My back tire got flat. If I pump it up now, it can hold the air for about 30 minutes to an hour before it's totally flat.

I took out the inner-tube yesterday, pump in a bit air and put it into water, trying to find a hole but couldn't find anything.

Could it be that the tire is too old and I must replace it?

EDIT: thanks to all your response. Beside soap water, I found out hot water is really helpful and that was what I used to fix my tire. There was a very tiny hole on the tube that I couldn't find when I used room temperature water.

  • Added the puncture tag. Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 15:57
  • 4
    Once you find the puncture, do not forget to inspect the tire in search for the offending object. Inspect the tire casing very carefully, feeling with your fingers and in a well lit area to help with visual inspection. Inspect the inside and the outside. Many times, very small holes are caused by objects that became embeded in the tire but did not pass all the way trough, so they may be pushed further inside the tire wile riding, causing a new puncture very close to te old one.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 0:34
  • This makes me feel wasteful—I would have just swapped for a new inner tube and trashed the flaky one. Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 12:00

7 Answers 7


Sometimes it can be hard to find a small hole. Sometimes it helps to mix water and dish soap together and either pour that over the partially inflated tire, scanning for leaks or submerging the tire in a bucket of soapy water. The soap will bubble and make holes more apparent. You also probably want to immerse the valve to see if the leak may be originating from there.

If the problem is coming from the valve, then you will want to go ahead and just replace the tube.


Take the tube out and pump it up so that it balloons to 2-3 times its normal size. There have been times when the puncture is too small to detect in normal situations, even soapy water, but this has never failed me! Even the smallest puncture, like from a brake cable sliver, will show itself. Listen for the hiss and then mark it with a pen to find it after you deflate it (Usually I make 4 lines coming out away from the hole, like an X but with the middle taken out, this pic is just an X, but the 4 lines makes it easier to pinpoint).

If this doesn't produce any results it might be in the valve. If you have a Schrader, get your finger wet and put it lightly over the top (I spit on the ground and put my finger in it) this will allow you to feel any air leaking out. With a Presta it is a little harder, but wrap your wet thumb and index finder around the top of the valve to check it. Most of the time you can fix the Schrader using a core tool, not sure you can do anything to fix a Presta (but aside from a bent core bolt I've never seen a Presta valve leak) enter image description here

  • Thanks for your effort and detail photo. I usually find it difficult to take the back wheel off. So I only take the innertube out of the out of the tire; hence, I can't pump the tube that big.
    – chepukha
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 3:19
  • This is overly complicated. I cannot imagine ever laying bike tubes into a bed of cat litter for any reason.
    – user313
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 6:39
  • 5
    @user313 cat litter?? What answer did you read?
    – Brad
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 21:55

To answer the question directly, yes, if your tube is losing air that quickly, it needs repair. It is not a matter of simply being too old.

There is likely a very small hole or a leak in the valve.

Replace the tube, or patch it. Benzo's soapy water suggestion will work very well.


In my experience (twice) : To find where the puncture is based I get a bucket of water and have the inner tube inflated to the point where i can bend it into the bucket sections at a time. Naturally I see bubbles on the tube under the water at the bends in the tube due to trapped air... but if you squeeze the tube you should find bubbles rising. Move the tube out and put in a new section, repeating around the entire tube to make sure there isn't more than one puncture. Around one bubble per tire squeeze should be apparent when you have found the issue.


Before replacing the tire, you could try putting slime tire repair sealant in the tube. In my experience, slime is very efficient in closing the hard to find punctures from the inside.

After inserting the slime, pump the tire to the max and ride your bike for a while and see if it works.


My favorite method is to remove the tube from the tire, reinflate it a bit, and completely submerse it in a swimming pool. I've used this to quickly identify leaks that were so slow they took days to deflate the tube.

  • 1
    You must have fat tyres if you need a swimming pool. A bucket usually does for me.
    – stib
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 12:31

I actually kept adding more air. The wheelbarrow tire size is 3.50-8. I added air until the rubber was so tight I thought it would pop. Well... I added Dawn dishwashing liquid, kept submersing and rotating it in the kitchen sink water several times holding it at different angles all the way around. Still no bubbles. Suddenly ...it exploded. Scared the S#*t out of my lab puppy. I got soaked and had a good laugh. I will be purchasing a new inner tube anyway. Now I wish I did not purchase the tire repair kit. Well. maybe I will need it for one of the grandkid's bikes. The repair kit from Walmart really wasn't to expensive.

  • 1
    Welcome to Bicycles SE. It’s not a traditional conversation forum so answers that don’t directly address the OPs question or repeat existing answers are likely to be downvoted. Please visit bicycles.stackexchange.com/tour to get a feel for the site. Commented Apr 28 at 8:05

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