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Does it make sense to add nitrogen to my tires?

Does it make sense to add nitrogen to my tires ? Why, or why not?

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I don't believe there is any real benefit to adding nitrogen to tires.

Here is what the tire manufacturers have to say:

In a position statement, Michelin North America Inc., Greenville, S.C., said nitrogen is “strongly recommended” for tires used in a high-risk environment or for use in some aircraft and in racing. . . . For all other tires in normal use, nitrogen inflation is not required and does not necessarily bring the expected benefit.”

It’s true that nitrogen reduces pressure loss from the natural permeability of the tire, and “the broad use of nitrogen will, in general, assist motorists with pressure maintenance,” Michelin said, but other possible sources of leaks, such as at the tire-rim interface, prevent the guarantee of better pressure maintenance for those using nitrogen inflation.

“There has not been any data presented to Bridgestone that there is a payback for the use of nitrogen instead of air for commercial tires,” said Guy Walenga, director of engineering for commercial products and technologies at Bridgestone Commercial Solutions, a unit of Bridgestone Americas, Nashville, Tenn.

And while some manufacturers acknowledged at least some benefit from nitrogen inflation, all stopped short of recommending it for trucking fleets.

Walenga said in a statement that the only proven, direct benefit for the use of nitrogen over dry air is better retention of inflation.

However, he added, “The use of nitrogen for the sole reason of better inflation retention is not significant enough for a fleet operation, and the use of nitrogen should not be considered the equivalent of a proper inflation-pressure maintenance program.

“We do not recommend that truck fleets switch over to nitrogen from air,” Walenga said. “The costs involved are not offset by the performance of nitrogen-filled tires.”

Nitrogen isn’t a rare gas. In fact, it makes up most of the atmosphere. The air we breathe consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon and trace amounts of other gases, including carbon dioxide.

So the value of nitrogen tire inflation isn’t the nitrogen itself. Instead, it’s what’s not inside that’s important.

“It’s not about the nitrogen; it’s about getting rid of water vapor and getting the oxygen out,” said Brian Brasch, president of Branick Industries, Fargo, N.D., which sells generators that fill tires with high-purity nitrogen.

Moisture and oxygen, he said, cause greater fluctuations in tire pressure and speed up the deterioration of tire quality.

Inflating tires with high-purity nitrogen, instead of regular air, removes the majority of the air’s detrimental contents, he said.

Nitrogen generators run off of shop-compressed air and filter out oxygen and water vapor — leaving about 95% to 99% pure nitrogen.

Dan Guiney, director of technical service at Yokohama Tire Corp., Fullerton, Calif., said in a statement that it is “OK” to use nitrogen, but it “does not change the requirement for regular tire-inflation pressure maintenance.”

“Our tires are designed to complete their full service life with normal atmospheric air inflation and regular maintenance of proper tire-inflation pressure,” he said.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Akron, Ohio, endorses nitrogen inflation for “certain sizes of earthmover tires used in particular applications” but said the issue of nitrogen inflation for over-the-road truck tires is “not quite so clear,” according to language from Goodyear’s radial truck tire and retread service manual provided by the company.

The manual concludes that “nitrogen inflation appears to have quite small, perhaps insignificant, advantages for over-the-road truck tires.”

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