Nitrogen (vs. Air) in Your Tires

There are a lot of good reasons (as Jay Leno explains in the YouTube video) why putting Nitrogen in your tires instead of air is preferred.

As reported by the non-profit Get Nitrogen Institute, the following information is worth considering:

“Think Globally, Act Locally”

You can save $, improve your vehicle’s safety plus help make our world a better place by filling your tires with nitrogen. It sounds trite, but it’s true.

Nitrogen in tires maintains proper pressure, keeps the recommended “contact patch” on the road longer and reduces rolling resistance. That translates to better fuel economy, safer driving, and fewer toxic emissions into our atmosphere.

But that’s not all. With more consistent pressure, your tires won’t wear as fast. Theoretically, if everyone used nitrogen we could decrease the demand for tires. Manufacturing fewer tires would decrease pressure on natural resources used in the process, lower toxic emissions coming from manufacturing plants, decrease shipping of tires and? … well, you get the idea.

When it comes to protecting the environment, every little bit helps. You can pitch in by using nitrogen in your tires.
But don’t just take our word for it.

If you are one of the 85% of Americans who don’t regularly check tire pressure, you need nitrogen.

We take in nitrogen with every breath. Air is composed of:

  • 1% Water Vapor and Other Gases – Escapes up to 250 times faster than Nitrogen
  • 21% Oxygen – Escapes 3-4 times faster than Nitrogen
  • 78% Nitrogen – The largest molecule in air, dry, non-flammable.

Because of their large size, nitrogen molecules are the least permeable and stay in your tire longer.
It’s not about the nitrogen. It’s about reducing oxygen, water vapor and other gases.

By reducing the percentage of oxygen, water vapor and other gases in your tires from 22% to 7% or lower, your tires will maintain proper pressure longer than if you use “plain old air.” For example, with 95% nitrogen in your tires, they retain optimal pressure three to four times longer.

Proper tire pressure is a big deal. Maintain it with nitrogen, and you’ll see these three primary benefits:

  • Increased Fuel Efficiency – Correct tire pressure keeps the manufacturer’s recommended “contact patch” on the road. This lessens the rolling resistance and maximizes fuel efficiency.
  • Longer Tire Life – When it comes in contact with other materials, oxygen causes oxidation. Oxidation can make rubber brittle and cause it to lose tensile strength. In addition, at high temperatures and pressures, oxygen reacts and damages inner tire liners and belt packages; nitrogen does not.
  • Increased Safety – Under-inflated tires cause 90% of blowouts. Nitrogen provides more reliable pressure for reduced blowout potential.

Other Benefits:

  • Improved TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) performance – If you have a new car, you likely are plagued by a flashing light telling you your tire pressure is low. For example, one woman’s light was going off every four to five weeks. After inflating with nitrogen, her light didn’t reappear for 53 weeks!
  • More Predictable Pressure Fluctuation – NASCAR teams use nitrogen so they can more accurately predict tire pressure fluctuation. Regular compressed air can fluctuate considerably when water vapor is present.
  • Longer Rim Life – Rim rust caused by condensation from water vapor and other gases can get caught in valves and create slow leaks in tires. Nitrogen is completely dry, so it eliminates the potential for condensation.

Who Else Is Using Nitrogen?

  • NASCAR – NASCAR teams use nitrogen because it allows them to more accurately predict tire pressure fluctuation. Nitrogen fluctuates with temperature change, but it does so less than when water vapor is present. Read On… In addition, higher nitrogen levels eliminate the explosive properties of oxygen (oxygen loses its explosive properties at around 9% or less) … NASCAR uses bottled nitrogen for portability.
  • Commercial Airlines – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires nitrogen in all commercial aircraft tires to eliminate the potential for water vapor (inherent in normal compressed air) from freezing at high altitudes. In addition, aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing use nitrogen membranes in their On-Board Inert Gas Generation Systems (OBIGGS) to “top” fuel tanks with nitrogen – an inert gas that does not support combustion.
  • U.S. Government – NASA and the U.S. military use nitrogen for many of the same reasons it used in commercial aircraft.
  • Food Processors and Packagers – Oxygen hastens both the chemical breakdown and microbial spoilage of many foods. Think meat, potato chips, cookies, etc. To help preserve foods longer, processors and packagers often use modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and controlled atmosphere packaging (CAP) that replaces some or all of the oxygen in the air inside the package with nitrogen.

How is nitrogen separated from other gases in air?

Membranes are the heart of any nitrogen system. Just like a tire, the membranes are permeable. When thousands of these permeable tubes are filled with air at high pressures, smaller molecules leak out while the larger nitrogen molecules travel through the tubes into a holding tank to fill your tires or for other uses.

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