Properly inflated tires are crucial for your vehicle's safe and functional performance. However, there are different ways you can bring them to the correct psi. Apart from compressed air-filled tires, you can also have your tires filled with nitrogen.
But, why is putting nitrogen in tires so popular? Let's look at everything you need to know! This is your guide to nitrogen tires!
Basically, nitrogen tires are filled with pure nitrogen, instead of or in addition to air. Adding dry nitrogen to your tires comes with multiple benefits. Furthermore, when you see green caps on tires, it usually means that they are inflated with N2.
What else do you need to know? A lot.
However, first, let's talk about the science of nitrogen in tires.
The Science Behind Nitrogen-Filled Tires
Tires with nitrogen in them offer some benefits. But, how is this achieved?
All tires are prone to heat build-up during their everyday driving, which leads to minimal air pressure loss. It is normal for tires to lose 1-2 psi/month from regular driving. This is because temperature changes affect tire pressure in the long run. So, how is this possible?
When temperature rises, air pressure expands. This causes it to push against the tire. As tires are not completely airtight, they will let minimal pressure escape, reducing psi levels in the process. This is where tires filled with nitrogen help.
N2 has larger, slow-moving molecules. Therefore, nitrogen-inflated tires decrease the amount of psi leaving the tires during their regular performance, as this gas takes longer to expand. For this reason, they are able to handle higher temperature conditions and more driving pressure than regular tires.
What else do nitrogen-filled tires offer? Let's discuss the pros and cons of nitrogen in tires. Why use nitrogen in tires?
Prevents Wheel Corrosion
Topping proper tire pressure levels with nitrogen will help significantly decrease the possibility of wheel corrosion. This is because N2 is a dry gas and these nitrogen molecules reduce moisture inside the tire.
Therefore, nitrogen helps prevent wheel rusting better than dry air does. Moisture inside the tire causes rust to form on the rim, which will ruin its performance and durability.
Prevents Tire Rot
By avoiding moisture build-up inside the tires, nitrogen also helps to prevent dry rot. Dry rot happens when the tire loses its oils but can be accelerated by moisture trapped inside the tire.
Tire wear is also optimized in this manner. Temperature changes do not create pressure accumulation, which ensures slow and even wear as the tire is kept cool. This promotes a longer tire life.
A tire filled with nitrogen loses air pressure slower, lowering the possibility of the vehicle driving on underinflated tires. It avoids irregular and premature treadwear. However, you can also prevent this issue by checking inflation pressure levels regularly, even when they are nitrogen-fill tires.
Slower Loss of Tire Pressure
Tire air loss is normal. But, there is a difference between nitrogen and compressed air tires. You will need a nitrogen refill later, as N2 molecules move slower. When they warm up, minimal tire pressures leave car tires through their rubber.
Tires with nitrogen in them lose less psi throughout the month. However, the difference over a year is not enough to justify filling everyday tires with nitrogen.
Better Gas Mileage
Rolling resistance can also be affected. Pressure build-up along the rubber increases rolling resistance, which ruins the vehicle's fuel efficiency.
Since nitrogen tires prevent heat accumulation, they offer better fuel economy for a longer period of time. To ensure the longevity of this benefit, proper tire pressure levels need to be maintained. This includes regular tire maintenance.
Nitrogen vs. Air in Tires - Does it Actually Make a Difference?
When it comes to N2 vs. air tires, the difference for everyday driving is minimal.
Generally speaking, psi levels decrease during the tire's regular use. Air-filled tires lose about 1-2 psi/month. With nitrogen-filled tires, that loss is lower. The problem is that in the long run, over the course of a year, that difference is minimal - about 1.3 psi.
Additionally, when you fill your tires with compressed air, you are also adding nitrogen. Air consists of 79% of nitrogen and only 21% of oxygen. This N2 level is enough for it to protect the tire and provide benefits. For everyday drivers and commuters more is not necessary.
Can you fill green cap tires with air? Yes, because air has nitrogen in it as well.
The benefits of nitrogen tires are minuscule in everyday conditions. For such drivers, spending extra at the nitrogen fill stations is not worth it.
But, if this is true then why is nitrogen used in tires?
Nitrogen-filled tires offer exceptional performance for racing vehicles! Let's talk about it in the next section.
The Main Reason to Fill Your Tire with Nitrogen is Racing
Tire pressure increases as the tires get hot, which quickly happens during their racing applications. Racing vehicles equipped with nitrogen tires perform better. Nitrogen in the tires keeps them cool and prevents heat accumulation throughout the performance. As a result, they will guarantee safer high-speed durability.
On the other hand, if you don't own a racing car but really want nitrogen-filled tires, don't let us stop you. If you get a new car, have the cash to spend on tire maintenance, and live near nitrogen refill stations, go for it.
Make Sure to Check Inflation Pressure Regularly
Checking tire pressure levels often is important. No matter whether you have air- or nitrogen-filled tires on your vehicle, regular air pressure inspections will make sure the tire's lifespan is not shortened.
There is a myth about nitrogen-filled tires not needing refills. That is not true. While their pressure loss is slower, vehicle owners will still need to add pressure to the tires every other month (approximately).
Not following through with this will increase treadwear, ruin fuel economy, cause loss of traction, and damage its controllability.
Where to Get Nitrogen for Tires?
How to fill tires with nitrogen? You visit a tire shop!
The best practice is to have nitrogen tires installed, refilled, deflated, etc. at your local tire shop. Before filling tires with nitrogen, the air in them will need to be removed. For this reason, getting professional help would be ideal.
Ideally, you will also go back to the same place to refill the tires with N2. However, if the TPMS lights up, do not wait - mixing air and N2 is better than driving on underinflated tires.
Sadly, most of us cannot fill tires with nitrogen at home.
How Much Does it Cost to Put N2 in Tires?
Purchasing a new vehicle with nitrogen-filled tires will be between $70-$180. On the other hand, if you wish to have the tires filled with N2 later since they will need to deflate them, it will be about $30/tire. Refills are cheaper, as they are around $5-$7/tire. However, this is needed every 2-3 months.
Can You Put Regular Air in Nitrogen Tires?
The simple answer: Yes, you can.
However, let us explain! How can you put air in nitrogen tires?
Air consists of various gasses. It mainly has nitrogen and oxygen in it. More precisely, air contains 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen.
Therefore, if tires are inflated with air, instead of tire nitrogen, we will just dilute the nitrogen levels in the tire. Doing this, will not cause any issues as tires inflated in such a manner will still maintain their consistent pressure.
Can you Add Air to Tires Filled with Nitrogen?
Yes, mixing nitrogen and air in tires is possible. Air is made up of 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Therefore, when you add regular air to nitrogen tires, you will just dilute the nitrogen inside the tires.
How to Check Nitrogen Tire Pressure?
You need to check the psi for nitrogen-filled tires the same way as you do with regular air-filled tires. To do it, you need a tire pressure gauge that tells you the psi levels currently in the tire. Take off the valve stem, place the gauge on it, and the pressure inside the tire will show up on the display.
Where can I Get Nitrogen for My Tires?
Generally speaking, you will be able to find local tire shops that offer this service. A nitrogen tire fill will cost you about $30 per tire, but it depends on the tire garage you visit.