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Nitrogen in Tires Myths Proper Tire Pressure Tire Care

15 Myths About Tire Labels

In the world of consumer products, labeling plays a crucial part. Whether it is a new vacuum cleaner or a new set of tires, a label carries valuable details about ap roduct that consumers mus never overlook.

Learn more about tire myths and truths in our 15 Myths About Tire Labels infographic:

15 Myths About Tire Labels - Infographic

15 Myths About Tire Labels – Infographic

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Nitrogen in Tires Myths Nitrogen Tire Inflation Tire Care

Can I Put Regular Air in Tires that Have Nitrogen?

mixing air and nitrogenThis is the most common question we get in the nitrogen tire industry, and what we’ve seen in many online forums and websites is that many people answer this question by saying  you cannot put regular air into tires that have nitrogen.

This is not true.

It is FALSE that air cannot be used to top off a tire filled with nitrogen. It is simply not true that air and nitrogen cannot coexist inside a tire. There is no harm in topping off a nitrogen-filled tire with regular air.

Air Doesn’t Take Away All the Benefits of Nitrogen Tire Inflation

The main reason why people say air and nitrogen can’t be mixed is that air negates all of the benefits of the nitrogen inflation. This isn’t entirely true because a tire that’s 100 percent inflated with regular air isn’t the same thing as a tire that’s 80 percent inflated with nitrogen, 20 percent with regular air. Although neither tire has all the benefits of a 100 percent nitrogen tire, the 80/20 tires still retains some of the benefits and has fewer of the consequences of the 100 percent air tire. The 80/20 tire has less water vapor, so it is still less susceptible to the temperature changes that happen throughout the day (this doesn’t include the temperature changes that happen between driving and parking the car for a few hours). The 80/20 tire will also retain proper tire pressure for a longer period of time, giving you an improved fuel efficiency and better traction with the road.

It’s Tough to Find Nitrogen Tire Inflation Services

We understand that topping off nitrogen tires with more nitrogen gas is difficult because nitrogen isn’t as accessible as regular air. Many auto repair shops sell nitrogen inflation as an add-on, and won’t offer it or advertise it as a stand-alone service. Also, some places that sell nitrogen tires do not sell nitrogen tire inflation services. For example, Costco inflates all new tires with nitrogen. It’s not an add-on, but a service that anyone who purchases a set of new tires receives. However, Costco doesn’t offer new or existing tire customers to option to convert or to top off their ties with nitrogen. But, don’t worry about topping off your nitrogen tires with air from time to time. With the nitrogen, you shouldn’t have to top them off as often as you would with a tire that 100 percent inflated with air.

No, Your Tires Won’t Explode

One of the most common myths about mixing air and nitrogen in your tires is that it’s dangerous and may lead to an explosion. Part of this crazy misconception is the myth that tires filled with regular air are an additional hazard in a fiery crash because the oxygen is fuel for the fire. We don’t know where this myth came from, but it’s not a “benefit” that’s touted by the nitrogen tire industry, and it’s certainly not a “benefit” we support here at Nitronomics.

NO ONE IN THE NITROGEN TIRE INFLATION INDUSTRY SUPPORTS THE IDEA THAT NITROGEN TIRES WILL HELP YOU IN A FIERY CRASH

Anyway, mixing air and nitrogen in  your tires isn’t dangerous. It doesn’t increase your chances for an explosion or a fiery crash.

You also don’t need to replace the green cap on your tires. The green cap comes with tires that are inflated with nitrogen when you purchase them, such as the tires you may get from Costco like we previously mentioned. It’s been suggested that the green cap needs to be replaced with a black cap because the tire is no longer 100 percent nitrogen, but it doesn’t have to be replace if you don’t want to change it or if you don’t have a black cap. The green cap is more for the seller than the consumer, so there’s nothing wrong with keeping the green cap.

photo credit: gever tulley via photopin cc

nitrogen tire inflation myths paper

 

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Guest Posts Nitrogen in Tires Myths Nitrogen Tire Inflation

Nitrogen Inflation: Myths, Facts, and Uses

nitrogen inflationThis is a guest post from Andre Smith.

