A flat tire on an ATV is no fun at all and can be downright frustrating if the cause is not immediately obvious! The nature of the off-roading activity means that you can expect a flat wheel from time to time. If, however, you are finding that your ATV tires are going flat more often than they should, then you may need to investigate a bit deeper to alleviate this frustration!
Your ATV tires may keep going flat as a result of a leaking valve, a slow puncture, a perished tire, an ill-fitting tire, and temperature changes or even as a result of the ATV standing too long! A bent rim is also not out of the question as a possible culprit for a flat ATV tire!
Any of these potential causes for a flat ATV tire may be the cause of your persistent problem, and we will show you how to diagnose them and remedy the problem so you can concentrate on choosing your next off-road riding trail!
Before we get into the issue of your tire leak, we need to open up the can of worms of whether you are operating your ATV on tubed of tubeless tires!
Tube Or Tubeless, That is The Question
If you speak to off-roaders regarding the topic of whether you should be running tubed or tubeless tires, you will get many differing opinions. If you are new to off-roading on your ATV, you can take note of each one’s take on the subject, but you will need to match the information to your own off-roading needs and decide for yourself.
Our view is that the tubeless tire has more benefits in the off-road environment for the ATV. Our reasoning behind this is mostly due to the excessive flexing an ATV tire undergoes in the course of an off-road trail.
The flexing of the ATV tire on the off-road terrain can cause the tube to shift around inside the tire and rim, causing the valve stem to crack or shear off from the stress placed on this component.
Another reason we prefer the tubeless option us that it is easier to fix a puncture on a tubeless tire while out on the trail than with a tubed tire. A simple tubeless tire puncture repair kit can have the problem sorted out and have you riding again in a matter of minutes.
A puncture on a tubed tire requires the tire to be removed from the rim, inflated and patched, placed back in the rim and inflated again. Even with the right tools, this can be a time consuming, difficult, and exhausting process, particularly while out on a trail!
Now that you are convinced that tubeless is the way to go, let’s talk about some of the causes for your ATV tires that keep going flat and how you can fix the problem.
A leaking Tire Valve
If you are having the continuous problem of tires going flat on your ATV, the first place you should check for a problem is the valve. The air could be slowly escaping from the valve, and over a few hours, you have lost enough pressure in the tire to be unable to ride.
To test if the valve is the leaking, dip your finger in soapy water and wipe the soapy water over the valve opening. If you don’t have soapy water, even saliva will do the job. If the valve is leaking, you will see a bubble begin to form at the opening.
The cause for the leaking valve could be one of several scenarios. Firstly, the valve could have sand particles or small stones lodged in the mechanism preventing it from closing completely. The sticking valve can be fixed by removing the valve with a special valve removal tool, blowing it out and re-fitting it. A valve removal tool is a small, inexpensive piece of gear that you should keep at all times in your ATV toolkit.
Dirt in the valve is a problem that is easily prevented in the first place by having dust caps on your valves. Dust caps are inexpensive and a simple solution to the problem.
The other reason the valve could leak is that the valve is actually faulty, or is not seated in the rim correctly. If the valve is actually faulty, you will have no option but to replace it. If the valve is not seated correctly, you will need to have this sorted out at a professional tire repair shop.
A Slow Puncture
A slow puncture can cause your ATV tire to go flat over a few hours or even a few days, depending on how big the leak is. This type of air loss is usually caused by something like a thorn, nail, or screw that has penetrated the tire, but the obstacle is partially blocking the puncture hole. This causes air to leak at a slow rate around the sides of whatever caused the puncture.
One way you can check for this kind of leak is to rotate the tire and see if the object is noticeable visually. It the cause is not immediately visible, then another way to search for this kind of leak is, once again, with a soapy water solution.
Raise the affected wheel off the ground by jacking up the ATV. Slowly rotate the wheel with your hand while pouring the soapy water over the tire. The leak should be evident by bubbles caused by the escaping air.
The repair process is to remove the object that has pierced the tire and block the hole. On a tubeless tire, this is a relatively quick and easy repair if you have the right tools, in this case, a simple tubeless puncture repair plug kit.
The first job is to remove the cause of the puncture with a pair of long-nosed pliers. To repair the hole, you can use a puncture repair kit that comes with soft, sticky rubber plugs that are inserted into the hole using a special tool. These repairs are easy to do while out on the trail, and the repair is permanent, so you don’t need to get it fixed professionally when you get home.
A Perished Tire
If your tires are old, or the ATV has been standing for some time, particularly with flat tires, the rubber starts to degrade. This degradation is exacerbated by wide temperature ranges and the weight of the ATV.
As the tire starts to perish, the rubber will become brittle, and small cracks will develop. Air can escape through these cracks and cause a slow leak.
There is no fix for this problem other than to replace the tire.
A Sidewall Puncture
Off-road riding can bring your ATV tires into contact with obstacles that can damage the sidewall of the tire. Large thorns, sharp rocks, and even rough terrain scraping on the sidewall of the tire can pierce, slice or abrade the sidewall and cause a leak.
The sidewall of a tire is not made of the same rubber as the tread since the sidewall needs to flex more in response to going over obstacles. As a result, this thinner rubber is more susceptible to damage.
Unfortunately, damage to the sidewall affects the tire’s structural integrity, and the only solution is to replace the tire.
A Bead Leak
The bead is the section around the tire that seals against the rim of the wheel. This seal can develop a leak in certain circumstances. If you have had your tire removed from the rim recently and it has now developed a leak, the tire may not have been re-fitted to the rim correctly. In this case, take it back to the tire shop to get the problem corrected.
Another cause for a leak at the bead of the tire can be if the rim is bent. This could occur if you hit an obstacle really hard, which caused the edge of the rim to deform. With the rim being out of shape, the tire cannot form a good seal, and air will escape through the bead.
If the distortion of the rim is not too severe, it can sometimes be straightened. Take your damaged rim to a shop that specializes in this type of rim repair work to see if it can be fixed. If the damaged rim cannot be repaired, the repair shop will recommend replacing the rim.
Mud drying on the tires and rim can also push the bead of the tire away from the rim sufficiently for a leak to occur. Simply washing the mud away and re-inflating the tire should sort out this problem.
Even with regular maintenance and making sure your ATV tires are at the right pressure, any of these circumstances can cause the frustrating issue of your ATV tires going flat. Fortunately, the solutions are not difficult to diagnose and usually not expensive to rectify.