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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.

nitrogen tire inflation myths paper

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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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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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