Nitrogen inflation has become increasingly popular in the last ten years. Many industry experts praise it for its promise of increased fuel economy and reduced tire wear, while others raise questions about the actual usefulness and credibility. With fuel prices as high as ever and many consumers and businesses cutting back on costs, nitrogen inflation can seem like an enticing endeavor. While nitrogen inflation can in fact promote efficiency, it is important to have all the correct information on why it is beneficial.

Common Myths About Nitrogen Inflation

There is no need to do pressure checks on tires inflated with nitrogen.

False. While nitrogen does in fact take longer to leak out of inflated tires, tires inflated with nitrogen should still be checked regularly for proper pressure. Divers should notice that their pressure checks come back positive more often than using regular air and the amount of pressure maintenance that needs to be done will most likely be reduced. Nitrogen, however, is still prone to malfunctions in the actual tires such as leaks in the valve stem or a punctures.

Nitrogen inflation can increase fuel economy and tire life.

Because nitrogen inflation promotes properly pressurized tires by eliminating the leaky oxygen in air, nitrogen inflation can in fact promote better fuel economy and more even tire wear. These factors, however are associated directly with the proper tire pressure regardless of composition. Nitrogen inflation provides a more convenient way to keep the pressure ideal.

There is no benefit to inflating with nitrogen as air is already 78.1% nitrogen.

Air is in fact already 78.1% nitrogen. During actual nitrogen inflation, however, the current air in the tire is removed and replaced with clean nitrogen at a concentration of 94% or more. This purging of air also removes any water vapor, oil contaminants, and particles that may be in the tire. The higher concentration of nitrogen is what promotes a slower deflating tire not the nitrogen itself.

Nitrogen Inflation Research

The idea of nitrogen inflation dates back to as early as 1968 when a man by the name of Dr. Larry Sperberg came up with the concept of “chemical degradation,” where a tire wears from the inside out. He found that air from compressor tanks was introducing the tires to air that was full of moisture. According to Sperberg the moisturized air makes its way into the tire cord body and causes heat and expansion. By using nitrogen that is dry and clean this expansion and degradation is decreased significantly.

Nitrogen’s advantage over oxygen when used as a way to inflate tires lies within its chemical structure. Nitrogen molecules are larger than oxygen molecules. As a result, nitrogen does not pass through the inner liner or sidewalls of a tire as easily. In addition, nitrogen is dry and inert. This allows tires to run cooler and reduces degradation.

Additional Benefits of Nitrogen Inflation

Being green has never been more important. In addition to investing in a fuel efficient or hybrid vehicle, inflating with nitrogen can make that vehicle even greener. Nitrogen inflation promotes better fuel economy and can reduce tire wear. By decreasing these you are keeping more emissions out of the air and more tires out of landfills. More information on automobiles being green can be had at Klosters’ website.

How Do I Use Nitrogen On My Vehicle?

There are a few ways to have your tires inflated with nitrogen. Nitrogen inflation requires a special system in order for the current air in the tire to be purged and then refilled with a high concentration of nitrogen. Many automotive dealers will provide this service. There are also kits available for purchase that allow for you to have access to nitrogen inflation at anytime.

In Conclusion

While nitrogen inflation is not a “cure all,” solution for pressurized automotive tires, it does provide some worthy advantages. Because of it’s chemical structure, nitrogen is scientifically more capable of providing longer lasting pressure directly resulting in better fuel economy and tire life. As this becomes a rising concern, implementation of nitrogen in automotive tires will most likely continue to rise.

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Nitrogen Tire Inflation: What Everyone Needs to Know

nitrogen in tiresThis is a guest post from Kerry Blake.

Many myths about the use of nitrogen in tires exist in the wake of its relatively recent expansion in the world of passenger vehicles. These myths pertain to the supposed miraculous effects of using nitrogen in tires as opposed to regular air, and how they are presented to the consumer market. For that reason, we have decided to clear the air (no pun intended) and present to you some facts relating to nitrogen tire inflation.

Moisture

There is not much difference between switching from oxygen to nitrogen in new and used cars, but there is a difference between inflating your tires with normal air in, for example, San Diego and Las Vegas. One of the main advantages of nitrogen is the fact that it doesn’t allow any moisture in the form of water vapor to remain on the tire wall, while some percentage of water vapor is inevitable in air, which consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% of CO2, water vapor and other gasses. That percentage, of course, will be somewhat higher along the coastline and the air will be drier in places like Las Vegas, so it is not quite the same if you fill your tire with air at the seaside or in the desert. You will also strain your tires more when driving in an extremely hot or cold environment. Excess moisture may contribute to the corrosion of rims and cause your tire pressure to be less stable in more extreme temperatures and harsher surroundings. For that reason, nitrogen is used for inflating tires in F1, airplanes and various other vehicles where the tires are exposed to extreme temperature changes.

