In recent years, Nitrogen tyres have slowly become more popular.
Once limited to military vehicles, race cars - like Nascar - and aeroplane tyres, Nitrogen filled tyres are now embraced by regular drivers like you and me installed on regular street cars.
Is this something for you to consider for your tyres?
Nitrogen inflation for your tyres has pro's and con's, so it may or may not be suitable for your car. The information below may aid you in the decision to pay the little extra at individual fitting stations to have your tyres filled with Nitrogen.
Regular Compressed Air in Tyres
Anyone with a vehicle knows that the air within a tyre is so important - especially when experiencing a flat. It isn't just the tyre's actual physical structure carrying all that weight - but also the air pressure inside the tyre.
To ensure tyres are up to handling that load - drivers must maintain the proper amount of air within each tyre to enhance its performance, durability and the vehicle's overall fuel economy.
Refilling a tyre with air is easy enough - we've all done it - just pop round to any petrol station where air pumps are readily available and load your tyres for free. The air we put into each tyre is the same air we breathe as well, made up of about 79% nitrogen (N2), 20% oxygen (O2) and 1% miscellaneous gases.
However, tyres exposed to extreme temperatures like plane tyres or racing car tyres use pure 100% nitrogen - no oxygen. Nitrogen is an 'inert' gas, meaning it's non-reactive and property-free and considered safer in high heat conditions. These characteristics are what has pushed more people to go Nitro with their tyres.
What is Nitrogen?
Nitrogen is an inert gas - it is stable, colourless, odourless, tasteless and chemically and generally non-reactive. It does not cause anything to break down and corrode. The purer the nitrogen content is in your tyre, the less oxygen so you won't have to worry about oxidation weakening it internally. Without the presence of oxygen, water condensation also can't form avoiding any water-related issues that can further undermine your tyre's durability.
The Advantages of Nitrogen tyres
The primary advantage of having Nitrogen in your tyres is that oxygen - in the very long run - can be destructive to materials like steel and rubber. Oxygen causes oxidation, creating rust and corrosion. There are also other benefits to using nitrogen tyres:
Keeps your tyres cooler
Nitrogen significantly reduces the tyre's running temperature vs Air-filled tyres - but only when you are driving at very high speeds carrying maximum loads. With air-filled tyres, running your car at faster speeds - like in motor racing - will take a toll on your tyres - increasing internal temperatures quickly and causing a breakdown when it reacts to the oxygen. However, Nitrogen filled tyres won't get hot quickly, even during top speeds.
Makes your tyres last longer
Tyres break down due to many reasons like road conditions, the weather, proper maintenance, and of course, its temperature while in use. If your tyres are overheated continuously due to exposure to constant high speeds and carrying full loads, they will degrade faster. The tyre tread will wear down quickly as well. Since Nitrogen tyres keep your tyres cooler, it also extends your tyre's life.
Maintains tyre pressure longer
As we explained above, maintaining proper tyre pressure is essential to ensure the tyre can really handle the total weight of your vehicle plus all its passengers. Most tyre tread and tubes are porous with microscopically sized holes that make it easy for the smaller oxygen molecules to leak out. Nitrogen molecules though are about four times larger than oxygen molecules considerably slowing down the rate of its escape from the tyre. Tyre pressure is maintained for a longer period.
More environmentally friendly
Nitrogen is considered a green alternative since tyre pressure is constant and consistently at the right level, the tyre runs smoother with less rolling resistance and becomes more fuel-efficient, saving your fuel expenses. Because it lengthens a tyre's life, there is no need to replace them as often as well, considerably slashing your tyre maintenance costs.
The Disadvantages of Nitrogen tyres
The main reasons why Nitrogen tyres might not be the best solution for you are its limited availability, the extra costs incurred, additional tyre maintenance and manufacturer warranty issues.
Nitrogen is hard to find. Unlike compressed air that is available in every petrol station or tyre shop, only specialist tyre dealers carry Nitrogen, and when you do find it, you'll have to pay to load it into your tyre.
Higher Cost than Air
To fill your tyre up with Nitrogen, be prepared to pay anywhere between $5 and $10 per regular passenger car tyre. This added cost can be burdensome and quite expensive, especially when compared to filling it up with compressed air - which petrol stations let you do for free.
We mentioned how Nitrogen maintains your tyre pressure longer and will not leak out as much as air-filled tyres. Even if it does take a long time to leak, it does not mean that you do not need to check on them as often. Even with nitro tyres, you still need to monitor tyre pressure regularly. Remember, the roads and weather your nitro tyres will be driving on are still not ideal or predictable and will continue to undermine your tyre's integrity day in and out.
Also, once you use pure Nitrogen, you will need to keep filling it with Nitrogen forever. If you can't find any nitrogen, you can add regular compressed air thus converting it to a regular tyre, removing all the nitro benefits. You can re-inflate it with pure Nitrogen again - but you need to completely deflate them first to remove all traces of compressed air.
Manufacturer Warranty Issues
Different tyre manufacturers have different policies regarding filling up their tyres with Nitrogen. Some embrace it fully, continuing to cover it with their warranties, while others do not. We recommend that you check with the tyre manufacturer to see if the particular tyre model you are using will still be covered by their guarantee or not.