Nitrogen – its a gas

As part of my preparation for this road trip I tried out something new.  I went to a local car dealership and had the air in my tires cleaned out and exchanged for nitrogen gas. 

I had known that NASCAR was using it in the race tires and that the military used it, but I had not know that it was so readily available.  It was from a company called NitroFill that has dealer outlets all over the nation.  Even one in LasCruses, NM.

I have always advocated to folks to check their tire pressures.  Tire pressures tend to change with changes in weather, temperature, changes in altitude, etc.  Knowing that I have traveled over 2000 miles and certainly have gone through several altitude changes I fully expected that I would have to top off the tires with more nitrogen.

I went to the NitroFill web site, searched on dealers in New Mexico, found that one was about 4 miles from where I am staying and drove over.  They pulled my car right in and hooked the tire’s valve stems to the machine.  The tire pressures were perfect!

I was stunned, happily stunned.  The technician explained that so far no one who has used nitrogen has had to get the pressures fixed. 

Wow, this is great.

I’ll keep checking as the trip and the miles continue, but it sure looks like a great way to fill your tires.  Regular pressurized air contains moisture and oxygen.  Both of those are not that nice to your tires.  Nitrogen is denser than air and therefore is not as likely to leak.  With no oxygen and water my alloy wheels are better protected and the tires are less likely to rot from the inside out.

If any of you have had similar experiences, let us know.

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7 Responses to Nitrogen – its a gas

  1. Tim says:

    That’s awesome Jim, I think I’m sold on it. I’m tired of worrying about adjusting my tire pressures. I don’t have an air compressor so I have to rely on generally crappy gas station compressors. The one I always use near my house doesn’t like to seal properly with one of my valve stems, no matter how I angle it. So what does it do? Let air out, not put it in – just lovely.

    You’ll have to let me know how much that ran you.

  2. markitude says:

    Jim,

    Last year, the Apex Fire dept, had a BBQ diner in the downtown fire station. One of the garage bays was cleared out and filled with tables where we all sat to eat. The walls were fairly plain to look at, and so I studied There large Air compressors, mutil stage unit for ramping up to 3000-5000 PSI to fill their breather tanks. There was also a rather prominent 80 gallon tank with all kinds of plumbing that said “Nitrogen” on it. Obviously, they fill the truck tires with Nitrogen as well.

    Tim, going with Nitrogen shouldn’t stop you from getting a good aircompressor – there are all kinds of nifty tools you can run with it, and once set up, you’ll never know now you got along with out it.

  3. Noel says:

    Let me be the curmudgeon. Regular air is 78% nitrogen. OK, it has oxygen and other stuff, including moisture, too. I fail to see, except theoretically, what the additional 28% of nitrogen really does. There may be a teensy difference on a race car, but not on a road car.

    Other than apparently not having to check air pressures and top off, where is the real value? I maybe add 2-3 pounds per car (we have 3 cars) once a month. Also, I’ve had alloy rims on cars for 30 years and never had the rims degrade internally –or the tires rot from the inside. And anyway, since the sticky tires we all buy tend to wear out in a couple of years, there isn’t much chance of the tire rotting from contact with the air inside it. They are, after all, designed to hold regular air.

    IMHO, buying 100% nitrogen for tires is just a way to separate dollars from one’s wallet. I tend to put it in the same category as those magic fuel “pills” that are supposed to give you better gas mileage.

    Told you I was going to be a curmudgeon.

  4. Tim says:

    As much as I want a good air compressor, I need a good place to keep it before I can buy one. The closets in our car port are tiny… 😦

  5. DaveB says:

    Nitrogen is actually a little less dense than air. Air is about 78% nitrogen, but it contains some heavier gases, notably oxygen. The atomic weight of nitrogen is 14.008, and of oxygen 16.000. Since a mole of gas contains an Avogadro’s number of molecules, and all moles of gas occupy the same volume (22.4 liters per gram-mole at standard temperature and pressure), nitrogen weighs less than an equivalent volume of air, and therefore is less dense.

  6. Joanne C says:

    Well to start, air is 78% nitrogen and actually only about 21%O so we all ride on mostly nitrogen as it is. Our used car needed to get its tire pressure adjusted and we were told by the local Jiffy Lube that they couldn’t add air to the tires because they had green caps! Green caps, my husband was told means the tires are filled with nitrogen and they were not allowed to add air. He said air would cause all kinds of trouble but he wasn’t sure why.

    Well the local tire store added air and reassurance and it seems what we need is a set of black caps.

  7. jimsgarage says:

    Joanne –

    Jiffy Lube folks are easily confused. At their level of compensation they don’t attract the brightest nor most informed bulbs in the pack.

    You can have nitrogen filled tires topped off with compressed air if nitrogen isn’t available. Obviously mixing the two won’t cause any problems other than the tire won’t benefit from an environment of pure nitrogen. You can go to a nitrogen tire filling service like Nitro-Fill and they will flush the tire of air and make sure that you get back to nitrogen. If you are a Nitro-Fill customer they will do it for free.

    Yes, air is about 78% nitrogen to begin with. The real deal with nitrogen in the tires is what it gets rid of. Done properly, filling with nitrogen flushes the tire of oxygen and water that is contained in compressed air. Those two elements in particular have their down sides when used in tires. Oxygen atoms naturally like to combine with all sorts of stuff so it tends to oxidize the tires from the inside out. That is why car collections on display in museums will have the tires filled with pure nitrogen.

    Getting rid of water vapor that is usually found in compressed air also makes a big difference. For one thing it helps to keep the tire temperatures much more stable and is why nitrogen is used in race cars. On the street, water in tires can make them feel like they have flat spots when you first drive off in the morning. The water condenses over night and forms small puddles that affect the balance of the tires until they heat up and it turns back to vapor.

    There are real benefits to filling tires with just nitrogen. We see it on the race track in terms of stability and predictability while long haul truckers have found better mileage from doing so. It is used in military and civilian aircraft as well as bicycle racing.

    It is not a miracle gas in that you never have to check your tire’s pressure, nor will it prevent flats or give you 10 more miles per gallon. What we have seen is a small improvement in fuel economy and much longer useful tire life. We have also enjoyed much better track times.

    Maybe going back to compressed air and black valve caps is the right solution for you.

    Jim

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