Performance

Since nitrogen molecules about four times bigger than oxygen molecules, they cannot pass through the rubber structure as easily. That is why a tire filled with nitrogen will maintain its pressure much longer, making it less likely for you to end up driving on under-inflated tires, which will affect the fuel economy and handling somewhat.

Nitrogen will maintain the tire pressure at the same level for about three times longer than regular air, which means you won’t have to check your tire pressure every couple of days. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can forget about your tires and stop checking the pressure altogether. Monitoring the pressure in your tire is the only way for you to be sure you are making the most out of your car. Nitrogen also ensures more accurate readings, so you don’t unintentionally over-inflate or under-inflate your tires and ruin your fuel economy.

Is it worth it?

If you drive a truck on ice roads of northern Canada or a or in the hot, desert climate of the Southwest, then it is definitely worth it to switch nitrogen tire inflation. There is a reason it is used in F1 cars and airplanes and it is precisely in these types of extreme conditions that nitrogen has been proven to be much more stable and predictable than normal air. Even though you’re not driving at the same speeds as race cars, this doesn’t mean that you and your tires aren’t affected by the outside temperature, especially in climates that have an 80-degree difference or more between summer and winter.

Additional resources:

Carzoos

The Winter Benefits of Putting Nitrogen in Your Tires

Some of the Wackiest Arguments Against Nitrogen Tire Inflation

Nitrogen in Tires Consumer Reports Response

nitrogen tire inflation white paper cta

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Hybrid Tires Managed Fleets Nitrogen in Tires Myths Nitrogen Tire Inflation

Managed Fleets and Ending America’s Dependence on Foreign Oil

managed fleets nitrogen tire inflationNitrogen tire inflation is still a new technology, one that has yet to be widely adopted by managed fleets as a way to go “GREEN” while improving the fleet’s efficiency and the company’s bottom line. Although it has been embraced by entities such as the airline industry and NASCAR for decades, it remains out of the mainstream. Some fleet managers and transportation directors have never heard of using nitrogen for tire inflation, or may be skeptical that this application is just a gimmick. Others may just be reluctant to change from compressed air, which has worked well all this time, or are hesitant to invest money into a process they know very little about.

Why Nitrogen Tire Inflation is a Great Way to Go Green

Regardless, myths about nitrogen tire inflation are generally used to influence fleet managers and transportation directors away from nitrogen’s use in their vehicles. One of those big myths is that nitrogen tire inflation cannot contribute to ending America’s dependence on foreign oil. This is absolutely not true, especially when you consider that 70% of the fuel consumption in this country is used by the transportation sector. Anything and everything to reduce that number will contribute. Here, we are providing transparency and in-depth clarity on WHY nitrogen tire inflation is not a scam or a gimmick, but a viable way to create hybrid tires, to reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to improve a company’s environmental footprint through carbon reduction and sustainable practices for future generations of Americans.

When 11% of our carbon consumption is in the transportation sector, and 400 million gallons of gas are consumed every day in the United States, it’s simplistic to say that a few percentage points of improvement in fuel efficiency won’t do much of anything to solve the problem. Those few points add up significantly as more managed fleets make the change to nitrogen. When over 300 million tires are disposed of in landfills every year in the United States, it is completely short sighted to say that nitrogen tire inflation can’t do anything to reduce that number. Nitrogen tire inflation can improve the life of the tire and tread-wear rate and reduce the number of tires purchased by managed fleets. The impact on America’s dependence on foreign oil is relative and is completely tied to Economy of Scale, but the impact becomes DRAMATIC when a managed vehicle fleet, such as the Federal government’s, of over 660,000 vehicles is using nitrogen as an inflation medium – the argument for ALL of the points made here for nitrogen’s use in tires becomes that much more compelling.

Nitrogen Tire Inflation Can Contribute

The cost for replacement tires have increased between 6 and 9 percent per year for the past several years. To have proven green technologies helping managed fleets absorb costs and getting the best ROI for their tires is our goal. Nitrogen tire inflation is not only a sound investment; it‘s sustainability factor in carbon reduction and reducing waste in our environment makes nitrogen‘s use a responsible transportation solution for the 21st century. We’ve busted nine nitrogen tire inflation myths that have previously moved fleet managers and transportation directors away from its use and have provided clarity and a strong, sensible, scientific logic to better all of our understanding as we rapidly look for solutions to preserve our planet and reduce oil consumption.

This myth is just one of nine big myths about nitrogen tire inflation, and we’ve debunked all nine in our latest white paper: 9 Debunked Myths on Nitrogen Tire Inflation. Click the link to download this white paper and to learn how nitrogen tire inflation can help your managed fleet and our country’s dependence on foreign oil.

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Nitrogen in Tires Myths Nitrogen Tire Inflation Proper Tire Pressure

Some of the Wackiest Arguments Against Nitrogen Tire Inflation

nitrogen tire inflationWe’ve done out best to bust nitrogen tire inflation myths and other arguments against the practice. Some of these arguments are understandable and logical, but others are just plain wacky. These wacky arguments skew the discussion because some people may believe them, leading them to thinking nitrogen tire inflation is a scam because nitrogen tire dealers and providers are making wild claims about the practice. Not only are dealers and providers not making these claims (we can’t speak for the mechanic or the salesperson, but we assure that those who sell the equipment aren’t making these claims), but these claims are just wrong. Here are a few them that we found and would like to bust right now:

As for moisture, changes in humidity affect tire performance two ways. First, the density of humid air fluctuates more with temperature than that of dry air, so removing humidity can keep your tire pressure more consistent, especially when the temperature climbs over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That may be a legitimate concern in Formula One racing, but it’s not much of an issue if you’re just tooling around town. – The Straight Dope

The density of humid air has nothing to do with tire performance. Humid air is bad for your tires because it is humid, because the water vapor is very susceptible to temperature changes and causes the tire pressure to fluctuate. This also happens at temperatures below 100 degrees Fahrenheit because as you drive, you heat up the tires, no matter what the temperature is on the outside. They’re moving, there’s friction, and all that creates heat. All this is a concern if you’re just tooling around town, because tooling around town creates heat as well, and the water vapor in your tires is still reacting.

Another claim I’ve seen is that since nitrogen is slightly lighter than air, you’ll save weight and get better performance. However, we’re talking about a weight difference of less than 4 percent of the gas in the tire – in other words, a difference of less than an ounce for most vehicles. – Also The Straight Dope

We have no idea who said this, but the better performance from nitrogen doesn’t come from saving weight. It comes from the fact that nitrogen maintains proper tire pressure for a longer period of time, and its the proper tire pressure that creates better performance and handling.

The argument for using Nitrogen in your car tires is this: Air and Nitrogen would compress at different rates depending on temperature, with air being more squishy than Nitrogen, and that would cause your tires’ pressure to vary more with air than with Nitrogen. – Scienceblogs.com

More squishy? What does that even mean? Just because this argument is coming from a science blog doesn’t meant that it’s scientifically sound.

Proper inflation is the real issue. Under-inflated tires reduce gas mileage. They flatten out, creating more surface area and thus adding friction, which makes the engine work harder. The extra friction, and resulting heat, also increases the chance of a blowout. A properly inflated tire is always safer and more efficient than under-inflated shoes (unless you’re driving across a sand dune). – The Truth about Cars

If only it were this simple. Since air-filled tires are much more susceptible to temperature changes, there are chances for an inaccurate reading when checking the tire pressure of an air-filled tire. For example, if a consumer stops at a gas station after spending some time running errands and driving around, and decides to check their tire pressure, it’s likely that they’ll get a reading that is higher than what the tire pressure really is. The reason is the tires have been heated up from the previous driving,

This could mean that the consumer gets a reading that says their tire pressure is fine, or is too high, and will do nothing about a tire that’s really low or will make it low by releasing pressure to compensate for the high reading. This is why it’s recommended to check tire pressure when the tires a cool, such as before starting the car or after being parked for a few hours. Since tire pressure ought to be checked when the tires are cool, this means that tires would need to be refilled at home with an at-home air compressor (since most people would have to drive to the gas station to get to their air compressor, heating up the tires and ruining the reading).

