Motoring along at night returning from a meeting and suddenly I hear a thump, thump, thump. Geesh. We only had the car two months and now a flat tire.
I cut the throttle back and nursed the car the few miles remaining to home. Got the flashlight and searched the tires. And there it was, big and bright.
785 miles on the odometer and I pick up a Bolt in our Bolt. Try explaining that to a tire repair shop. . .
Worse, these are not your grandfather’s tires. They’re special low-rolling resistance tires designed to make EVs go farther. And these tires were specially designed by Michelin so that Chevy didn’t need to either provide a spare tire–even a donut–or an inflation kit to save weight. They were, in a word, self-sealing.
I’d read about them beforehand, and I’d seen the warnings on the electronic boards about them so the saga that followed wasn’t entirely unexpected.
The best description I’ve seen is a report by Edmunds on a long-term road test of Chevy’s Bolt by editor Mike Schmidt. He encountered a leak in one of the car’s self-sealing tires and recounts his experience in 2017 Chevrolet Bolt: Headline Self-Sealing Tire Saga.
Unlike Schmidt, I didn’t need the car towed. I’ve already been there, done that. See Our Bolt is Back or How a 12-Volt Battery Can Kill an Electric Car.
The next morning I checked the tire. Yep, the bolt was still there. It hadn’t magically disappeared. Yet the tire had lost very little pressure.
My colleague in Toronto, Mike Brigham, had picked up a nail in his Bolt. When he took the car in the dealer simply clipped off the nail and told him to drive it. He did and his tire has held pressure and since then the nail has worn down so much he doesn’t even notice it’s there.
That wasn’t an option for me. The bolt was big, ugly, and made a helluva thump. And the tire was losing pressure–slowly, but it was leaking.
So I called our local tire shop. Yes, they thought they could fix it. Hadn’t had a Michelin self-sealing tire yet, but they thought they could handle it. That’s when my saga began.
When I tell the guy at the counter what I got he starts to hem and haw. I’d printed out the article from Edmunds and when he takes a look at it you could see the doubt in his expression. “That’s not the way we do it,” he says. Hmmm. This isn’t going well I thought.
I suggested there might be a technical bulletin on the tire. He finally calls Michelin. They email him their bulletin on repairing the tire. Nope. The tire shop can’t do it and they don’t know who can.
I am now an hour and half into this and still no closer to getting it fixed. So I call the Chevy dealer. No answer so I left a message. As before when I had the car towed, Chevy never called back.
No choice now. It was thump, thump my way a half-hour across the city to the dealer. All the time I am watching the tire pressure–I don’t want to be towed again if I can help it.
I get into the service line and when it’s finally my vehicle’s turn Chevy tells me they don’t fix tires. That’s just not good enough. I politely informed them that I wasn’t moving my car from their service bay until they found me a place that would fix my tire.
That necessitated another call to Michelin. The service rep then started calling around Bakersfield to find out if the Michelin approved shops could actually do the work.
The first two were out of business. . . This just wasn’t going well at all. Then he hit the jackpot. The discount tire shop adjoining the Chevy dealer said, yeah, they can do it, no problem.
I drove about 30 yards to the tire shop and when I checked in at the desk and told the service rep my sob story his only comment was, “Amateurs.”
20 minutes and $20 later, the bolt and the thump were gone and the tire sealed according to the manufacturer’s specs.
According to Michelin, patch, yes; plug, no. The product bulletin explains the procedure. The tire must be dismounted from the rim and a special cone shaped patch–called a patch stem by Michelin–is pushed through from the inside of the tire. Then the protruding part of the cone is cut off and ground down to the tread. The “patch stem” has adhesive on the part that mates with the inside of the tire. That’s it. Easy peasy–if you know how to do it.
Learning how to repair a Michelin self-sealing tire cost me a full morning out of my work day.