I know how frustrating it is to wake up in the morning, excited to hit the trails, only to find your tubeless bike tire is flat. Again.
You just aired it up last night! What gives?
Losing air overnight is a super common issue for tubeless tires. But don’t worry, with a few simple tips, you can get this sorted out quite easily.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through all the potential causes, quick DIY fixes, maintenance tricks, and best practices to stop your tubeless mountain or road bike tires from going flat every night.
What Could Cause Your Tubeless Tires to Lose Air Overnight?
When tubeless tires mysteriously deflate while just sitting there, there are a few main offenders to blame:
Tiny Punctures in the Tire Casing Itself
The number one reason for rapid air loss from tubeless tires is small punctures in the actual tire casing.
Unlike tubes that go flat immediately, your thick tubeless tire can take a while to fully deflate from tiny holes. Air will leak slowly at first as you ride, then more quickly as the hole enlarges from pressure or trail bumps.
Overnight when your bike is just sitting in the garage, these small punctures finally have time to drain all the air out by morning. Which could be really annoying!
These sneaky punctures can come from:
- Little sharp trail debris – Thorns, tiny stones, and wire bristles can poke microscopic holes you’d never notice. Even pinpricks seep air given enough time.
- Rubbing against sharp stuff – Sidewall cuts from curbs or rocks rubbing the tire as you hammer can later turn into slow leaks. Cosmetic scrapes can deepen overnight.
- Weak spots in the casing – Manufacturing flaws or pores in the tire rubber itself lead to air loss over time. Lower-quality or older tires are more prone to developing weepy spots.
Damage or Gaps Around the Rim Joint
Tubeless systems rely on an airtight seal between the tire bead and rim. If air sneaks through there, you’ve got trouble.
Problem rim tape is often at fault here. If it’s not fully covering the spoke holes or rim shelf, air will find those gaps and exploit them. Areas of loose tape can also allow annoying slow leaks.
Only use rim tape made specifically for tubeless. Regular old duct tape tends to leak when stretched on a wheel.
Dings or dents in the rim from rock strikes can potentially warp the bead channel and break that crucial air seal too.
Leaky Valve Stems
Leaks coming directly from the valve stem are less common but do happen:
- Janky valve core – Damage, corrosion, or defects allow air to bypass the core.
- Loose lock ring – This ring at the valve base can loosen over time, leaking air.
- Cracked valve stem – Fractures or holes anywhere in the valve housing can cause slow leaks.
- Bad installation – If it’s not tight enough in the rim, air will sneak around the valve edges.
Old, Dried Out Sealant
Tubeless systems rely on liquid sealant to plug up small punctures fast. But when it dries out or gets old, it stops working well.
Tiny holes that should be sealed instead of leaking air. This happens more with super porous lightweight tire casings.
Old, dried-out rim tape can also get more porous and ooze air over time.
How to Find and Fix the Source of the Tubeless Air Leak
Finding the exact spot causing the leak is essential to fixing your tubeless tire issues. Here’s how to do it step by step:
Step 1: Inspect the Tire Casing for Punctures
Carefully run your fingers over the entire tire feeling for any holes, cuts, or bulges. Closely check the tread and sidewalls where they meet the rim too.
Use a bright light and magnifying glass if you need to spot problem areas. Even tiny pinpricks or cracks can leak air, given enough time.
If you find a hole, try adding 2-3 oz of fresh sealant through the valve and gently rock or spin the wheel. Give it 15 mins to work before assuming failure.
For bigger holes or sidewall slashes, a tubeless tire plug can quickly fix it on the trail. At home, you can carefully patch using vulcanizing cement or a commercial kit.
If sealant can’t plug it, the casing is too damaged, and it’s time for a new tire.
Step 2: Re-seat and Inflate the Tire Beads
Over time, the tire beads can lose their tight seal against the rim. Air pressure pushing out doesn’t help.
Re-seating the beads is quick:
- Completely deflate and wipe all old sealant from the bead shelves.
- Put a few drops of rubbing alcohol on the rim bed and beads to help break the seal. You can also lube with soapy water.
- Inflate to max pressure (written on the tire sidewall).
- Vigorously shake and rock the wheel while airing up to force the beads into place. Squirt in more sealant once fully inflated.
This should restore that critical tight bead seal. Let it sit overnight, and check for leaks in the morning.
Step 3:Inspect Rim Tape Coverage and Condition
Pull the tire off and check the rim tape for any gaps, tears, or loss of stickiness. Make sure it fully covers the spoke holes and rim walls with no gaps.
Replace any worn-out rim tape with a quality tubeless-specific brand. Get at least 25mm wide tape. Wider 30mm offers even more protection.
When installing new tape:
- Thoroughly clean the rim of all old gunk and sealant residue. Start fresh.
