Using nitrogen to fill your tires instead of regular air has been around for a few years, and is touted as having several advantages over just plain oxygen. Nitrogen, however costs a lot more than oxygen, and is not always available. Is it worth it? Read on to find out.
What do nitrogen proponents say about its advantages? The main preference of nitrogen over air is the stability of the air pressure from one gas versus another. Nitrogen has a larger molecule, and is therefore less likely to leak out of the rubber. This means that your air pressure stays at the recommended level, which leads to better handling, better fuel consumption and prolongs the life of the tires. Additionally, nitrogen will not mix with water, so there's no chance of moisture getting into the tires, which could cause tire dry rot.
Many consumers forget to check their tire pressure and some low tire pressure warning systems on newer vehicles aren't triggered until the under-inflation is at a serious stage. Proponents of nitrogen point to this consumer behavior as the main benefit of using nitrogen instead of air in tires, since the tires lose air pressure more slowly with a nitrogen fill.
On the other hand, the regular air you get at a gas station is already almost 80% nitrogen and costs only a few cents. Nitrogen on the other hand can cost up to $6.00 a tire and is available at only specific locations. There should be no issues with mixing nitrogen and air in the same tire if you cannot find a dealer, nor should there be any problems using a different gas on one or more tires.
A study by Consumer Reports found that nitrogen use in tires does slightly improve air retention, but the improvement is minimal. The study found only a 1.3 psi difference between nitrogen and air filled tires. The conclusion of the study was that the small improvement did not offset the much higher cost of nitrogen compared to air.
The bottom line is that there is no substitute for proper maintenance procedures. Make sure that you have a good tire pressure gauge and check your air pressure at least once a month. Know what your car maker recommends and keep it at that level, and save your money. According to Car Talk, your tire pressure is second only in importance to your brakes when it comes to your ability to stop your vehicle. Make sure to work with a company like Buettner Tire & Auto to keep your car maintained.