the valve meets the tire.
The valve stem for tire can get loose as time goes by, leading to slow leaks. How to tighten a loose valve is not a complicated task, and requires only a valve stem tool and your fingers.
Start by turning the valve stem clockwise as much as possible, then use the valve stem tool to complete the tightening process. Take care not to overdo it, as this may damage the valve.
The process of tightening a loose valve stem, or replacing a valve core, is inexpensive, quick, easy and one you can do by yourself at home.