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Nitrogen inflation of car tires

  1. Jun 6, 2007 #1

    AlephZero

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    A local garage has big advertizements featuring "free nitrogen inflation of all new tires fitted, as used in Formula I motorsport for the past 20 years".

    My cynicism assumes this is snake oil so far as normal road tires are concerned - can anybody confirm or deny this?

    It reminds me of a cycle racing team (possibly apocryphal) that used helium-filled bike tires to save weight...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2007 #2

    brewnog

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    We had this discussion a few years back, try a search. My opinion (and, I believe, the conclusion of the discussion) was that any benefits are so negligible that you wouldn't notice them.
     
  4. Jun 6, 2007 #3

    FredGarvin

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    It's a load of hogwash. You are right in that aspect for sure. There is only 1, count it, 1 benefit to Nitrogen: The diffusion rate of nitrogen through the rubber is slower than with compressed air. That is the only thing I will grant.

    There are, however, a lot of things also claimed that simply are not true or misleading:

    - Better gas mileage. Not true if you keep your tires inflated properly. The slower diffusion means you may not have to fill your tires quite as frequently to keep them at the proper pressure. Nitrogen, however, is not the direct link to better gas mileage. Keeping your tires properly inflated is.

    - Longer lasting tires. See the argument about keeping your tires properly inflated.

    - Longer lasting tires due to oxidation. It is true that the rubber in the tires will not oxidize in a pure nitrogen environment. The problem arises in that even if you do fill up with nitrogen, the majority of the surface area of the tire is exposed to atmosphere.

    - Use it because NASA/Military use it. This one cracks me up because there is a down to earth reason why. When you are servicing an aircraft, one of the things you usually have to do is to make sure that hydraulic system accumulators have the proper pre-charge. That pre-charge is high pressure nitrogen. Now, you also have to make sure your tires are filled properly. Do you think it makes sense to lug around another bottle of high pressure air or simply use the nitrogen, which makes up 78% of air anyways. It's a convenience factor. Combine that also with the fact that nitrogen has an extremely low dew point from a controlled source, so you don't have to worry about water freezing at altitude. Not exactly a worry for your car tires.

    This whole thing is a marketing gimmick. Around these parts, they say you can "nitronize" your tires. It's a marketing ploy that has everything packaged in techie wrappings to make it look better.
     
  5. Jun 6, 2007 #4

    Danger

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    I stand corrected, and have deleted my previous post. :redface:
     
  6. Jun 6, 2007 #5

    FredGarvin

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    Why? I didn't get a chance to read your link!
     
  7. Jun 6, 2007 #6

    Danger

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    It was to a site run by the 'Get Nitrogen Institute' or something of that nature. Apparently it's a commercial enterprise, which I didn't realize at first, and so contains the 'advantages' that have been debunked here.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2007
  8. Jun 6, 2007 #7

    AlephZero

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    To be fair, the advert didn't actually claim any specific technical advantages (which seemed strange, if there were any) - just the idea that if motorsport does it, it must be good.

    As you say, end of discussion!
     
  9. Jun 6, 2007 #8

    russ_watters

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    I still get to see it! :biggrin:
     
  10. Jun 6, 2007 #9

    Danger

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    Yes, well... have fun with that. :rolleyes:
     
  11. Jun 7, 2007 #10

    FredGarvin

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    In all fairness, go ahead and repost it. I didn't get a chance to see it and I would like to see it. The local vendors here are even worse in that they don't even understand the proposed benefits. They simply parrot what they have been told to. So if there is anything that has some substance to it, I'd be interested to read it.
     
  12. Jun 7, 2007 #11

    turbo

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    At the local Tire Warehouse, there is a rotating "warning" light inside a green dome mounted on the ceiling over the cash registers with a sign that says "nitrogen inflation under way" or something to that effect, presumably to get suckers to ask about it so the salesmen can sell them on the "service". What a crock!
     
  13. Jun 7, 2007 #12

    AlephZero

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    This is a link to the nitrogen system the UK garage was using. http://www.uniflate.com/
    There's nothing much there except what you said already.
     
  14. Jun 7, 2007 #13

    russ_watters

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    He gave the name, but in any case, as such sites go, it wasn't that bad. They do mention pretty much everything you said, but the primary thing they emphasized was the leak rate -- though at 1.5psi/month, I'm sure it was exaggerated.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2007
  15. Jun 7, 2007 #14

    Danger

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    Okay, for whatever it's worth, here you go.
    http://www.getnitrogen.org/
     
  16. Jun 7, 2007 #15

    AlephZero

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    I've convinced myself the biggest cause of pressure loss is the gas you lose every time you check the pressure.

    I once tested that theory by inflating the spare tire to 30psi and not touching it for 12 months. The pressure at the end of that time was .... 30psi.
     
  17. Jun 7, 2007 #16

    Danger

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    That's not an entirely scientific test, though. A spare is not subjected to the same conditions as a tire in use.
     
  18. Jun 20, 2007 #17

    mgb_phys

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    Interesting, I assumed it was a fire risk thing. I noticed that the tires on a WW2 bomber at an airshow had "nitrogen inflation only" printed on them.

    The problem with your car tire tests is that you didn't use properly aligned nitrogen in the right and left tires - it's obvious that speaker cable salesman have got new jobs!
     
  19. Jun 25, 2007 #18
    Don't forget to get your headlight fluid topped up.
     
  20. Jun 25, 2007 #19

    FredGarvin

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    A bomber....full of bombs....wings full of fuel...ammunition out the wazoo....but don't worry. If we catch on fire, the tires are filled with nitrogen. :tongue2:
     
  21. Jun 26, 2007 #20

    mgb_phys

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    You've never had to deal with safety people then?
    Laser guided bombs that not only have to be eye safe but eye-safe if viewed with binolculars for instance!
     
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