Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a shimmy in my Mercedes when I’m driving over 70 mph. So, today I took the car into Butler Tire Company in Austell, Georgia, to get the tires rotated and get a high-speed balancing for all four tires.
Man, did I learn a lot from those guys!
Chris Arthur, the superb front desk guy, explained to me the benefits of inflating my tires with nitrogen instead of regular air.
I learned that the airlines and most private planes fill their tires with nitrogen. Even NASA fills the tires on the Space Shuttle with nitrogen. And NASCAR, Indy racers and drag racing cars have nitrogen-filled tires.
Oxygen is an enemy of your rubber tires. Atmospheric air is comprised of about 78% oxygen, 21% nitrogen and 1% other gases. When pressurized air is pumped into your tires, it also has moisture in it depending on the humidity of the air around the air compressor. The combination of the oxygen and the humidity works on the inside of your tires, causing oxidation of the rubber. Over time, the tire loses some of its elasticity and strength.
Clemson University did a study of nitrogen versus air in vehicle tires, both passenger vehicles and fleet vehicles. They discovered the following benefits of nitrogen:
• A 6% fuel savings over air-inflated tires
• A 31% increase in tire life
• A reduction in tire pressure loss of 35-55%
• Road failures were reduced by 50%
Other benefits of nitrogen inflation:
• Nitrogen molecules are fatter than oxygen molecules. So, tires hold their pressure longer. Therefore, tires last longer because they don’t run underinflated as much as happens with air-filled tires.
• With a nitrogen tire fill, you should only need to check your tire pressure once every four to six months.
• Heat doesn’t affect nitrogen like air. A tire’s pressure can vary up to 10 pounds depending on the temperature of the tire. But nitrogen stays cooler and the pressure hardly fluctuates at all.
• Nitrogen is not flammable. So, if you have a blowout, your tire is much less likely to burn.
• Tires properly inflated with nitrogen roll better and your motor doesn’t have to work to overcome soft tire resistance. You save fuel and save money.
• Chrome wheels sometimes rust inside the tire from the humidity of the air. Nitrogen has no moisture and causes no rust or corrosion on wheels.
Use nitrogen with a purity of over 98%, or don’t bother. 99% is best. Using a low purity of 95% or lower is no better than inflating your tires with regular air.
You should use the same tire pressures as the vehicle manufacturer recommends when using nitrogen. Check you tires when they are cold to get the most accurate pressure readings.
If your tire is damaged or picks up a nail and deflates, try to have the repair shop fill it with nitrogen, but if they don’t have it, go ahead and fill it with air. Then, when you get back home to your favorite tire dealer (mine is Butler Tire), have them refill the tire with nitrogen. Many tire shops will do this for free.
After the guys at Butler finished their work on my tires and wheels, I took the Benz out onto I-75 for a test drive. I took the car up past 90 mph, and it rode as smooth as glass.
I love those guys! If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can do no better than Butler Tire. They baby your car. They have five locations: Marietta, Austell, Doraville, Buckhead and Alpharetta. Check out their great website at: http://www.ButlerTire.com.
By the way, I’m not getting a penny for writing this. Use nitrogen in your vehicle tires, no matter where in the world you are. Can’t do any better!