We are all aware that we need to try to help save the planet’s resources, and it seems we are confronted with a new way to be more “green” on a daily basis. One of these crazes has been to fill the tires with Nitrogen instead of regular compressed air, but is there really an advantage to using Nitrogen? I decided to check into it, here is what I learned.
Almost 80 percent of the air that surrounds us now is Nitrogen, the remaining 20 percent is composed of; Oxygen, Argon, Carbon Dioxide, Neon, Helium, Methane, Krypton, Hydrogen, and Xenon. So, I had to ask will using pure Nitrogen even make a difference over the air we breathe already? To answer this and the other questions I had, I did some research on Nitrogen and used I also used it in my 1998 Ford F150 tires with aluminum wheels for one summer as a test.
Here is some Q&A on Nitrogen filled tires:
Q: Will Nitrogen hold the pressure in your tires longer than air?
A: This question is based on the fact that Nitrogen molecules are larger than other gas molecules that make up the air we breathe. The theory is that Nitrogen is too large to fit through the microscopic holes in the rubber compounds that make up our tires. This may be true, but the air loss in tires is from leaks at the rim seal or the valve stems where the size of the molecule would not matter.
Q: Did Nitrogen hold pressure longer in my truck tires?
A: No, I still had to check my tire pressure and fill it as often as before.
Q: Will Nitrogen in my tires keep my rim and from rusting?
A: This question is based on the myth that Nitrogen does not react to temperature changes like air, meaning that Nitrogen is an inert gas. Well, that’s not true. Nitrogen will react just like Oxygen at low temperatures but at higher temperatures Nitrogen will bond with other gases like Oxygen to make toxic compounds like Nitrogen Oxide, a very corrosive gas, so it is not inert. However, museums do use pure Nitrogen to keep rare works of art from decaying, as it does not react the same as Oxygen does. Nitrogen may not be an inert gas as it can bond with Oxygen, but if there is no Oxygen in any given environment, you cannot have corrosive oxides like rust, which is after all Iron Oxide. So, yes Nitrogen could in ideal conditions prevent corrosion, however inside your tire is far from a perfect condition. I could not verify if Nitrogen did anything in my truck tires to prevent corrosion, so I have no experience to draw upon to help answer this question.
Q: Will Nitrogen give me better gas mileage?
A: I have heard claims that Nitrogen can give you an increase in MPG by 1.6% due to the fact that it is slightly lighter than air and does not retain moisture. Nitrogen is slightly lighter than air however it is slightly soluble in water so moisture in your tire can lower the pressure, which will in turn lower your MPG. I noticed no increase in the MPG of my truck if anything over time it got a little worse.
Q: Will Nitrogen make my tires handle better?
A: This question based on the lighter than air factor of pure Nitrogen. All I can say on this is when I used Nitrogen in my truck it felt softer, a little squishy, and I felt a more disconnected from the road, this is not a feeling I would like to have on my bike.
Q: Where did people get the idea to use Nitrogen in their tires in the first place?
A: The only information I could find on this is that Nitrogen is used in airplane tires, but this is only due to the fact that Nitrogen is non-flammable and will not support combustion.
Q: Would I recommend using Nitrogen in your motorcycle, car or truck tires?
A: Taking into consideration all I learned, I would not recommend using Nitrogen in tires on any over the road vehicle, and I definitely do not recommend it in motorcycle tires due to the squishy feel of it in my truck tires. I think the extra charge of $5.00 a tire to get Nitrogen put in your tires is not worth it unless you really want the green valve stem caps that the garage puts on your valve stems when they fill your tires with pure Nitrogen.
-Ride smart, Biker Chad