Nitrogen - Yes or No?
What are the benefits to nitrogen? Hype vs Reality
1. Nitrogen increases fuel economy.
This is achieved through lower pressure variations and reduced permeability (see below for more info on each).
The fuel economy savings are very small. Manley Tire does not recommend you use this reason as the only reason for installing nitrogen.
2. Nitrogen increases tire longevity.
By removing oxygen, a tire filled with 'air' that does not chemically react with the tire will improve the longevity of the inside of the tire.
It will take many years before you start to see this benefit. Most people will wear out their tires before seeing any benefit from this. However; low-use trailers will benefit from nitrogen.
3. Nitrogen has lower pressure fluxuations and has greater temperature resistance.
Nitrogen is extremely resistant to changes in pressure as the temperature changes. And by reducing pressure changes, tires perform more consistently and wear more evenly.
Water vapor is the biggest culprit in causing a tires air pressure to change with temperature. Although impossible to completely eliminate, reputable shops like us have several devices attached to our air pressure system to scrape out as much water vapor as possible.
And with pressure sensor technology in tires, tire pressures that are too low or too high are reported to the driver before the benefits of nitrogen truly come into play. Although small benefits can be gained by using nitrogen for these issues, Manley Tire does not recommend you use this reason as the only reason for installing nitrogen.
4. Nitrogen is a bigger molecule, so it permeates through the tire slower
The nitrogen molecule, N2, is much larger than an oxygen molecule. Because tires are not truly airtight, the oxygen molecules leak out as much as 4 times faster than nitrogen.
This is true, but it doesn't help you if you get a nail hole. If you use a dealership that checks your tire pressure when changing the oil and/or you have tire pressure monitoring sensors, air pressure permeability is not an issue for you. However, a low-use trailer would get some benefit from this.
5. Nitrogen does not oxidize.
In fact, nitrogen will not chemically react with anything in a tire or in a rim. This means that the tire cords retain their strength longer and aluminum rims will not develop bead leaks from oxidization.
This does not help much for improving the tire's life (see #2 above), but is extremely beneficial to aluminum rims! This is the main reason why we will recommend nitrogen to our customers.
So when should nitrogen be used?
- If you have aluminum rims. Aluminum rims can develop bead leaks, which is a buildup of oxidized aluminum between the rim and the tire. This oxidized aluminum looks scabby, and allows the air in your tire to leak out. By removing oxygen from the air in your tire, you are preventing the oxidization, which prevents the bead leak.
- On some trailer tires. Low-use trailers tend to sit around a lot, and the tires can easily wind up failing because of age instead of wearing out. Nitrogen in low-use trailer tires will help the tires retain their air pressure longer. This will help prevent flatspotting (tire deformation due to sitting in one spot for a long time). Also, the lack of oxygen permeation will increase the life of the tire casing.
- If you have TPMS sensors. TPMS sensors have aluminum parts, and the oxidization problem that plagues aluminum rims can also irreparably damage the sensors.