As a car owner, you know the importance of maintaining the exterior of your tires. While it’s true that tread depth, sidewall condition, and tire type can affect your car’s handling, gas mileage, and maintenance needs, what’s inside your tires can be just as important as what’s outside.
Many vehicle owners choose to fill their tires with nitrogen rather than air to improve tire performance from the inside out. In our previous blog, “The Top 4 Benefits of Nitrogen-Filled Tires,” we listed some of the primary reasons why vehicle owners switch to this gas. In this blog, we provide you with the information you need to decide which substance you want in your tires.
If chemistry isn’t your subject, you may wonder why nitrogen is the air alternative of choice in the automotive industry. Nitrogen gas is used for tires because air is made up primarily of nitrogen. In fact, air contains more than 75% nitrogen, a little less than 25% oxygen, and small amounts of water vapor and several other gaseous elements.
Using nitrogen essentially eliminates the components of air that aren’t necessary for automotive purposes. In fact, many experts who recommend nitrogen do so because of the potential water content of conventional air. Water vapor can build up inside tires, increasing the rate of rubber decay. By comparison, nitrogen is almost completely dry.
Where Do You Get Nitrogen?
Filling car tires with nitrogen is far from a universal practice. While you can find an air pump at most gas stations, you will almost always have to find a nitrogen distributor to switch from air to nitrogen or to get your tires topped off with nitrogen gas.
One of the main factors when deciding if nitrogen is a better choice for your tires is accessibility. If there are no garages, service centers, or suppliers near where you live, it may be more difficult or more expensive for you to use nitrogen.
Luckily, once you switch to nitrogen-filled tires, you only need to return to the distributor when your tires get particularly low. Contrary to what many vehicle owners believe, there are no harmful effects from adding a small amount of air to a nitrogen-filled tire. The air could reduce the overall efficiency of the nitrogen but would not negate the benefits of nitrogen inflation unless you used more than 50% air in your tires.
How Does Performance Compare?
Both air and nitrogen can keep tires inflated to the correct pressure. When your tires are completely inflated, they will perform the same regardless of which substance the tires contain. The real difference in performance comes from comparing how nitrogen and air dissipate.
Nitrogen tends to:
- Help drivers maintain a higher gas mileage because the tires stay at a more desirable pressure.
- Keep tires inflated to the optimal pressure for longer because, unlike air, nitrogen does not escape through the tire rubber.
- Provide better tire condition over time due to lower internal temperature and moisture levels.
You can read about these advantages in more detail in our benefits blog mentioned in the introduction.
How Does the Cost Compare?
Nitrogen is almost always a bigger investment than air if only because you have to get the gas from a distributor. Generally, filling your tires with air yourself at a gas station costs between 1 and 2 dollars. Filling your tires with nitrogen typically costs between 5 and 10 dollars per tire.
If your tires currently contain air rather than nitrogen, you can also expect to pay a service fee when you decide to switch. In most cases, this fee is in the same price range that you would expect to pay for an oil change. If you’re in the market for new tires, your tire supplier offers nitrogen filling for new purchases so that you don’t have to switch over in the future.
The higher cost of nitrogen may be worth it to you if you fit into any of the categories discussed in the next section.
Who Should Consider Nitrogen?
Nitrogen can be a smart investment for any vehicle owner. This gas is compatible with all types and sizes of tires. However, nitrogen isn’t essential for every driver.
You should strongly consider switching to nitrogen if you:
- Drive a high-performance vehicle
- Frequently travel to different climates that could increase the rate of air loss
- Live in a particularly cold or particularly warm climate, since extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum can affect your tires
- Prefer to check and top off your tire inflation less often, especially if you have trouble operating a gauge or air pump due to a physical condition
- Use high-quality tires and hope to extend their lifespan for as long as possible
Think nitrogen is the right decision for your tires? Visit Evans Tire & Service Centers and discuss your options with an expert to switch to nitrogen-filled tires today.