Filling up Nitrogen in car tires has been one of the most asked questions regarding car maintenance. In the current session of the Parliament, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari touched upon the same and said that the government is evaluating the possibility of making Nitrogen in tires mandatory. He further expressed the current government’s intention to bring in new regulations for tyre manufacturers including the usage of silicon with rubber which could help reduce road accidents and improve tire quality.
While replying to a question on traffic accidents on the Yamuna Expressway in Rajya Sabha, Gadkari said:
“till now we did not know about how tyres manufactured in India matched up to those manufactured as per international standards. In America and other western nations, silicon is added to the rubber in tyres. This ensures that there are less complaints about tyre bursts. Second, if instead of normal air, nitrogen is used in tyres, it stays cool. We are thinking of making both these things mandatory,”
While the concept of filling Nitrogen in tires is not new, the question that now stands before us is that is it really beneficial in real-world conditions. Let’s take a look at the whole tire-Nitrogen scenario before we arrive at a conclusion.
The whole ‘Nitrogen in tires’ thing originated from the fact that race cars and aeroplanes use Nitrogen instead of regular air in their tires. This is because tires of both race cars and aeroplanes function at very high speeds which translates into high operating temperatures. Regular Oxygen (air from the atmosphere to be precise) doesn’t work very well at those temperatures.
A ton of them actually. There are multiple factors that make Nitrogen more suitable as a tyre inflating gas than regular air. Basically, Nitrogen is less likely to escape the tyre’s rubber compared to air and that translates into the tire pressure remaining the same for a longer period. Further, Nitrogen also displays less pressure change with change in temperatures as against Oxygen, which leads to consistent air pressure. Moreover, Nitrogen resists moisture much better than Oxygen and hence there is less chance for your rims to get rusted. All this also leads to a drop in the tyre maintenance costs along with fuel expenses.
Most of the tire burst cases are due to the tire running at a lower pressure than recommended at high speeds. Now since Nitrogen stays in the tyre longer than regular air, the probability of the tyre losing pressure is lower as compared to when the tire is with air. Lastly, Nitrogen also helps the tyre run at a lower temperature which results in less stress on the tyre.
Even after all the benefits, we listed about Nitrogen in tires, the cost of using it instead of regular air is exorbitant. Most of the cars occasionally attain such high speeds which could put stress on the tire and hence filling Nitrogen wouldn’t really help the case. Simply keeping your tyres pressure under check and filling air regularly will yield the same benefits of better fuel efficiency and handling. Safety is more about the tyre air pressure than the gas used in the tire.
The only case when Nitrogen will prove beneficial to you is if you drive frequently on the highway. this is because at high speeds during the daytime, filling nitrogen in your car’s tyres helps it stay cooler, and prevents tyres from losing pressure frequently. But do note that filling Nitrogen can cost you anything from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 per tire. Also, normal mechanics and shops won’t have the necessary equipment to create a vacuum that is needed for the first time to fill nitrogen in the tire.