There has been a long battle of words and opinions on the internet on whether to fill the car tyres with normal, everyday Air or choose the much-hyped; Nitrogen. You might have even come across a random read suggesting you to fill your car tyres with Nitrogen for better fuel mileage, improved ride quality and what not. But, does it make a difference? should Nitrogen be a perfect substitute for the humble old Air? These are some daunting question we’ll be addressing here today in our effort to put an end to this debate, once and for all.
Well, for starters, it is of utmost importance to keep a close watch on the tyre pressure to ensure optimum fuel mileage. Improper tyre pressure can lead to a myriad of issues such as:
- A sudden drop in fuel mileage
- Bumpy or hard ride
- Wheel alignment issues
- Heavy steering feel
- Reduced stopping distance
- Wheel Rim damage
Using Air for Car Tyres
Normal, everyday Air has been the go-to choice for motorists for many many years and it has been a smooth ride since. Compressed Air is available almost everywhere and costs nothing (literally). You can find Air filling ports at almost every petrol station across India, offering the service free of cost.
Tired of visiting petrol stations just for a tyre pressure check-up? invest in a portable Air compressor (available online). These run off your car’s 12v socket and can save you the trip to the petrol stations every time.
Fact: Air in our atmosphere is 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen, with the 1% being CO2, water vapour, inert gases etc.
Advantages of using Air:
- Compressed Air is easily available.
- Air is cheap to refill (even free of cost).
Disadvantages of using Air:
- Air has the tendency to leak out over time leading to loss in tyre pressure.
- Oxygen in the Air can oxidize the tyre polymer causing accelerated tyre wear.
- Tyre pressure (with Air) changes erratically with temperature.
Using Nitrogen for Car Tyres
Quoting basic science here; Nitrogen in its purest form is a non-reactive, non-combustible inert gas. Nitrogen has been utilized in race cars, aeroplanes, commercial vehicles for decades. It is now that Nitrogen is starting to pick up in India, as an alternative to using Air in the car tyres. You might have seen a few Nitrogen filling stations popping aside regular Air stations.
Think of Nitrogen as premium fuel compared to Air which is a regular unleaded fuel.
Advantages of using Nitrogen:
- Nitrogen molecules being larger than that of Air, don’t leak thereby sustaining adequate tyre pressure.
- Nitrogen is non-reactive and won’t degrade tyre life. (no moisture, no corrosion).
- Nitrogen in tyres will run cooler than Air.
Disadvantages of using Nitrogen:
- Refilling car tyres with Nitrogen is expensive.
- Nitrogen filling stations; although becoming popular, aren’t available everywhere.
- Nitrogen cannot be mixed with Air (and vice-versa).
So, should I switch to Nitrogen for my car tyres?
Hold on there! Not so fast.
If you’re the “work-office-work” type of commuter, then the cost of filling your car tyres with Nitrogen far outweighs any benefit it provides.
In fact, the fuel savings with using nitrogen is so insignificant that you won’t even notice any difference. Another claim for using nitrogen cites improving the ride quality, which hasn’t been substantiated yet. Nitrogen filling stations in India are notorious for selling impurities along with Nitrogen so, good luck with getting 100% pure Nitrogen.
In the end, it comes to this conclusion that, if you are an average city commuter; paying for Nitrogen (when Air is free), make absolutely no sense even in the long run. Stick to regular old Air and check the tyre pressure every week. Cheers!