Why Nitrogen is good for your Tires

by : Steve Farber

A popular joke in the 1960s at full service gas stations was 'filler up with Ethel and change the air in my tires.' Today with the price of gasoline approaching $3.00 per gallon, why not replace the air in your tires. Not with air but with nitrogen. Filling your tires with nitrogen rather than air will improve gas mileage, help maintain correct tire pressure, keep tires 25% cooler, improve handling and performance and prolongs the life of your tires. NASCAR drivers use nitrogen in their tires for safety reasons, you can too.

Why should you stop putting air in your tires! Compressed air you find at tire shops, gas stations and the compressor you use at home have a high concentrations of water vapor. Compressing air concentrates the water in it and unless really efficient air dryers are used chances are there is water vapors in your tires. Water vapor absorbs and holds heat. This wet air plus heat can increase the pressure in your tires, causing highway blow outs, and is one of the reason you should check your tire pressure when they are cold.

This article is not about the nitrogen. It's really about reducing oxygen and water vapor in your tires. The air in our tires is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and about 1% water vapor and other gases. When pure dry nitrogen is used to replace the air in your tires it improves fuel efficiency, handling and it will extend the life of steel rims or custom wheels and tires. By reducing oxygen and water vapor in your tires from 22% to less than 7%, your tires will maintain pressure three to four times longer. Plus it will keep you safer on the highway.

How does oxygen and water damage my rims and tires? Oxygen, especially at high temperatures and pressures, corrodes aluminum, steel wheels and rubber. This process is called oxidation. When oxidation occurs small particles of rust and aluminum oxidization in your steel or aluminum wheels can clog valve stems, causing them to leak. The oxidation can cause the surfaces of your wheel flange and tire beads not to seal properly causing another leak point.

Oxygen can also age the thin layer of rubber called the inner liner or radial ply. As the inner liner ages, more and more air migrates through the rubber, causing additional pressure losses. As oxygen migrates through rubber it can come in contact with steel belts and the steel bead causing them to rust.

While both nitrogen and oxygen can migrate through rubber, nitrogen does it much slower. It might take six months to lose a couple of pounds of nitrogen, compared to less than a month with wet compressed air. Dry nitrogen does not cause rust and corrosion on steel rims or aluminum custom wheels, and it does not degrade rubber like wet compressed air.

Where can I get nitrogen for my tires? Nitrogen is becoming very popular with long haul trucking. Some truck stops have nitrogen available for these big rigs either free or by paying a small fee. They use the same type pay stations that you see at gas stations except they are marked 'Nitrogen'. These nitrogen stations are then connected to large nitrogen cylinders near by.

You can also buy your own small inexpensive Nitrogen Tanks and have them filled at welding supply stores in your area. Another source for small nitrogen tanks is Paint Ball supply stores either local or on the internet. eBay is a good source. These small nitrogen tanks can be filled at welding supply stores and then easily plumbed to fill your tires. Use caution when handling these small nitrogen tanks as they can be filled to as much as 3000 psi. Also make sure the nitrogen tank you purchase has a regulator attached and it is set for about 50 psi.

Filling your own new tires with nitrogen is a simple process. Jack up one tire until it just clears the ground, remove the tire valve stem and allow the air in your tires to escape. Once all the air escapes install a new valve stem. Then simply fill your tires with nitrogen from your small nitrogen tank. Repeat the process with the other 3 tires. Do not forget your spare! Your tires should now have about 95% dry nitrogen and you have significantly reduced all the hazards and oxidation problems mentioned above.

If you own a tire store and would like to provide nitrogen for your customers buy a Ingersoll Rand Nitrogen Tire Inflation System.