Should You Fill Your Car’s Tires with Nitrogen?
Should your tires be inflated with nitrogen instead of good old regular air? According to the Get Nitrogen Institute, using nitrogen in tires will provide improvements in a vehicle’s tire life, fuel efficiency, handling and safety. I wonder if nitrogen-filled tires would be considered as a safety factor to lower car insurance rates?
The Get Nitrogen Institute states these benefits can be realized through three key areas:
• Better tire-pressure retention
o A Consumer Reports study in 2006 showed nitrogen reduced pressure loss over time, by a 1.3 psi difference from air-filled tires.
• Improved fuel economy
o EPA says that under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires.
• Cooler-running tire temperatures
o Pressurized air in gas station air storage tanks contain humidity which condenses to a liquid. When this compressed air is added to tires, the tires heat up during driving and increase tire pressure.
Using compressed nitrogen instead of compressed air isn’t a new concept. Race cars, commercial airplanes and the military have used it for years.
• Race cars use nitrogen to maintain more consistent inflation pressures during a race as the tires heat up.
• A superheated aircraft tire filled with compressed air can be an explosion hazard during landing.
• Nitrogen is used by the military because it does not promote corrosion and is not a combustible danger.
It’s estimated that 86 to 91percent of American cars have under-inflated tires. In fuel costs alone, this under-inflation wastes drains fuel economy by up to three percent. This loss translates into some 2.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted out of 134 billion gallons burned annually.
Fully Inflated Tires are Safer
• Besides saving gas and money, properly inflated tires are less likely to fail at high speeds.
• Under-inflated tires contribute to increased stopping distances on both wet and dry surfaces.
• Under-inflated tires are factors in many SUV rollover accidents.
• Properly inflated tires also wear more evenly and will last longer.
Finding a nitrogen “filling station” at a tire shop can be a hassle… and costly. Although nitrogen is free at Costco and at some car dealerships, in general, filling a tire with nitrogen may set you back up to $10 per tire. In addition, the purity of nitrogen available from nitrogen generators can be inconsistent, generally ranging from 95% (low purity) to 99.9% (high purity).
Are Nitrogen Tires Worth It?
Based on cost, convenience and actual performance benefit, nitrogen-filled tires don’t give you enough bang for your buck. The answer? Invest your money wisely and buy a quality tire-pressure gauge and check your tires regularly. What if your car has a tire-pressure monitoring system – isn’t that all you need? Nope — the low pressure warning lights aren’t required to come on until you tire has less than 25 percent of the recommended tire pressure. Maintaining the correct tire pressure by frequently checking them with a tire gauge will ensure that your tires last longer, give you better fuel efficiency, handling and safety. And speaking of getting the most bang for your buck, when’s the last time you got a quote on your car insurance?
Do you think nitrogen-filled tires are better than using regular air? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.