- Make sure the full tape width sits centered over the middle of the rim bed. It should just reach the rim hooks but not actually sit on them.
- Tightly stretch and firmly press the tape down to avoid bubbles and maximize adhesion.
- Consider adding a layer of clear packing tape over your rim tape for extra insurance against leaks.
Step 4:Check Out the Valve Stem
Unscrew the valve core a few turns with a valve tool and see if you hear any sneaky air leaking through the core itself. Tighten and re-test if needed.
Inspect the inner and outer rubber grommets for any cracking or damage. Spray the valve with soapy water and look for bubbles indicating leaks.
Make sure the lock ring at the stem base is snug against the rim. Hand tighten or gently snug it with pliers if loose. But don’t overdo it.
Replacing the whole valve stem assembly can rule it out as the culprit.
Step 5:Add Fresh Sealant
One easy maintenance move is adding 2-3 ounces of fresh sealant every 3-6 months through the valve stem. This keeps the liquid sealant sealing those tires up tight!
Shake the heck out of the sealant before injecting to prevent potential clogs. Get that mixture nice and uniform.
After adding sealant, spin the wheel around to evenly disperse it throughout the casing. Get it everywhere!
How To Stop Tubeless Air Loss Before It Starts!
A little routine maintenance goes a long way to prevent annoying tubeless flats:
- Regularly add fresh sealant every few months so it doesn’t dry out and fail.
- Check tire pressure before every single ride and add air if needed. Don’t just rely on sealant alone.
- Do the tub in-water test to reveal tiny punctures. Just dunk the wheel and look for bubbles indicating sneaky leaks.
- Closely inspect the tire after every ride for cuts, tears, and little pokey things like thorns. Stop problems early.
- Make sure pointy rocks or spoke ends don’t damage the rim tape when you change a flat. Avoid leaks.
- Walk technical sections to avoid curbs or sharp rocks that can slice open the tire sidewalls.
- Use a tire liner or rim tape overlay to prevent punctures from spoke holes or a dinged up rim.
- Lube beads with sealant or soapy water when airing up to help get a good tight seal.
- Check rim tape coverage and condition whenever you change a flat. Replace it if it looks worn or dried out.
- Carry a tire plug kit to quickly fix small punctures on the go. And pack spare sealant!
Picking Tubeless Bike Tires That Won’t Go Flat
Choosing the right tubeless tires for your riding can also prevent overnight air loss:
- Heavier duty casings resist punctures way better than flimsy lightweight race tires. Go with EXO, DD, SilkShield, etc.
- Moderately aggressive tread still rolls fast but better deflects puncture-causing trail debris.
- Reinforced sidewalls provide extra defense against leaks from curbs or side knocks.
- Proven durable options like the Maxxis Minion or Continental Mountain King are popular for a reason. Reliable and leak-resistant.
- Fatter tires (at least 2.3-2.6″) hold air better than skinny XC options. More rubber equals fewer leaks.
- Stick with new tires once the old set starts showing sidewall tears or a dried out casing. Don’t risk constant flats on old, worn rubber.
When You Should Consider Using Tubes
While most tubeless issues can be quickly patched, sometimes it’s best to just insert a tube and call it a day.
Consider making the switch if:
- The tire casing is shredded with too many unfixable tears and holes. Toss it.
- The rim tape is annihilated with no adhesive left. Total replacement time.
- Sealant never plugs the leak no matter how much you add. The hole is just too big.
- You battle repeated leaks from some phantom source you just can’t find. So frustrating!
- Bulges or major sidewall cuts mean the tire carcass is unfixable. Gotta replace it.
Tubes puncture easier than tubeless overall. But for certain tire or rim situations, they eliminate the headache of endless leaks.
Just be sure to swap back to tubeless with new rubber or rim tape. Going tubeless long term gives the best performance and reliability.
Conclusion: Hit the Trails With Well-Aired Tubeless Tires!
Hopefully this guide gave you the full scoop on potential causes, quick fixes, and preventative tips to banish flat tubeless tires for good.
With proper maintenance habits and careful inspection, tubeless systems can easily go thousands of miles with minimal flats. Stay on top of puncture sources, rim tape condition, and fresh sealant.
Implement these tubeless best practices and you’ll be rolling out each morning with perfect tires ready to party! No more sad surprise flats.
Now go get after it on the trails or roads ahead. And may your tubeless adventures be flat-free!
Mahin Abrar is a passionate writer and outdoor enthusiast. As a regular contributor to Bikepics.net, Mahin shares his knowledge and experiences in the fields of biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. With a deep understanding of these activities and a keen eye for detail, he offers valuable insights and practical advice to help readers get the most out of their adventures. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, Mahin's writing is sure to inspire you and guide you on your journey.