The simple answer to whether you can use pure nitrogen instead of air in your tires is, yes, you absolutely can. Now, the debate about which is better can’t be summed up as easily. Depending on which camp you ask, the answer might be anywhere from Nitrogen fixes everything! to Don’t listen to the hype; it’s a complete scam. As with most disputes, the truth lies somewhere in between – positives and negatives exist with both nitrogen and air. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the issue’s major points.
Tire Pressure – Nitrogen for the Win…Sort Of
All tires lose pressure over time. With larger molecules, nitrogen moves through the tire more slowly than air, maintaining pressure longer. However, Consumer Reports conducted an experiment to see if the benefits justify the cost and concluded that regular inflation checks on tires filled with air making it possible to spot losses more quickly. Thus, using nitrogen to maintain pressure has no added benefit if tires are regularly checked.
Cost and Convenience – Air, Of Course
Air is widely available and at little cost. You can fill up your tires at almost any service station, and many places will adjust tire pressure for free. Since nitrogen use is more recent, many facilities don’t have it yet. If they do, it can cost between $5 and $7 per tire, with a full upgrade costing sometimes $70 – $180. In addition, converting regular tires to nitrogen can be labor-intensive and expensive, as well.
Fuel Efficiency – Both
A 2008 Exxon Mobile study found nitrogen to have no effect on fuel economy. Since maintaining tire pressure is the surest way to maximize fuel, regular inflation checks are the best options.
Wheel Corrosion and Tire Aging – Nitrogen
Since air contains oxygen and oxygen negatively affects tire wall casing, using nitrogen can keep tires newer longer. However, some experts say that wear on the outside of tires happens before internal oxidation, so tires using nitrogen will still lose their tread.
Since both nitrogen and air have pros and cons, the question of which is right for you likely depends on how you use the vehicle. If you drive under normal conditions on a regular basis, nitrogen might not have any practical benefits. However, if your car is used infrequently (sitting in storage for stretches of time) or rarely driven long distances, nitrogen might prove beneficial. And remember, when in doubt, you can always ask a professional.
Call University Auto Repair at 928-433-0025 today!