Canned tire inflators
fall under the road assistance product category and are mainly packaged in cold rolled steel cans. The main function of this type of tire inflator is to provide a quick solution to drivers who experience flat tires. These tire inflators first seal the punctured tire and then reinflate it with enough air to allow the vehicle to be driven to a close by tire shop.
Canned tire inflators have three main components: solvents, sealants, and propellants. The solvents are utilized to make the sealants adhere to the rubber tire; meanwhile the sealant’s function is to seal the puncture in the tire. Finally, propellant is designed to push the sealant through the can and into the tire and add air to re-inflate the tire.
In the United States, there are several manufacturers for this type of product. Fix-A-Flat is currently the leader in sales and represents approximately 83% of the market share. The respective size of the tire on any particular vehicle will determine the size of the can required. The major brands carry 12oz, 16oz, and 20oz cans and the average cost for an end consumer is between five and ten dollars depending on the size of the can.
- The biggest complaint by tire professionals regarding tire inflators is around removing the sealant from inside the tire. They believe that it is a difficult, time-involved process that may damage the tire. Some brands like Fix-A-Flat offer a water-soluble formulation that allows the product to be removed quickly and easily with a towel and water.
- The formulation utilized in these products is important to take into consideration. Some canned tire inflators are made with a formulation that includes butane which is flammable and considered subject for explosions when exposed to high temperatures inside the vehicle or the tire itself. For safety reasons, there are currently canned tire inflators made with a non-flammable formula which are safe to store in a vehicle’s trunk or tire well.
- Also for safety reasons, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has mandated that all 2008 vehicles sold in the US and manufactured on or after September 1, 2007 must be equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). Because many of these sensors are inside the tire, there was a concern about whether or not canned tire inflators and sealants would affect the sensors’ ability to correctly operate. Manufacturers have been working on finding solutions to this new legislation.
- CARB, the California Air Resources Board, is an active environmental organization aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and is planning to add several restrictions by 2010. Manufacturers will most likely need to look for alternative propellants from those currently used to meet the new requirements.