Why Nitrogen?

On August 25, 2011, in Nitrogen Tire Inflation, Proper Tire Pressure, by allisonmreilly
nitrogen tire inflation

Why is nitrogen used for tire inflation, versus air and other gases?

We’ve talked a lot about nitrogen tire inflation. After all, that is what we’re all about. But, we need to answer the question of “Why Nitrogen?” Why use nitrogen and not helium, carbon, or argon? If the point of nitrogen tire inflation is to reduce the amount of oxygen in the tires, then why do we specifically need nitrogen to accomplish that?

Nitrogen molecules have a more difficult time escaping through the microscopic spaces that exist between a tire’s rubber molecules. Nitrogen is a “slow”, inert gas due to its nonreactive nature with many materials. However, oxygen is a “fast” active gas that reacts with many materials. This reaction is a process called “oxidation.”  Additionally, nitrogen is a dry gas that doesn’t support moisture while oxygen combined with hydrogen makes water (H2O). So, even though air is already 78% nitrogen, that 21% of oxygen is enough to do long-term damage to your tires. Again, nitrogen seems like the most natural fit for tire inflation, but is it really the best fit, or the only fit?

Well, nitrogen is a denser gas than oxygen (and helium and carbon), so that explains why it does a better job of maintaining tire pressure than regular air. Consumers can benefit from the more stable pressures, even more so than the fact that your tires are safer with proper tire pressure. The problem is that humidity (aka water) is a horrible thing to have inside a tire. Water, present as a vapor or even as a liquid in a tire, causes more of a pressure change with temperature swings than dry air does. It also promotes corrosion of the steel or aluminum rim.

However, humidity doesn’t get in there through oxygen and the elements. It gets in there through the regular air systems you find at gas stations. Popular Mechanics remarks that some gas stations don’t do a very good job of keeping the humidity out of their air system. If your tires go unchecked, they can accumulate a lot of water, varying the tire pressure even more so than simple temperature changes.
Nitrogen tire inflation provides a good fix for this. Any system that delivers pure nitrogen is also going to deliver dry nitrogen. Filling tires with nitrogen involves filling and purging several times in succession, diluting the concentration of oxygen in the tire. This will also remove any water.

Sure, filling your tires with nitrogen will cost a little money, since you need to have it specially done. We’ve demonstrated in a previous post that the practice is worth the money in the long run. But, why does it have to cost money? Aren’t air and gases free? Well, they are free to acquire, but it does take time and labor to acquire. You simply can’t just put it in a jar. Nitrogen and other gases have to go in special tanks so they can be used appropriately.

Which brings us to the question of why nitrogen for tire inflation over the other gases. As previously stated, it 78% of the air is nitrogen, making it an incredibly abundant gas. The third most abundant gas is argon, which makes up 0.93% of the world’s atmosphere. Can you imagine how much it would cost to fill your tires with argon!?! It would certainly be an exorbitant amount of money, since it would be difficult to acquire and it would take a long time to acquire enough to fill up some tires. Nitrogen is not only the best fit, but it works out nicely due to it’s large quantities and density to be much more affordable than using any other gas.

nitrogen tire inflation mythsNitrogen tire inflation is still a new concept. Although it has been embraced by entities such as the airline industry and NASCAR for many years, it still has yet to hit mainstream in the consumer market and in industrial fleets. Some folks have never heard of the practice, or may be skeptical that this whole thing is just a gimmick. Some may just be reluctant to pay money for something that can be done for free, despite the costs. Whatever the case may be, here are two myths about nitrogen tire inflation that we here at Nitrofleet99 are ready to bust.

1.) NITROGEN ELIMINATES THE NEED TO REGULARLY CHECK TIRE PRESSURE. This is absolutely untrue. While nitrogen leaks through a tire at a slower rate than oxygen, that doesn’t eliminate the necessity of regular pressure checks. There are numerous issues (valve stem, puncture, rim seal) that can still cause major leaks within a tire and lead to unsafe driving conditions. Nitrogen will maintain pressure longer than tires filled with compressed air, and will make your tires safer to drive on, but we advise against using nitrogen tire inflation as a substitute for regular pressure checks. Besides, there are other tire problems, such as tread wear, that still require that you pay some attention to tire maintenance.

2.) NITROGEN INFLATION IS ONLY INCREASING NITROGEN FROM 78.1% to 93.4%+, THERE IS NO BENEFIT TO SUCH A SMALL INCREASE. This is an argument that a lot of skeptics use, but what makes nitrogen tire inflation beneficial isn’t the nitrogen itself, but the decrease of oxygen and water vapor. Decreasing the percentage of oxygen is a more important factor than increasing the concentration of nitrogen. When filling your tires with nitrogen for the first time, the tires are purged twice, removing the 78.1% “bad” nitrogen (that is laden with water vapor, oil contamination, particulate, etc.) and replacing it with nitrogen that is clean (99.99% of all liquids and solids removed @ 0.01u) and dry (-40F or lower dewpoint). The nitrogen now has the properties of an engineered gas. Water vapor causes pressure fluctuations during normal driving, so removing it is a distinct advantage. The oxygen also damages the insides of your tire over time, so nitrogen tire inflation allows them to last longer.

Overall, nitrogen tire inflation is an excellent practice that will make your tires and driving safer and cheaper in the long run. Since this is something that is still new, there’s going to be plenty of people who don’t believe in the benefits and aren’t going to find this worthwhile. However, many have found this practice to be beneficial and to make a difference with their cars and with their wallets.

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saving gas money

Save money at the pump by taking care of your tires.

The bill that authorizes the gas tax to be collected, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) bill, is currently on its seventh short-term extension, which expires Sept. 30. Once Congress comes back from its August recess, it’s likely that this gas tax could become the next political issue. It’s also possible that another short-term extension is granted quietly, without much kerfuffle.

Either way, this gas tax will likely remain in place, meaning prices will remain as high as they are to help pay for our country’s transportation infrastructure. If you’re still going to drive around in spite of all this, then listen up!

One way to beat the gas tax is to improve your fuel efficiency, which is possible with nitrogen tire inflation. Putting nitrogen into your tires instead of regular air, maintains proper tire pressure for a longer period of time, which increase your fuel efficiency between three and six percent. That may not seem like a lot, but as we demonstrated in our cost comparison, those dollars can really add up!

Our roads need this money, and even if the tax were to be removed, states would only make up for those lost funds by raising their own gas taxes and other transportation fees. The best thing to do is to make sure that your vehicle and driving habits are cost-efficient, so you are saving that money. A tax on gasoline, whether it’s federal or state, is not going away anytime soon. In fact, both the Chamber of Commerce and General Motors want the tax to be raised, to ensure that we have national standards for our transportation system. Overall, one of the best ways to beat this tax and to save yourself some money is to use nitrogen tire inflation. After all, you’re still going to be driving around, using up gas. Why not make your car more fuel efficient?

Jay Leno Supports Nitrogen Tire Inflation

On August 4, 2011, in Nitrogen Tire Inflation, Video, by allisonmreilly

Comedian Jay Leno has been known for his love of cars, as well as his great jokes. Leno has one of the largest car collections around, so naturally he would know a thing or two about taking good care of them.

In this video, Leno discusses the benefits of nitrogen tire inflation. If you don’t trust what the industry is telling you, maybe you’ll trust a familiar face like Leno’s.


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