Air and nitrogen are the most popular gases used for inflating tires. But, which is the better choice? This article has the answers.
Nitrogen and air are both reliable when it comes to filling a tire and maintaining the right air pressure. However, air is the cheaper and convenient option. Nitrogen, on the other hand, retains air pressure for a longer period, making it ideal for the racetrack and rarely used cars.
In this article, we will take a closer look at how nitrogen-filled tires and air-filled tires compare. We will consider factors like convenience, cost, tire durability and maintaining tire pressure. By the time you finish reading this article, you will have a clear idea of whether to choose nitrogen or air.
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Tire With Nitrogen Vs. Air: Overview
Tires are built to deliver thousands of miles of reliable and safe service. But to achieve that, you need to maintain them properly. And maintaining optimal air pressure is one of the ways of enhancing your tires’ longevity.
And when it’s time to inflate your tires, you have two options to choose from – air and nitrogen. Air is the most popular when it comes to filling your tire. And, you will find it in almost all the gas-filling stations.
But, nitrogen-filling stations are increasingly coming up in almost all parts of the country. So, which is the better choice between air-filled tires and nitrogen-filled tires? Let’s take a closer look at how these two substances match up:
Air tire inflation is universal. Therefore, you will find it in almost every gas station or tire dealer. But with Nitrogen, that’s not the case. You will need to travel a couple of miles before you can come across a tire dealer or gas station that has nitrogen.
And once you come across a tire dealer that fills nitrogen, they will first need to deflate your tires and then inflate them with nitrogen. Besides, whenever your tires have a pressure loss, you will have to take them to a dealer that offers nitrogen. And this can be highly inconvenient.
Furthermore, if you are traveling abroad and you intend to use your car there, you will find it hard to find filling stations with nitrogen. In such a situation, you may be forced to fill your tires with air. And this will dilute the nitrogen, meaning you will be forced to go through the refilling process again. As you can see, Nitrogen can be highly inconvenient.
Also, if you don’t feel like filling your tires at the gas station, you can still do it at home. There are several manual and electric air pumps, which you can use to check your tires’ air pressure, inflate or deflate to the right pressure. But with nitrogen, this option is non-existent.
Filling your tires with nitrogen as opposed to air will cost you more. As noted above, air filling stations are almost everywhere. And if you are refilling it yourself, you will spend almost nothing.
Nitrogen, on the other hand, will cost you money to refill your tires. For instance, it may cost you approximately $20 to $30 per liter of nitrogen when filling your car. These costs mainly cover removing the air from your tire and replacing it with nitrogen.
And as much as the costs are coming down, such expenses are still quite high for the average driver.
So, why does nitrogen cost so much to refill your tires with? Well, the cost of nitrogen-filling equipment is quite high, compared to air filling equipment. And as you may expect, such costs will be transferred to the consumer.
Furthermore, nitrogen-filling equipment usually requires competent attendants to operate them, which explains the higher costs. Air filling stations, on the other hand, are self-operated.
Maintaining Air Pressure
All tires feature tiny microscopic pores. And this is where the inflating gas will seep through over time. When this happens, this will gradually reduce the tire’s air pressure.
However, nitrogen tends to have large molecules, compared to conventional air. Consequently, more air will seep through these pores than nitrogen, over a similar period.
Hence, nitrogen-filled tires will maintain air pressure for a longer period, compared to those filled with ordinary air.
And the benefits of optimal air pressure in a vehicle are several. Maintaining correct air pressure in your tires will help them to last longer. Also, it will help your vehicle to handle better while maximizing your fuel economy.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by approximately 0.2% per every 1 psi drop on all four tires.
If your tires don’t have the right air pressure, they will have a higher rolling resistance. And this will reduce your gas mileage.
And as earlier mentioned, nitrogen will maintain optimal air pressure better than air. Maintaining the right air pressure for longer durations will help to reduce rolling resistance, resulting in better fuel economy.
Tire and Wheel Durability
Air comprises 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen. The remaining percentage is composed of trace gases.
The problem is, oxygen tends to retain moisture. And this will also be the case inside your tires.
The retained moisture inside the tires will oxidize its internal wall casing, resulting in premature wear and tear.
And in some rare cases, this moisture can lead to the corrosion of the tire’s reinforcing steel belts.
On the other hand, Nitrogen doesn’t present such issues. It’s a dry gas, meaning there are no moisture-retention issues. Hence, using nitrogen instead of air to fill your tires can help to prevent premature wear and tear.
Nitrogen Vs. Air, Which One to Use?
For the regular driver, using nitrogen instead of air appears like overkill. While it may have a few benefits over air, its expenses are quite high. Furthermore, nitrogen is also quite inconvenient, considering that it’s not present everywhere. On the other hand, if you use your car primarily on the track or your car sits unused for a lengthy period, then nitrogen will be the ideal choice. Ultimately, whether you decide to fill your tires with nitrogen or air comes down to how you use your car and personal preferences.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding