If air is 78 percent nitrogen, then what’s the big deal about filling your tires with pure nitrogen instead of air? The nitrogen atom is actually smaller than the oxygen atom, so wouldn’t pure nitrogen be worse because it could leak out much more quickly?
Well, for the average consumer, the benefits of nitrogen tire inflation lie in structural durability due to a significant reduction in what is known as rubber oxidation. Rubber oxidation is the deterioration of the rubber due to the molecular interaction between the oxygen and the rubber, which ruins the durability of the tire over time. Studies have been conducted to test and to compare tire durability between those inflated with air and those inflated with nitrogen.
Ford Motor Company, based in Dearborn, Mich., conducted a study in 2004 on the Effects of Nitrogen Tire Inflation, particularly the effects nitrogen inflation has on the aging performance of passenger tires. Tires were inflated with 96 percent and 99.9 percent nitrogen and were aged for three to 12 weeks. For comparison, tires inflated with either air or a 50/50 mixture of oxygen and nitrogen were aged alongside the nitrogen tires. For this study, the Goodyear Wrangler AP LT245/75R15 was used.
The overall conclusion of the Ford study was that when nitrogen was used, the change in rubber properties was either slowed or halted all together. It was also recognized in the study that the average consumer may not need to get rid of their old tires before making the switch from air to nitrogen.
If Ford’s 2004 study seems old and outdated, then consider a 2007 study from Canada’s Drexan Corp. that found similar results. A test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also showed that using nitrogen reduced tire pressure loss in new tires, improving your gas mileage and the tires’ lifespan over time. Dr. John Daws, of Daws Engineering, has conducted studies most recently as 2010, which have also found similar results.
The nitrogen tire inflation industry is still in its infancy, but multiple studies have shown that putting nitrogen in your tires is beneficial for the long haul. To learn more about how to get nitrogen into your tires, check out Nitrofleet99.