Both nitrogen and compressed regular air are common in automobile tires, although the debate about which one outperforms still persists. Ironically, the scarcity of nitrogen filling stations has thrown drivers in a new dilemma: will air and nitrogen coexist in harmony?
As someone who has had a handful of experiences with all three types, we have a lot to share with you. Keep scrolling for more.
In this article:
Can You Fill Air in Nitrogen Tires or Vice Versa?
Yes, you can; its benefits can not live up to a 100% nitrogen-filled tire but outweigh a regular air-filled tire.
To explain, a mixture of nitrogen and air still has much less water vapor than full-air tires, which helps mitigate some of the latter’s drawbacks and results in a more balanced pressure. It’s hard to experience off-center steering control or bad mileage as many expected.
Nevertheless, to experience the full-fledged effects of air-nitrogen tires, mixing them must be a regular pattern. In simpler terms, adding air and nitrogen to the same tire for EVERY inflation session is a must.
Otherwise, occasional blends with months (or even years) apart will not deliver many advantages compared to regular car tires. That is partly why most drivers either choose compressed air-filled or nitrogen-filled tires for less of a hassle.
Plus, such a daring mixture DOES pose some risks on the horizon. Sudden nitrogen addition might create instant inflation that hardens the tires and, in turn, worsen the braking and handling performance. Accidents and collisions in those cases are inevitable.
What about adding air to a nitrogen-filled tire? Doing so is not worth the hassles.
Thermal expansion (especially at high temperatures) is a risk you should not skim over, as air pressure can surge by 4-5 PSI when it’s hot. It happened once to my Jeep and broke the tire surfaces; thankfully, there were no passengers or vehicles on the road at the time.
That’s not to mention the shorter inflation interval since air tends to escape more than nitrogen.
So, all in all, while there are indeed tons of amazing benefits to consider, caution is required to sidestep unfortunate mishaps.
Nitrogen versus Air Tires: Which One Is Better?
Now that we all agree air to nitrogen tires might not be for everyone, let’s return to the decades-old debate between nitrogen and air. Which one is better?
Compressed air tires are the most common and accessible ones – and hence, do not need much discussion. Instead, I would love to give more spotlights to its nitrogen counterpart:
1. The Benefit Behind Nitrogen Tires
Long gone are the days my tires underinflated on their own in cold, chilly mornings! Nitrogen tires are a wonderful lifesaver to my Jeep in this regard.
Regular tires lose pressure quickly, especially in severe drop in temperature: for every 10-degree temp reduction, 1 PSI is lost. Such dilemmas are never the case for nitrogen molecules, which are significantly larger than oxygen molecules and never suffer from excessive temperature fluctuation. My Jeep feels more stable than ever!
Greater Fuel Efficiency
Underinflated tires hamper gas mileage, forcing low-air tires to waste more fuel to compensate for the pressure loss. But with nitrogen tires, my Jeep’s air pressure barely bulges, rewarding me with much better gas efficiency.
Better Tire Life
I bet you do not really need an explanation here: since nitrogen tires take longer to lose inflation pressure over time, their wear rate also slows down.
Little did you know, oxygen and water vapor in air are silent killers. While O2 gradually degrades the rubber through the thermo-oxidative process, water vapor eats up the aluminum or steel rims via corrosion.
So with nitrogen, the tire lifespan is stretched longer as a result, a total contrast to the cheap compressed tires I used to buy!
Let’s put two and two together:
- Proper air pressure
- Better fuel economy
- Slower tire wear
- Fewer emissions
- Better tire life
Doesn’t all of this mean there will be much fewer demands for tire replacements? As manufacturers are no longer in urgent need of natural resources for tire production, our environment will benefit tons from that.
2. The Drawbacks of Nitrogen Tires
I almost forgot one very important fact: compressed, regular air contains 78% nitrogen. What does that mean? Well, a lot of unwanted inconveniences.
- The air concentration must never be below 93%. To achieve that number, I had to purge the tires multiple times.
- Although filling nitrogen tires with regular air is alright, purging is still required to maintain the nitrogen’s expected benefits.
- Some asked me, Why not use pure nitrogen in the first place? As frustrating as it is, nitrogen is not the most accessible substance in my town. Using compressed air as a substitute is more of a need than a choice.
On another note, service stations charge quite a lot for nitrogen inflation, while compressed air is usually free. I am not exactly the richest man around, which is why my wife kept bugging me to change back to air-filled tires.
And most importantly, nitrogen is not immune to pressure loss. Under extreme external temperature changes (below zero), its performance does not differ that much from everyday tires, in all honesty.
Nitrogen leaves air tires in the dust regarding overall performance; no one could ever deny that!
Nevertheless, the complicated concentration ratio, pricey tag, and limited accessibility make it a less desirable choice compared to normal air-filled tires. Tires with air are still my ultimate option at the end of the day.
How Often Should You Check Nitrogen Tires?
Nitrogen’s diffusion has a slower rate – about 2/3 or 1/3 of regular air. However, that is still a bit too fast for my liking.
Hence, I often check my Jeep every month to play on the safer side. Ignoring the tires for longer than that, and I cannot guarantee your car is kept away from danger!
What Is The Recommended Tire Pressure For Cars?
32 to 35 PSI (pounds per square inch) is the proper tire pressure range for both nitrogen and regular-air tires.
Failure to keep consistent pressure within this range cracks the rubber tire walls twice faster than usual due to built-up heat, causing untimely blowouts amidst your regular driving trip!
FAQs on Nitrogen with Air Tires
Can You Add Nitrogen Gas to Any Tire?
Yes, but it would be best to confirm with the manufacturer, tire center, or auto shops first.
How Much Does It Cost to Refill Nitrogen Tires?
Nitrogen tire inflation costs about $80 to $150 per tire at regular tire shops. Quite a huge sum, especially compared to the $2 (sometimes even free-of-charge) regular-air inflations at gas stations.
Although 100% air-filled tires are my favorite for both everyday driving and road trips – due to their affordability and accessibility – tires with nitrogen do live up to their cost.
So weigh the pros and cons to choose the better deal for optimal tire performance, and write to me if you still struggle with air with nitrogen tires.