Nitrogen?

February 5th, 2016

COURTESY OF CONSUMER REPORTS

Should you use nitrogen in your tires? Some shops may try to persuade you to fill your tires with nitrogen instead of regular air in order to get better fuel economy and longer tire life. Sometimes the nitrogen service is free, but it can also run $3 to $10 per tire. We say, save your money. The claimed benefits are based on the fact that nitrogen molecules don't leak through a tire's sidewall rubber as easily as regular air (which, by the way, is made up of about 80 percent nitrogen). Therefore, the tires will retain their recommended pressure longer. The reality is that if you check and maintain your tires' pressure on a regular basis, you'll get the same benefits that are claimed for nitrogen. When we tested nitrogen-filled tires versus tires inflated with regular air, we found that all of the tires lost pressure over time. On average, nitrogen did leak more slowly, losing 2.2 psi over the course of a year versus 3.5 psi for air. But either way, you still need to check your tire pressure regularly to maintain it at the recommended level. So, why pay for nitrogen? Moreover, if you are losing pressure due to a slow leak, rather than normal leakage through the tire's sidewall, nitrogen won't help. If you commit to using pure nitrogen and need to top off a tire, you'll need to go to a nitrogen-filling location or tire shop. Bottom line: Using pure nitrogen in your tires won't harm your tires, but it provides little benefit on passenger cars.

Posted in: Maintenance

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