Filling your tyres with nitrogen, or N2, is something which many drivers claim is beneficial, but yet can’t explain exactly why it is so.
Many claim that filling your tyres with N2 helps reduce both fuel consumption and wear and tear.
That’s debatable without scientific testing.
However, what’s not in doubt is that tyres used in many high-performance scenarios are indeed nitrogen-filled.
Racing cars, aircraft tyres and construction vehicles all use nitrogen-filled tyres.
What’s the difference?
The air you breathe in is already 78 percent nitrogen, with the oxygen content hovering around 20 percent.
That means the air you pump into your tyres is already mostly nitrogen, which makes pumping nitrogen seem like a lot of effort for not much gain.
However, normal air also contains lots of moisture, which expand as the tyre heats up.
Water vapour is more susceptible to pressure changes and can cause your tyre to expand under pressure.
And when you pump your tyres with pressurised air, more water vapour is introduced into the tyre.
Should I pump my tyres with N2?
Pumping N2 into your tyres has several benefits compared to air.
Nitrogen, firstly, as an inert gas is less likely to permeate through tyre rubber than oxygen, which translates to more stable tyre pressures over time.
On racing cars, this is very important as you want your pressures stable despite the extreme heat.
Tyres on passenger cars also heat up (especially in Singapore’s sweltering climate), but nowhere near the heat produced by racing tyres.
Pumping nitrogen into your tyres also removes humidity, or water vapour, which as mentioned above has detrimental effects on the tyre.
Nitrogen is drier than air, which means less moisture and less corrosion inside the tyre over time.
So it’s really about keeping the interior of your tyre free from moisture, rather than pumping it with nitrogen per se.
If you live near a tyre shop/auto workshop that has nitrogen inflation on hand, go ahead. It won’t hurt.
However, if you still wish to pump your tyres with air instead, that’s perfectly fine.
For normal driving, the advantages nitrogen has over oxygen are minuscule, since air is mostly comprised of nitrogen.
Most importantly is that you keep your tyre pressures constant, which will give you the most fuel savings over any kind of special gas in your tyres.