Nitrogen tires

Nitrogen tires

Is it worth it to put nitrogen in our tires?  Is there any advantage to nitrogen?

Sort of. From the top: Air is 78 percent nitrogen, just under 21 percent oxygen, and the rest is water vapor, CO2 and small concentrations of noble gases such as neon and argon. We can ignore the other gases.

There are several compelling reasons to use pure nitrogen in tires.

Nitrogen tires.  Are they worth it?
Nitrogen tires. Are they worth it?

First is that nitrogen is less likely to migrate through tire rubber than is oxygen, which means that your tire pressures will remain more stable over the long term. Racers figured out pretty quickly that tires filled with nitrogen rather than air also exhibit less pressure change with temperature swings. That means more consistent inflation pressures during a race as the tires heat up. And when you’re tweaking a race car’s handling with half-psi changes, that’s important.  When your driving your Chevy sedan to work every day…it’s probably not that important.

Some dealerships and tire stores claim that filling your tires with nitrogen will save you money on gas while offering better performance than air. But a closer look reveals that nitrogen has few benefits and much higher costs. For starters, a typical nitrogen fill-up will cost you about $6 per tire.

Tire Pressure Check 

Visit Ron Westphal Chevrolet on the corner of routes 3o and 34 in Aurora, IL.  We are located right next to Plainfield and Naperville.  We’ll be happy to check your tire pressure at no charge.

Need more service?  Schedule an appointment online or call our service department today at 630-898-9630.

Why Nitrogen?
The Get Nitrogen Institute Web site says that with nitrogen tire inflation, drivers will note improvements in a vehicle’s handling, fuel efficiency and tire life. All this is achieved through better tire-pressure retention, improved fuel economy and cooler-running tire temperatures, the institute says.

This sounds great in theory but let’s take a closer look at each of those claims.

Cost and Convenience
Let’s say a person bought a set of tires at Costco, a place that uses nitrogen to fill all the tires they sell. If he needs to top off the tires with more nitrogen, he won’t be able to go to just any gas station. He can use regular air if there is nothing else available, but that would dilute the nitrogen in the tires. He’ll have to go back to Costco and wait until the tire technicians can attend to the car. On a busy day, he could be there awhile.

Nitrogen is free at Costco and at some car dealerships we called, but these are rare cases. We called a number of tire shops that carry nitrogen and found that the prices for a nitrogen fill ranged from $5-$7 per tire. Assuming our consumer was diligent about checking his tires monthly, he could potentially spend about $84 a year on nitrogen alone per tire. Compare that to the most gas stations, where air is free or a 75-cent fill-up for all four tires at the most.

Finding tire shops with nitrogen could be an issue, too. We called a number of large chains, including America’s Tire Co., Discount Tire and Walmart. None carried nitrogen.

Is Nitrogen Worth It?
The air we breathe is made up of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and a few other elements. To get the desired benefits for tires, nitrogen needs to be at least 93 percent pure, according to nitrogen service equipment providers quoted on Tirerack.com. So we’re basically talking about adding an extra 15 percent of nitrogen and getting rid of as much oxygen as possible.

Based on cost, convenience and actual performance benefit, we don’t think nitrogen is worth it. A much better use of your money would be to buy a good tire-pressure gauge and check your tires frequently. This is a good idea even if you have a tire-pressure monitoring system in your vehicle. The warning lights aren’t required to come on until you have less than 25 percent of the recommended tire pressure. Having the correct tire pressure will get you many of the benefits of using nitrogen and will ensure that your tires last longer.

Are your cars valve stems green?  Generally green valve stem caps mean your tires are filled with nitrogen.

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