The internet has witnessed a long-drawn battle of wits and opinions on this particular question; what should you fill your car tyres with? Should you go for the regular everyday air? Or should you choose the much-hyped Nitrogen?

You might have come across some random post suggesting you to fill your car tyres with Nitrogen to get better fuel mileage or improved ride quality. But the problem is; is there some truth behind these claims? Does Nitrogen present itself as a better substitute to the humble ol’ air? We’ll try to answer these questions and put an end to this debate, once and for all. 

Well, for starters we’ll say one thing. To get the optimum fuel mileage always monitor the air pressure of your tyres. This is because tyres which are not inflated to the right pressure can cause problems like:

Tyre pressure monitoring system
Tyre pressure monitoring system| If you go this use it!
  1. A sudden drop in fuel mileage
  2. Bumpy or hard ride
  3. Wheel alignment issues
  4. Heavy steering feel
  5. Reduced stopping distance
  6. Wheel Rim damage
Besides, incorrect inflation can contribute to tyre wear

Now to answer the question we posed initially, let us look at the various pros and cons associated with using air and nitrogen to inflate the car tyres.

Using Air in Car Tyres

Normal, everyday air has been the go-to choice for motorists for what feels like forever. And it has been a smooth ride ever 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

  1. Compressed Air is easily available.
  2. Air is cheap to refill (even free of cost).

Disadvantages of using Air

  1. Air has the tendency to leak out over time leading to a loss in tyre pressure.
  2. Oxygen in the air can oxidize the tyre polymer accelerating tyre wear.
  3. Tyre pressure (with air) changes erratically with temperature.

Read: Spare Wheel Not Compulsory in a Car under these Conditions

We have seen the ups and downs of using regular air to fill up the tyre. Now, let’s see how Nitrogen fares.

Using Nitrogen in Car Tyres

Car Tyre Markings

Quoting basic science here; Nitrogen in its purest form is a non-reactive, non-combustible inert gas. Nitrogen has been used in race cars, aeroplanes and commercial vehicles for decades. It is only 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

  1. Tyres filled with Nitrogen won’t leak air and lose pressure. This is because Nitrogen molecules are larger than air molecules. 
  2. Nitrogen is non-reactive and won’t degrade tyre life (no moisture, no corrosion).
  3. Nitrogen in tyres will run cooler than air.

Disadvantages of using Nitrogen

  1. Refilling car tyres with Nitrogen is expensive.
  2. Nitrogen filling stations; although becoming popular, aren’t available everywhere.
  3. 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. Even though people cite improved ride quality as a reason to use Nitrogen in tyres, there really is not much evidence to back these claims. Besides, Nitrogen filling stations in India are notorious for selling impurities along with Nitrogen. So, good luck with getting 100% pure Nitrogen.

Tyre Condition affects the fuel mileage

So in the end, we can conclude this; if you are an average city commuter, paying for Nitrogen – when air is free – makes absolutely no sense. No, not even in the long run.

So, stick to regular old air and check the tyre pressure every week. Cheers!

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