Better chemistry builds better tire sealant

FARGO, N.D. — A sales representative for LiquiTube says his product can fix punctures up to three quarters of an inch in heavy ply industrial tires.

“The technology has made huge strides because there’s such a huge demand for tire sealants that actually work,” says Mike Davert.

“It comes down to chemical engineering. The more building blocks chemists put into the mix, the better sealant we have. And our guys were able to install a lot of chemical building blocks.”

He says LiquiTube contains more types of fibres, more types of plastics and it remains in a liquid state.

Davert says although it’s a chemical formula, the actual seal is a mechanical one. Chemicals provide the delivery medium for a variety of solid particles that range in size, shape and chemical composition. He emphasizes that it’s the solids big mix that makes the fix.

Although LiquiTube won’t divulge the exact recipe, it says the solution contains natural fibres, synthetic fibres, adhesion agents and corrosion inhibitors.

The important part of the recipe is the agents that keep all these ingredients in suspension. The United States government safety sheet states that ethylene glycol is the main ingredient.

“As the LiquiTube shoots out the hole or slowly leaks out the hole, the solution and particles stick to the rubber. Now, every time the tire rotates, it flexes and the hole flexes, allowing more liquid to be forced into the hole. More particles get trapped in the hole until it’s closed.

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“It’s like a beaver dam blocking up a creek. They start with a little bit of mud and branches to slow the flow. Then they keep hauling in more objects and more mud until eventually they’ve blocked the creek.”

Davert says the permanent flexibility is the chief difference between modern tire sealants and older tire sealants that gave the industry a bad name.

Older sealants become hard and cracked, but tests have shown that LiquiTube remains flexible for the life of the tire.

Davert says the product is not designed for passenger car tires or light duty pickups. The fluid is pumped in through the valve stem, which messes up the sensor on passenger cars.

He says it’s designed for heavy trucks — semi-trucks, grain trucks and one-ton pick-up trucks.

“It helps wheel balance at highway speed. It coats the entire inner surface of the tire and fills in low spots from the manufacturing process. Those low spots weigh less, so if we fill them in, we bring up their weight and that evens out the weight around the circumference.

He says the cost of an inner tube for a specific tire the needs repair will just about equal the cost of LiquiTube for the job.

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A five-gallon bucket lists for US$279. The pump at $99 is a one-time purchase.

Davert says a five-gallon bucket will fix about eight skid-steer tires or all four tires on a small tractor. More precise information is available on the tire application chart on the website.

Although it’s water soluble and cleans up with water, it contains enough ethylene glycol to remain active in cold weather. At about -40 C, LiquiTube will start to become slushy.

At -50 C, it will freeze solid, but those days are rare, and few people drive in those conditions.

Davert says the solution also coats the inner surface of the rim and the bead, virtually eliminating possible leakage points. Although it can be used with inner tubes, he says that would defeat the purpose.

He said LiquiTube extends tire life because tires maintain correct air pressure. An under-inflated tire generates heat from excessive flexing, damaging the casing. Under-inflation also consumes more fuel.

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