By Jim Kerr
When was the last time you had a flat tire? I remember mine – it was 1995. I had picked up a nail in the tire on the way to work and could hear it hissing when I parked the vehicle. Fortunately, I could drive it slowly a few blocks to the tire shop to have it fixed. I didn’t have to use the spare tire, dig out a jack or get my hands dirty.
Flat tires are a relatively uncommon occurrence. Avoid spinning the tires and stay away from new building construction and the odds are you will go years if not decades without ever having a flat tire.
Even if you do have a flat, would you be able to change it on the road? Jacks supplied in vehicles are not great. They require firm level ground to work safely and are only designed for emergencies. Even if you can jack the vehicle up, removing the lug nuts is the next challenge. The small tire irons supplied in the vehicle don’t provide much leverage. Even a strong man can have problems loosening them. I don’t think my wife or son could. Finally, there is the problem of removing the wheel off the hub. On many vehicles, the wheel lifts off with no problem, but some are like mine – they seize onto the hub and are extremely difficult to remove. I have even had to hammer the wheel with another tire/wheel assembly to break it free – something you don’t want to do when supported on a vehicle jack!
There is another option. Liquid tire sealer has been on the market for many years. Install the sealant into the tire and inflate it with a portable compressor. You are back on the road in minutes. Tire sealers have had problems in the past however. The sealant can become gummy and harden inside the tire, causing it to become unbalanced. It is also difficult to clean out. Honda has found a better sealer, and it is part of the Temporary Repair Kit (TRK) that is standard equipment on the 2009 Honda Fit when equipped with automatic transmission.
The Temporary Repair Kit consists of a container of sealer, a 12-volt compressor with pressure gauge, an extraction hose, extraction bottle and a guide book. The kit fits into moulded depressions in a Styrofoam filler located beneath the lift-up floor of the cargo area. There is also room for storing other emergency items such as flares or a flashlight.
To use the kit, the container of sealant is connected to the tire with the included hose and the compressor is connected to the can of sealant. When the compressor is pumping, it forces the sealant into the tire and then pumps the tire up. The sealant flows to the source of the leak and seals the air leak.
The sealant is glycol-based so it remains as a liquid inside the tire that does not affect the tire balance or harm the tire. It can be used to minus 30 degrees C. Below that temperature, the sealant may not work as well. Even if the sealant did work at colder temperatures, it can be difficult to inflate a very cold tire. You are better off getting it towed to a repair shop. Roadside assistance is part of the Honda sales package and this would be the time to use it.
At the repair shop, the sealant can be removed from the tire with the extraction hose and extraction container. The kit is a temporary repair and designed for one time use only. The sealant can be recycled in the same manner as the shop recycles antifreeze. After the tire is removed from the rim for a permanent repair, the remaining sealant can be wiped out of the tire.
Honda’s reason for including the Temporary Repair Kit in the Honda Fit with automatic transmission is to improve the fuel economy of the vehicle. Automatic transmissions are heavier than manual transmissions but the TRK weighs less than a spare tire, so keeping car weight down makes the fuel economy of the automatic as good as the standard. In fact, the automatic Fit models now get better fuel economy than the standard transmission models.
A spare tire and jack is still a dealer-installed option for those that just don’t feel right driving without one, but the ease of fixing a flat on the road and the improved fuel economy of a lighter vehicle are big advantages provided by the TRK.