Corvette: Why are My Tires Going Flat?

Stop slow leaks in your Corvette in minutes. Don't let a slow tire leak keep your Corvette off the road.

By Charlie Gaston - January 26, 2015

This article applies to the Corvette C5 (1997-2004), C6 (2005-2013), and C7 (2014-current).

The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car engineered for high performance and excellent maneuverability--even in harsh weather conditions. However, a slow leak in one of the vehicle's tires could do more than simply raise an eyebrow in frustration. It could leave you stranded without a working vehicle to drive. Learn the ins and outs of tire performance here. The information provided in this article may save you a trip to a mechanic, which is always great.

Materials Needed

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Tire repair kit
  • Valve stem
  • Soapy water
  • Bead sealer
  • Penny

Step 1 – Inspect tires for foreign objects

Have you inspected each tire for foreign objects, such as screws or nails, shards of broken glass, pieces of metal or other sharp debris?

Check the tread on your tires, paying special attention to any foreign objects that may be embedded in the tread. Jack up your car, if possible, for a 360-view of each tire. Otherwise, inspect the vehicle, and then drive forward several inches to ensure you are able to render a complete inspection.

Figure 1. Inspect tire for objects or inconsistent tread.

Step 2 – Clear the punctured area

Remove any embedded objects that you found in step one using a pair of needle-nose pliers. Next, plug the hole using a tire repair kit, which are available for purchase at any auto parts store for under $25. The kit comes packaged with the cement and probe tool you will need to plug the hole and complete the job in just under 30 minutes. If you do not notice a puncture area, proceed to the next step.


Figure 2. Use needle nose pliers to remove foreign objects.

Step 3 – Check the valve stem for damage

Dirt and dust can become trapped inside the valve stem and cause a slow leak. Cracks as a result of normal wear and tear is also a common occurrence. The cost to have a mechanic replace the valve stem on a Corvette C5, C6 or C7 varies from $50 to $150, including parts and labor. DIY replacement kits for the same models are also available for $35 to $75 online and at local auto parts stores.

Figure 3. Inspect valve stem for cracks.

Step 4 – Perform a bead leak test using soapy water

This simple DIY test checks that the sealing surface of the tire is in good condition and free of leaks. Spray each tire with soapy water. If you see any bubbles, the tire most likely has a bead leak, which would explain your tire going flat. Stop the leak using a sealer, which you can purchase from an auto parts store for around $20.

Figure 4. Bead leak test.

Step 5 – Consider the age of your tires

If you own a C5 Corvette, for example, and have not purchased new tires, then you are driving on tires that are between 10 and 17 years old. Corvettes are known for higher tread wear. Generally speaking, you want to change the tires on a C5, C6 or C7 every 40,000 to 50,000 miles.

Figure 5. The first two digits pointed out are the week the tire was made, and the last two digits are the year.

Pro Tip

If the DOT number is only 10 digits, then the last three numbers indicate the week and year of build. For example, a DOT number "388" means the 38th week of 1998 (or 1988). It's also important to remember that, as cars come out of storage, the average air loose on a tire is about 1 lb. pressure drop for every 7 degrees of air temperature drop. If your Corvette is stored in an unheated location, then the PSI can be greatly affected if there are outside weather fluctuations during its storing period.

Step 6 – Check the tire tread using a penny

Select an area on the tire that appears low. Insert a penny between the grooves. If the tire tread doesn't obscure any part of Lincoln’s head, it is time to purchase new tires. At the very least, consult a mechanic. It is dangerous to operate a vehicle with low tire tread. And in some states it is illegal. Low tire tread could cause a slow leak--or possible rupture--in a tire (easily!).

bad tire tread photo: tire tread resize3.jpg
Figure 6. The penny test is an easy, reliable way to determine the condition of the tire.

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