Nitrogen inflation for tires

Nitrogen Inflation

TIRE GUYNitrogen Inflation is it justified or just a waste-of-money?

Nitrogen inflation may not be worthwhile for everyone's tires. The main advantage of nitrogen inflation is lower operating temperatures and better retention of pressure, and people using vehicles in extreme conditions stand a good chance of getting more life out of tires filled with nitrogen.

Nitrogen Inflation for Tires

But what about the rest of us?

Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic gas that forms about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. The rest of the atmosphere is 21% oxygen and a few other gases.

In the Blue Corner

The main claims for nitrogen inflation are:

  • A reduction of tire operating temperatures, reducing wear and tear on the tread.
  • It improves the ride quality.
  • It increases the life of the tire.
  • Reduced tire pressure build up means cold tires are already at full inflation pressure.
  • Better retention of air because the nitrogen will escape the tire walls slower
  • Less wear or corrosion on wheels or rims because the nitrogen won't react with the wheel surface.
  • Nitrogen inflation is less hazardous, heavy aircraft flying at high altitude are at risk of tire explosion, so they use nitrogen inflation. Vehicles on mine sites also use nitrogen inflation for the same reasons.

In the Red Corner

The negatives are:

  • Nitrogen inflation can be expensive, commonly up to sixty dollars for a full set of tires.
  • Once you use nitrogen you have to maintain it to get the advantages.
  • Not widely available. A person might have to drive a considerable distance to get a top up.
  • Questionable economy: When normal air is already 78% nitrogen is pure nitrogen a sufficient advantage?
  • With Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems now required on new cars in the US, is nitrogen inflation an advantage?

If you drive about 15,000 miles a year and can get your tires inflated with nitrogen free, then why not do so and make your own test?. Although you shouldn't have to add pressure to your tires as often, it is possible to add air without causing any damage. The problem with doing this is that you would then have to completely re-fill the tire with nitrogen to return to the advantages of using nitrogen. If you can increase your tire mileage by 5,000 miles, the nitrogen is doing it's job.

Companies like Costco have been giving free nitrogen to their customers for some time. Tire Warehouses in the north eastern US offers free top-up service to their customers.

Users who will likely notice the greatest financial gains are people who have to maintain a lot of tires at once, like truck companies, fleet managers, etc.

The rest of us could probably achieve gains by regularly checking tire pressures and acting fast when we see irregular wear patterns. Checking your tires before you drive your car each day won't cost you sixty bucks, which is the price some dealers are charging for filling your tires with nitrogen and it's a good safety habit to develop.

More Articles on Nitrogen Inflation

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