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SHOULD YOU FILL YOUR TIRES
WITH AIR OR NITROGEN?

The air that we breathe is 78% nitrogen, about 21% oxygen, and the remaining 1% consists of water vapor, CO2 and other noble gases. This air is commonly used to fill tires as well, however, more and more drivers are beginning to fill their tires with nitrogen instead because it provides different benefits. Using nitrogen instead of air in tires is a growing trend, but does it make sense for your tires? There are five main points to keep in mind when deciding between nitrogen and air for your tires.

Pros

Maintaining Tire Pressure
Race car drivers use nitrogen in their tires instead of air largely because tire pressure remains more stable over a long duration. Due to having microscopic pores, inflating gases such as air and nitrogen seep out of tires over an extended period of time. Nitrogen has larger molecules than air, which causes nitrogen to seep out slower. This slow seep allows nitrogen filled tires to maintain their pressure longer.

These larger molecules also mean that nitrogen is less prone to expanding and deflating based on the temperature. Typically, air inside of a tire expands when the temperature rises and deflates when the temperature drops. Pure nitrogen stays consistent regardless of temperature, so tires do not need to be filled on the first cold day of the year.

It is, however, still important to check tire pressure regularly regardless of how the tires are filled since the majority of tire blowouts are cause by under inflated tires.

Fuel Economy
Tire pressure drops increase the rolling resistance of a vehicle’s tires, and this is one of the main factors in a decrease of fuel economy. Many studies have been conducted on this topic, but there has yet to be a consensus among experts. Some studies have found that nitrogen filled tires can increase as vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 10% while others have only seen a 0.3% increase at most.

As a reminder, it is important to check tire pressure monthly so that tires are kept at the recommended inflation pressure. Pep Boys offers standard tire pressure gauges and digital tire pressure gauges which allow drivers to easily check their tire pressure.

Tire and Wheel Corrosion
While filling tires with air, regular or compressed, might be the more affordable and convenient option, there are negative side effects. Water vapor is part of the 1% of air which is not nitrogen or oxygen and it is a natural by-product of compressed air. Only small amounts of water vapor are typically pumped into a tire along with air, however, this can add up over time and eventually lead to corrosion, deterioration, and, eventually, failure.


Cons

Cost
The cost of filling your tires with nitrogen tends to vary, but it’s typically $5 or more per tire. That might not seem like a lot, but keep in mind that all of the air in a tire must first be drained before the tire is filled with nitrogen as nitrogen must be above 93% pure to be effective. It is important to note that air can still be used in tires, such as in the event of a deflation, without any risks but the air will have to be removed from the tires at a later point.

An upgrade from air to nitrogen can prove to be costly, as some installers charge more than $100. Simply put, filling your tires with air is more cost efficient than filling your tires with nitrogen.

Type of Driving
Race car and professional drivers tend to fill their tires with nitrogen instead of air because nitrogen filled tires maintain their pressure longer and have some benefits for fuel economy. That being said, it might not be necessary for someone who only drives to and from work to fill their tires with nitrogen instead of air as they probably won’t do as much extended driving. The ASE-Certified technicians at Pep Boys can help determine whether or not nitrogen is best for your tires based on your driving needs and habits.
Using nitrogen to fill tires definitely has benefits, such as consistent tire pressure and slightly better fuel economy, but is important to consider many factors before deciding to replace the air in your tires. Is the cost of using nitrogen worth it? Does it make sense for someone who primarily drives locally to upgrade to nitrogen?

Whether or not nitrogen is right for your tires, it is important to check your tires at least once a month to ensure that tire pressure is correct as doing so will help extend tire wear, provide boosts to fuel economy and hinder tire blowout. Pep Boys can help you monitor tire pressure, identify tire warning signs and learn how to properly take care of your tires. Blowouts due to under inflation happen, but Pep Boys has you covered with our tire services.


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