Have you bought new tires lately? Have you seen a poster or been asked if you'd like to fill your tires with nitrogen instead of compressed air? Some service shops charge $40 or more to fill your tires with nitrogen- so let's find out if it's worth it, with some help from a
Consumer Reports study.
I've been asked dozens of times in my current position and from my previous experience in the auto industry- is it worth it to pay to use nitrogen inflation? The short answer- and my opinion- is no. While nitrogen inflation has benefits over compressed air, it would not be worth additional cost.
You see- nitrogen inflation is more of a marketing gimmick- nitrogen inflation inflates your tires with 95% or so nitrogen. Compressed air is typically already 80% nitrogen, so you're seeing just a small benefit.
So what's the big deal with nitrogen? Companies try to sell you that you never need to check your tire pressure OR that your tires will not lose pressure- another stretch of the truth. According to a Consumer Reports year long study, nitrogen tires still lost air pressure (over a year)- but less than tires filled with compressed air. To read more on that study,
click here. The bottom line? You'll always need to check your tire pressure. You simply can't fill with nitrogen and forget about your tire pressure. To do so would be a big mistake.
Even tire manufacturers have stated that they design cars around compressed air, and that nitrogen isn't necessary. Although they state that you can benefit from nitrogen inflation, you should be skeptical of claims from nitrogen machine manufacturers and tire shops that say you'll extend the life of a tire. Regular monitoring of a tire and rotating it would likely do more to extend the life than simply filling it with nitrogen and forgetting about it.
There are also claims of increased gasoline mileage or better fuel economy. There is no scientific evidence of this. Had nitrogen had solid claims of improvements in fuel economy, don't you think vehicle manufacturers would be using it to increase their vehicles efficiency and as a selling point? Let me remind you- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Nitrogen inflation is recommended if there is no additional cost, such as at Costco, where it is included. Paying upwards of $40 or even more is simply flushing money down the toilet. With gas prices approaching an average of $3.10/gallon today, you have better things to spend your money on.