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Nitrogen or Air: Which One Is Right for My Tires?

Posted at Fri, Nov 13, 2020 9:00 AM

Should I add nitrogen or air to my tires? This question comes up a lot, and you might have been told that there is an advantage to filling them with nitrogen, such as more consistent proper tire pressure. But will you really see a change? To help you make an informed decision the next time you have the option to get your tires filled with air or nitrogen, our Westbury Toyota experts have laid out all the relevant facts for you to go over.

Dry Air Tires

Nitrogen filled tires are also known as “dry air” tires. Dry air is actually not all nitrogen – it’s usually a mix of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and the remaining one percent is other gases (argon and neon), along with a bit of water vapor. The type of nitrogen used to fill tires is processed, which means that it has none of the impurities that are present in the air that is typically used to fill tires. If you make the decision to go with nitrogen, remember that every time you top them off, it should be with nitrogen in order to maintain the benefits (although mixing in normal air won’t have any adverse effects).

What’s the Dry Air Tire Selling Point?

The selling point behind nitrogen tires is that they prevent air loss, although it is also said that they can provide a smoother ride, extend tire life, and improve fuel economy. These are all true, to an extent. Tires that are not properly inflated wear out faster, which can lead to a rougher ride and a decrease in fuel economy. Using pure nitrogen instead of air results in more consistent tire pressure, which in turn keeps your tires in better shape for longer and increases their efficiency.

No matter what you fill your tires with, they will lose pressure over time because the gases in them will permeate out through the tire’s rubber. Nitrogen escapes slower than regular air by about 40 percent, states the writers of Popular Mechanics, which is why it keeps tire pressure stable for longer than regular air. In addition, nitrogen does not degrade rubber the way oxygen does in a thermo-oxidative process that occurs over time.

Performance drivers tend to fill their car’s tires with nitrogen because it reacts less to fluctuations in temperature. Cold weather makes gases contract, which can lower tire pressure, while hot weather makes gases expand. In order to prevent untimely loss in tire pressure, racing teams make sure to use nitrogen to achieve more reliable pressure over the course of a race.

Do I Need to Use Nitrogen in My Tires?

Like many other automotive questions, the answer to this quandary requires a deeper look at your unique needs and considerations. Nitrogen can definitely be more convenient (if not also more expensive), because it means you will not have to top up your tires as often – particularly in the winter. If you spend a lot of time on the road, nitrogen filled tires will wear out slower, resulting in a smoother ride and better economy. However, if you only drive upon occasion, there is nothing wrong with opting to go for regular air.

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