Using Nitrogen in Tires

There are many benefits that stand to be gained from using nitrogen in tires in preference to regular air. Before delving into these numerous advantages let’s get to the basics first.

Nitrogen is an inert and dry gas that is commonly used to inflate tires on military vehicles, ATV’s, SUV’s, airplanes, off-road trucks and race cars for increased tire mileage, enhanced performance and greater fuel economy.

There is certainly no shortage to reasons why Nitrogen has over the years become more preferred to regular air, however, here’s a list to get you started:

  • Reduced wheel corrosion- Unlike with ordinary air, the rims don’t rust once the tire is removed.
  • Increases tread life thus effectively reducing tire-replacement costs.
  • Enhanced fuel mileage due to increased rollover
  • Tires run cooler
  • No chance of inner-liner rubber oxidation which leads to the deterioration of the tire since Nitrogen does not oxidize the rubber compounds that are in the tire.

To further understand the importance of using this inert gas the consumer should understand different classifications of inflation.

  • Correct Inflation
  • Under Inflation

Correct inflation is highly pertinent when determining high performance tires and durability. Though possible at times, it usually is not possible to tell whether nitrogen filled tires are under-inflated. Since inflation pressure plays a seminal role in determining the load capacity of the tire, under-inflation leads to a tire that is overloaded.

A nitrogen tire that is under-inflated functions at high deflection; consequently leading to extreme mechanical flexing, a reduced fuel economy and heat build-up which may lead to nitrogen for tires failure.

Tire industry experts settle on oxidative ageing as the main cause of reduced nitrogen for tires life. Oxidative ageing occurs when oxygen coming from the tire’s pressurized air cavity blends with the exterior atmosphere. Scientific research shows that Nitrogen-inflated tires have reduced chances of failure.

Why military vehicles, race cars and off-road vehicles use nitrogen to inflate their tires?

The regular air used to inflate tires has got 20% Oxygen content in it. At increased temperatures and pressures, oxygen reacts with other elements or compounds in a process known as oxidation. Rapid oxidation is also known as ‘burning’.

Nitrogen gas is popularly used in aircraft, for instance, run so hot to the extent that catching fire is a reality. Since Nitrogen is not combustible it is more preferred to air. In addition to significantly reducing chances of combustion, Nitrogen also plays an important role in preventing oxidation.

Steel and aluminum wheels are corroded by Oxygen and moisture. Additionally, Oxygen and rubber react with each other. Once the process begins it results into the breaking of tiny particles that form both dust and rust; consequently clogging rust valves.

This has a cascading effect; the rough surfaces that result from the corrosion lead to additional leaks since it’s no longer possible for the tire beads to seal properly. In addition, Oxygen is also known to age the thin layer of rubber that is located within the tires whose main purpose is to keep carcass away from the air.

More pressure losses are bound to happen as the inner liner ages since an increased amount of air molecules can pass through it. Up to 2 psi can be lost in truck tire pressure when the air permeates the atmosphere through the sidewalls. The steel cords are likely to be corroded too by the passing oxygen which would ultimately lead to rusting.

The Difference Between Oxygen and Nitrogen

Though both these gases can filter through rubber, (N2)  does it a much slower pace. You are most likely to lose 2 psi with Nitrogen over a period of 6 months compared to a month when you choose to use air. In addition, nitrogen for tires does not react as much as Oxygen does. Therefore, it doesn’t corrode aluminum or steel or even subvert rubber; making it a better alternative.

Wheel surfaces remain clean and smooth while the rubber remains resilient and supple.

Nitrogen lengthens the valve’s core life as it does not react with the valve’s rubber seal thus preventing leakage in the core.

When Oxygen is used, bits of debris and dust (that come about as a result of corrosion in the alloy rims and wheels) can lodge in the seat of the valve core leading to air leakage.

Another factor that distinguishes Nitrogen from air, is its ability not to hold on to moisture.

Air contains a lot of moisture and once compressed the water volume in the air increases. Water accelerates the corrosion process.  Water vapor has high heat absorption and tends to hold on to the heat. Once water converts from liquid to vapor, it expands exponentially causing tires to fluctuate more in pressure not to mention running hotter. Since racing tires rely a lot on pressure to determine handling characteristics, nitrogen tires is the gas of choice.

Benefits of Using Nitrogen on Truck Fleets

Fleet vehicle companies use this gas as one of the basic costs of their operation. This includes cost of blowouts, procurements and maintenance.

By using Nitrogen to inflate tires it is possible to allow for multiple tire retreading and to avoid premature casing failure with reliability and confidence.

Inflating tires with Nitrogen can extend tire life by up to 25% that is from 270,000 to 337,500 miles. This would cut costs by $120 per tire. This figure comes to $100,000 for a fleet that has about 900 tire positions.

By conducting preventive maintenance on 5 vehicles per day a truck fleet will cut costs by $31,250 every single year assuming that labor will be 250 days per year and $50 per hour.

Some Quick Facts

  • Nitrogen is an inert gas, which means it does not explode. It has a multiple uses; packaging and storing of coffee, snack foods and other items making it the most widely used in the US.
  • Nitrogen will reduce the number of faults identified by the TPMS by maintaining the right inflation in tires.
  • When you use Nitrogen to inflate tires you will still need to check the tire pressure, however, one thing that you will notice is that the tire pressure will be much more consistent unlike when you use air. This is actually one reason why you should inflate your spare tire with Nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen will not affect your Dyna beads as a matter of fact Nitrogen is the recommended gas for this tire balancing product.
  • If you have to add air to your tire, this should not be a concern as the minor amount will be a tiny percentage of the air/nitrogen ratio.

Is it Easy to Find?

For personal use, off road shops and motorcycle dealers you should buy tank-mounted systems.

A Nitrogen filling station would be most recommended for fleet operators, truck Dealerships, tire dealers and automobile dealerships.

Nitrogen for Tires

The N2 Deal

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Posted by Michael - October 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

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