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Nitrogen in Tires Consumer Reports Response

nitrogen in tiresWhat’s Wrong with Their Study?

Consumer Reports is a highly respected magazine that publishes reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its in-house testing laboratory and survey research center. Most of the time, Consumer Reports has great content and does a good job in their testing and research processes. However, the magazine conducted a nitrogen air loss study between 2006-2007 (it was a year-long study), and we think that this study isn’t a true representation of the benefits of nitrogen tire inflation.

Consumer Reports tested nitrogen air loss by evaluating pairs of 31 tire models of H- and V-speed rated, all-season tires, filling one with 95% nitrogen and the other with regular air. Their use of a variety of tire models is good, but that’s not the problem. The problem is in how this study was conducted. Consumer Reports filled and set the inflation pressure at room temperature to 30 psi (pounds per square inch); set the tire outdoors for one year; and then rechecked the inflation pressure at room temperature after a one year period.

Why the Nitrogen Tire Inflation Results are Skewed

The Consumer Reports study found that nitrogen does reduce pressure loss over time, but the reduction is only a 1.3 psi difference from air-filled tires, which was considered minimal. However, since these tires weren’t tested under normal operating conditions, which not only affect tire pressure retention (which is what the test was meant to study) as well as what that tire pressure retention can mean under normal operating conditions (such as a smoother, safer ride, or a lower likelihood for a blowout, or improved fuel economy), this 2006-2007 study only tells half the story. Although it found that the tires filled with nitrogen better retained their proper tire pressure than the air-filled ones, the test and its results don’t do a good job of what this means, making it too easy to argue that it doesn’t mean anything at all.

There are Holes in the Q&A Too

As a follow-up to the tons of comments the article received (most recent comment from April 2012) a Q&A was published just a week after the original article to respond to all the comments and to address some of the issues that were brought up. We found a few holes in that article as well. Here’s one example:

Q: I just thought I’d remind everyone that nitrogen makes up like 75-78% of ambient air, so air verse nitrogen should make little or no difference.
A: 
Yes, nitrogen makes up most of the air — about 78% as you point out. Think about this, though: if you fill your tires with air, the oxygen is more likely to permeate out of the tires before the nitrogen and over time you end up with a higher concentration of nitrogen. I have not checked this but it seems possible.

Sure, it’s possible, but you still end up with an underinflated tire. A tire of pure nitrogen, but not at proper tire pressure is just as bad as   an underinflated tire that has regular air in it. Choosing this method to get your “nitrogen tire” simply because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean that it’s better for you or your tires.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Nitrogen Tire Inflation

This study from Consumer Reports is often cited as the death-blow to nitrogen tire inflation. Since Consumer Reports found the benefits to be negligible, the benefits must be negligible and the whole thing must be a scam to make more money. However, we’ve poked holes into how this study was conducted, and we think that the service ought to at least be tested again in a manner that actually evaluates how the tires perform and maintain tire pressure while being used on the roads, not just sitting idle outside for a whole year.

Something that many naysayers miss is Consumer Reports’ conclusion of their study, which reads:

Bottom line: Overall, consumers can use nitrogen and might enjoy the slight improvement in air retention provided, but it’s not a substitute for regular inflation checks.

Essentially, they don’t discredit the use of nitrogen. They simply say that it’s not a substitute for regular tire pressure checks, which is something that the nitrogen tire inflation industry and its supporters have been saying this whole time. Naysayers ought not to discredit the practice so quickly based on one study, especially since the study has its flaws and that the researchers did not conclude that the practice was bogus.

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Nitrogen in Tires Myths Nitrogen Tire Inflation

Even More Untruths about Inflating Your Tires with Nitrogen

nitrogen tire inflationEven with mass communication as powerful as the Internet, it’s still possible (and perhaps much easier than ever) to disseminate misinformation and untruths. The topic of nitrogen tire inflation is no exception to this, and we’re committed to busting myths and eliminating the untruths that circulate online, even if we have to bust certain myths more than once and really drive home a few key concepts. Here are some old, and new, untruths about nitrogen-filled tires, and what the truth really is.

If you have a nitrogen-filled tire that needs air and you top off with regular air, you’ve negated any of the benefits you had gained. (Because so few places have nitrogen equipment, you’ll often find yourself seeking out a regular air pump at a gas station.)

