Maintaining the correct tyre pressure level is one of the most important operational issues in a car. The standard approach is to use compressed air for this. Inflating wheels with nitrogen is a method that has been known for a very long time, however drivers have very divided opinions on this matter. Is this practice worthwhile?

a person inflating a car tyreAre there any tangible benefits from using nitrogen to inflate tyres?

Inflating wheels with nitrogen – what does it do?

The use of pure nitrogen to inflate tyres is a technique that causes extreme feelings among drivers. It has both a wide range of supporters and a multitude of opponents. The origins of this practice are rooted in motorsport. Cars equipped with tyres inflated with pure gas performed much better.

What’s more, such tyres were much more durable, especially in extreme conditions. Such good results have encouraged drivers to use this technique in their everyday driving.

What does inflating wheels with nitrogen do? In its pure form, this gas does not change its volume when exposed to temperature, does not react chemically with other elements and is not combustible. Using it to inflate tyres not only allows to maintain the correct pressure level, but also minimises the risk of blowout caused by temperature differences. Because of these chemical properties of nitrogen, the decision was made to start using it in the automotive industry.

Inflating wheels with nitrogen – advantages

Inflating wheels with nitrogen undoubtedly has many advantages. As a result, more and more drivers choose to take this step – both for economic reasons as well as a desire to improve driving comfort. How do we benefit by using such a solution?

The key benefits of this method include:

  • longer-lasting correct tyre pressure level: as nitrogen does not react to temperature changes, tyres inflated with it maintain the correct bar value even up to three times longer;
  • increased tyre durability: this gas does not react with the rubber and therefore does not accelerate its oxidation process. As a result, the service life of the tyres is also extended;
  • perfect tread shape: a tyre filled with nitrogen is more rigid and therefore – it retains its original shape. The tyres adhere better to the ground and can take full advantage of the handling characteristics of a given model;
  • reduced rolling resistance: by maintaining a correct tread shape, rolling resistance is reduced, making driving more economical;
  • smaller risk of tyre blowout: the physical properties of nitrogen reduce the risk of tyre blowout, significantly increasing the safety of the driver and passengers
  • lower fuel consumption: reduced rolling resistance and improved wheel adherence to the ground result in lower fuel consumption and fewer stops at the petrol station;
  • improved road safety: good tyre adhesion leads to shorter braking distances and increased car handling. Therefore, not only is driving comfort improved, but also the safety of the driver.

Inflating wheels with nitrogen – disadvantages

It might seem that inflating tyres with nitrogen is an almost perfect solution. However, this technique is not flawless. Drivers who have decided not to use compressed air have to face some pretty significant challenges.

The main inconveniences associated with this method are:

  • poor availability of nitrogen stations:one of the most important troubles is the small number of points offering this service. Unlike the air pumps available at almost every petrol station, services where the tyres can be filled with nitrogen are less common;
  • inability to inflate on your own: if needed, the driver will not be able to inflate the wheel themselves. This is simply because it requires refilling with nitrogen to maintain all the properties of this method;
  • hard to spot tyre damage:a maintained correct pressure level makes it much more difficult to catch new tyre losses. Therefore, choosing this solution requires a more regular check of the condition of the rubber in order to catch the first signs of tread damage;
  • difficulties in measuring the correct pressure level: it is very complicated to check by yourself whether your wheels have the correct bar value. In fact, you should not check the level with the air pump available at petrol stations;
  • costs:unlike the use of compressed air, inflating wheels with nitrogen is a paid service.

Differences between inflating wheels with nitrogen and air

In the case of nitrogen-filled wheels, it is more difficult to spot the first signs of damage or punctures. Unlike with air-inflated tyres, the driver will not be able to detect a problem quickly enough, which is why the condition of the tyres should be checked much more frequently.

If the pressure drops in nitrogen-inflated wheels, it should not be refilled with compressed air. Such a tyre, unless re-inflated with purified gas, will lose its handling characteristics, potentially resulting in uneven tread abrasion. Obviously, such a solution is acceptable in an emergency, but it is advisable to refill the wheel with pure gas soon afterwards.

Should you opt for such an alternative to compressed air, you may also want to think about selecting Run Flat tyres. The use of nitrogen in tyres can be problematic in the event of a sudden loss of pressure (e.g. from a puncture). Therefore, in order to avoid having your car immobilised, it is worth considering equipping your car with tyres with an extended mobility system that will allow you to reach the nearest service centre without having to call for help.

Regardless of the solution you choose, it is important to check the tyre pressure level regularly. If it is too low, it severely affects the handling characteristics of the assembled tyres and can significantly shorten their service life.

tyre with low air pressureBy inflating the wheels with nitrogen, the tyres maintain the correct pressure level for a longer period of time

Where can you inflate the wheels with nitrogen?

The number of places offering the possibility to inflate wheels with nitrogen is steadily increasing, but their availability is still very limited. This procedure can be found in tyre changing services equipped with a special generator. Using specific filters, it precipitates the remaining elements from the air and delivers the gas to the wheels in an almost pure form (up to 99%).

Some workshops offer nitrogen filling from a cylinder. However, this method is not as effective, and the mixture that goes into the tyres is only 92% of the desired gas.

Inflating wheels with nitrogen – price

An issue that may discourage drivers from using this technique is that not only is it a narrow niche service, but it is also a paid one. The cost of inflating wheels with nitrogen largely depends on the location of the workshop and the city in which it is based. The average prize for a tyre inflation is between 2 and 5€.

Is it cost-effective to inflate wheels with nitrogen?

Is it a good idea to go for nitrogen wheel inflation? There are extremely divided opinions within the driving community. Some consider it simply an unnecessary expense, while others cannot imagine using any other method. But is this solution suitable for everyone? The choice, of course, is up to the car owner.

There is no restrictions as to what type of vehicle can use nitrogen, although it should be noted that not every vehicle will benefit from this method. Such a solution is recommended especially in fields involving the transport of heavy loads over long distances. Among others, this applies to lorries, air transport, the mining or construction industries.