Pros: Inexpensive way to safely get back on the road.
Cons: Doesn't work on ALL flats.
My car doesn't leave my house, unless there's a can of Penzoil's Fix-A-Flat inside. When I hear the can rattling around in the trunk, I get total peace of mind, knowing that if I should get a flat tire, chances are very high that Fix-A-Flat will get me safely back on the road.
What is it, and what does it do?
Fix-A-Flat is an aerosol can containing a "mystery liquid". The can has a rubber hose on top, with a screw-on nozzle at the end. There's also a button that can be depressed, and a plastic safety cap to prevent accidental depression of the button. No tools are required to use this product.
The liquid inside is a bit of a mystery, as no ingredients are listed. But looking online, it seems the main ingredient is water, followed by a bunch of chemicals, the names of which mean absolutely nothing to me. But, from my understanding, the liquid inside becomes some kind of durable rubber compound when under pressure.
The rubber compound is able to "find" air leaks in the tire and plug them up. Finally, after plugging the leaks, it somehow inflates the tire. So you can get right back on the road! I don't really understand how any of this happens, but I'm very thankful that it does.
Can it fix ALL flat tires?
No. If the tire is severely torn, or the holes are too big, Fix-A-Flat won't be able to repair it. Also, if the damage is in the sidewall, or your leak is from a damaged rim, this product won't work. It's not for motorcycles or bicycles, either. There is a version of this product designed for bicycles, called Fix-A-Flat Bikes Only, but I've never tried it, so I can't comment on it. This product is designed to work on simple punctures in the tread of the tire on any car, van, light truck, tractor, or ATV.
How do you use it?
Nothing can be easier. Even I can do it, and trust me, I'm nobody's mechanic.
The directions tell you to remove the foreign object, if possible. Meaning, that if you see a nail, or other object sticking into the tire, and you can take it out, do so. I've never actually done that. Normally the nails are not easy to spot, or they're pushed all the way into the tire where it would take major effort (not to mention tools) to remove them. It also says to adjust the car, if possible, so that the tire's valve is in the 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock position. (Do today's kids know what that means, or are they only exposed to digital clocks?) In any case, you want the valve to be near the ground, at a slight angle from the ground, if possible. Obviously, if moving the car is impossible, or dangerous, then don't do it. The product will still work, it will just be harder to attach the can.
Shake the can vigorously for 30 seconds, then remove your tire's valve cap, and attach the can's nozzle to the tire's valve.
Then press the button. You'll hear a bit of a hiss, and soon see what looks like white foam going through the hose. Assuming you have just a simple leak in the tread, you'll soon be thrilled to see your tire inflate. You need to hold the button continuously until the entire contents are emptied. Once the can is empty, detach it, put the tire's valve cap back, and be on your way. The directions say to immediately drive the car 2-4 miles during which the tire pressure will increase, and the sealant will spread evenly.
So that's it... I never have to fix or replace that tire?
Not quite. Although you can safely drive on that tire, it is recommended that you have the tire evaluated by a professional at your earliest convenience. When you take the tire in for service, be sure to tell them that you used Fix-A-Flat on it, as they will have to make sure they're in a well-ventilated area before deflating.
Some places will charge you an extra fee to "clean out" the Fix-A-Flat when they repair the tire. Others will tell you they "can't" fix the tire once Fix-A-Flat has been used. This is absolutely not true. All they need to do is use some soap and water to wipe out the Fix-A-Flat product. It probably takes them an extra 10 or 15 minutes to repair a tire that's had a Fix-A-Flat repair. So charging a few extra bucks is reasonable. But if they tell you they "can't" do it - take it somewhere else, because you want to make sure the place will fix your tire correctly.
Yup. All the normal ones associated with aerosol products. Basically, don't eat it, don't breathe it, don't light it on fire, etc.
Does it expire?
Well, there's nothing written on the can about an expiration date. So I called their customer service number (800-416-1600) and asked. The man told me that their products last for "at least 5 years", that he wouldn't be surprised if they work far beyond that, but it's possible they'll lose some effectiveness. Seems to me they should have written that on the can. Of course, I never seem to go anywhere close to 5 years without a flat, so my cans never age that long. But, I suppose, you should write a 5 year expiration date on your can, just to be safe.
Why are there different sized cans?
The product originally came in the 12 oz. can. That can has no button to start and stop the dispenser. As soon as you screw the nozzle onto your tire's valve, the product dispenses. With no button to shut off the dispenser, it can be a bit messy to remove the nozzle. The company currently recommends this can be used only on small garden tractors.
The 16 oz. can is the one I use. It's recommended for all passenger cars, small vans, and light trucks. The 20 oz. can is recommended for larger trucks.
The company representative told me that the 4 oz. can called "Bikes Only" can also be used on hand trucks (dollies) and other small tires.
Absolutely, 100% Yes!
Each can costs only a few bucks, but is worth so much more for my peace of mind. I've used Fix-A-Flat probably 10 times over the years, and it's never failed me yet!
**** Update December 2011 ****
A lot of people are questioning whether Fix-A-Flat products are safe to use in cars that have tire-inflation sensors. It seems that some people think this product will harm the sensor. According to the Fix-A-Flat website, their products will NOT harm the tire-inflation sensor. All I can add is that my van does have a sensor, I have used Fix-A-Flat, and the sensor continues to work appropriately.