Absolutely not true. It’s not as if topping off an air-filled tire with nitrogen benefits your tire like a tire filled 100 percent with nitrogen. Granted, topping off a nitrogen-filled tire with air isn’t the best, but you don’t negate all the benefits. Just because it’s harder to top off with nitrogen doesn’t mean that nitrogen tire inflation isn’t worthwhile.

A while ago, I replaced the air in my tires with nitrogen at a cost of $20. Now I’ve noticed that I’m getting about 40 miles less per tank of gas. Can nitrogen cause a drop in gas mileage?

Anyone who says that with nitrogen tire inflation, you don’t have to worry about tire pressure ever again, is lying. Nitrogen tire inflation maintains proper tire pressure for a longer period of time, but it doesn’t keep your tires properly inflated forever. It’s not the nitrogen that ruins your gas mileage, its the underinflated tires. You still have to check them regularly, even if it’s just to make sure you don’t have a leak. As the myth says, tires that are underinflated will diminish your fuel efficiency.

The other argument for nitrogen over air is that oxygen within normal air causes ‘oxidation’ within the tire. However, I haven’t seen any concrete evidence as to what oxidation really is or why its such a bad thing.

Oxidation is the interaction between oxygen molecules and other elements. It’s what causes an apple to turn brown, unopened food to spoil after a long period of time on the shelf, metal to rust, and rubber (such as the rubber in tires) to deteriorate. If any of those examples don’t count as concrete evidence, than I don’t know what does. Just because we typically call it rust or rotting doesn’t mean that oxidation doesn’t exist or is some fancy scientific principle that’s too difficult for normal people to understand.

The advantage of nitrogen being more stable and less prone to changes in pressure due to heat in the tires seems of little benefit to average drivers.

Not true. Sure, normal drivers aren’t driving under the extreme conditions that NASCAR drivers and airplane pilots do. Both use nitrogen-filled tires on a regular basis, and are right to do so because there are much more extreme temperature changes than in daily life. However, just because the temperature changes aren’t extreme doesn’t mean that they don’t happen in daily life, and it doesn’t mean that those less extreme changes don’t make a difference in handling and tire pressure. Since nitrogen better handles these changes, it means that a driver will get more accurate readings of his/her tire pressure, and will less likely overinflate/underinflate their tires unnecessarily. More stability also means a safer tire, one that is less likely to suffer a blowout.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Nitrogen Tire Inflation

advantages of nitrogen tire inflationWe’ve touted a lot of nitrogen tire inflation benefits, and rebutted our share of nitrogen tire inflation myths. Although we support the practice of nitrogen-filled tires, it’s not the most perfect thing in the world, and it has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. It seems that a lot of folks are either on one side or the other, without strong consideration of the arguments on both sides. Here’s a list of those advantages and disadvantages of nitrogen tire inflation, so people can make an informed decision about the practice, instead of relying a collection of conflicting resources.

Nitrogen Tire Inflation Advantages

  • Nitrogen tire inflation improves fuel efficiency by maintaining proper tire pressure for a longer period of time. Proper tire pressure improves fuel efficiency anywhere from three to six percent. That might not seem like a lot, but with gas prices the way that they are, the less money we can throw away, the better.
  • Nitrogen-filled tires have a longer life because they don’t have the corrosive properties that come with air-filled tires, mainly the oxygen and the water vapor. Not only does oxidation ruin the rubber in the tire, but both the oxidation and the water vapor can affect the aluminum and steel wheels on the inside.
  • Nitrogen-filled tires create a smoother, safer ride. With underinflated tires, there is less contact area between the tire and the road surface. This leads to reduced steering control and a greater potential for blowouts.
  • Nitrogen-filled tires are a way to go green. Over 300 million tires are disposed of every year, and nitrogen tire inflation can reduce this amount by 30%. Also consider the fuel savings as another way to go green and to cut down on carbon emissions.

