Nitrogen VS Compressed Air in Tires. Which is better?
Anyone who owns a vehicle knows the constant struggle to keep the vehicle trustworthy. We often ask questions like the right time for an oil change, tire alignment needs, tire rotation, etc. All of these are important but there is another question to consider: “Should I fill my tires with Nitrogen or Air?” In this educational read, we will talk about whether nitrogen is a better choice over the air when it comes to filling your tire pressure.
Benefits of Nitrogen:
- One of the benefits of using nitrogen is its ability to maintain constant pressure in the tire for a longer period of time as compared to air. This is because nitrogen molecules are larger than oxygen molecules. Nitrogen is less likely to escape the semipermeable tire liner. Nitrogen leakage through the tire liner is 40% slower than air molecules. One important thing to note here is that regular compressed air is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other noble gases. Nitrogen pressure pumps provide at least 95% nitrogen.
- Nitrogen is a drier gas in comparison to air. This property of nitrogen helps to maintain longer inflation pressure in the tire. This is because air has some percentage of moisture. At high temperatures, the water molecules expand rapidly and unexpectedly. This could over-expand the tire and cause tire failures. For the same reason, airplane tires are filled with nitrogen. Temperature changes during take-off and landing could be dramatic. Similarly, race car tires are filled with nitrogen due to the rapidly changing temperature of the rubber. This is important when the race car’s handling is tweaked with every half psi change in pressure.
- Compressed air with moisture content could harm your steel or aluminum wheels and tpms sensor due to slow oxidation (aka “corrosion”) over time. With nitrogen being a drier gas, it avoids oxidation. This helps to increase the life of your wheels.
In contrast, nitrogen in your tires may result in:
- 70% less rolling resistance as compared with compressed air
- 6% increase in fuel savings vs compressed air
- 31% extended tire life vs compressed air
Drawbacks of Nitrogen:
- In order to achieve the benefits of nitrogen, the concentration of nitrogen has to be at least 93%. This would require tires to be purged multiple times. Oftentimes compressed air for inflation is free of charge but nitrogen is not easy to find and is not free of cost, especially when filling for the first time. When it comes to cost and convenience, compressed air is a clear winner.
- One of the common questions asked: Is it safe to mix air and nitrogen? In general, yes, it is totally safe to mix air in a nitrogen inflated tire. It should not result in an adverse chemical reaction but will dilute the purity of nitrogen and lessen its effect. To get the benefits of nitrogen, you typically need to purge the tires again multiple times.
- Even though nitrogen is a stable gas, your tires will still lose pressure over time. The process is slow but a regular check of pressure is still required with nitrogen inflated tires. Although nitrogen expands less than air due to big temperature changes, it is not 100% immune to the typical expansion and contraction of tires.
- Even tires inflated with nitrogen require regular recommended pressure checks to identify slow leaks, check for tire cuts, bulges, tread wear, alignment changes, and unbalanced tire. This could be a little stressful for someone who is not well familiar with all the regular maintenance that a tire would need. Cerebrum Sensor’s intelligent tire sensing technology provides an affordable and user-friendly way to keep a check on your tires.
Now that you know a little more about nitrogen vs. compressed air, which will you choose for your tires?