Nitrogen Tire Inflation Disadvantages

  • Nitrogen doesn’t make a difference if you run over a nail. Some will argue that because it doesn’t matter what’s in your tire when it has a hole and its going flat, that there’s no reason for nitrogen tire inflation. No, nitrogen won’t help you in this case, and we don’t know of any nitrogen tire inflation company or dealer (certainly not us) who will say that nitrogen will negate the consequences of running over a nail.
  • Nitrogen-filled tires won’t help you in a fiery crash, and once again, no legitimate nitrogen tire inflation company or dealer will say otherwise. We only mention this disadvantage because it was mentioned in an article that said nitrogen-filled tires were a scam, and might believe that dealers are using this argument as a selling point. The author might have been confusing an advantage of nitrogen, where tires will run cooler and are less susceptible to temperature changes (so there’s less chance of a blowout or of inaccurate readings when topping them off). However, in a fiery crash, nitrogen-filled tires won’t mean all that much.
  • Nitrogen tire inflation doesn’t eliminate the need for regular pressure checks and tire maintenance, nor will they never ever lose pressure again. With nitrogen, you might not need to top them off so much, but you don’t fill up your tires with nitrogen and forget about them. No nitrogen company or dealer will ever suggest that nitrogen tire inflation is a replacement for checking your tire pressure, or that your tires will stay inflated at proper tire pressure forever and ever.

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A Rebuttal to Nitrogen Tire Inflation Scams and Myths

nitrogen in tiresToday, we will call foul on an article from 2008. Carl Feagans in a Hot Cup of Joe argues that nitrogen tire inflation is a scam and not worth it for general consumers. Although we do think that the benefit of nitrogen tires is best seen in managed fleets, that doesn’t mean that the whole practice is a scam and that there isn’t any benefit at all.

Nitrogen-Filled Tires Maintain Proper Tire Pressure Longer

Feagans’ biggest argument in claiming nitrogen tire inflation is a scam is that nitrogen actually effuses faster from a tire than oxygen. He points out that what’s used in the tires are the diatomic molecules (N2 and O2), not just the element. Based on Graham’s law of effusion, nitrogen would leak faster than oxygen.

The science in Feagans’ post is accurate. However, it doesn’t apply because the argument discusses nitrogen and oxygen, while with nitrogen tire inflation, the discussion is between nitrogen and regular air. Regular air is much more than oxygen, and no one fills their tires with pure oxygen. Therefore, Feagans’ argument doesn’t disprove the value of nitrogen tire inflation. Feagans wanted a non-nitrogen tire industry study that found nitrogen-filled tires lasting longer than air-filled ones. Well, Ford conducted a study in 2004, and not only found that the nitrogen tires did last longer, but that oxidation takes places from the inside out. And Ford isn’t the only one that supports the practice: Michelin and Firestone also think that nitrogen tire inflation is a good idea. Popular Mechanics also said the same thing in 2009.

Oxygen or Nitrogen: Which Is It?

Yes, air is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Nitrogen tire naysayers love to quote these numbers as the reason why nitrogen tire inflation is a scam as if a 21 percent jump isn’t good enough. Would we argue that with anything else in life? (You’re 21% increase in sales in no good. Get that up to 33% and we’ll be happy. A 21% discount isn’t enough. I need a 50% discount.)

Anyway, we digress. Feagans is no different in quoting these numbers. Naysayers also, even when quoting the 78%, also love to downplay the power of oxygen while saying that 78% nitrogen is somehow good enough (even though the nitrogen doesn’t do anything. That’s why this whole thing is a scam). One of the consequences of regular air is oxidation, and Feagans asks why oxidation doesn’t take place on the outside and why the nitrogen dealers are only worried about oxidation on the inside. The biggest reason is that oxygen is a very reactive element, and affects more than just the tire. The oxygen will also corrode the aluminum and steel wheels, causing additional problems to your vehicle. It’s not just the rubber we’re worried about.

Oxygen is not only reactive with other elements, it’s also very reactive to temperature. The airline industry and NASCAR use nitrogen-filled tires because their tires can run so hot that an air-filled tire will suffer a blowout under most of their conditions. Yes,  nitrogen is less volatile. No, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a fiery crash. However, your tires will run cooler with nitrogen, so they are better protected against a blowout, which does happen to regular consumers and managed fleets.

Nitrogen Tire Inflation is No Scam!

Even so, it is not a replacement for checking your tire pressure regularly and making sure you are maintaining proper tire pressure at all times. Flats still happen, and even though nitrogen maintains proper tire pressure longer, it still does leak over time. There is always a better way to do things, even simple things like keeping your tires inflated. Nitrogen is that better way, until someone creates a tire that doesn’t leak and doesn’t need to be topped off ever again.

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