One of the most basic methods for increasing the fuel economy of your vehicle is to focus on maintaining proper tire inflation pressure. With the correct tire pressure, you travel with a balanced load capacity and enhance the longevity of your tread. Having a quality tire is important, but it’s the internal pressure of the tire that is doing the heavy lifting. When your tire is underinflated, you increase your chances of having a blowout through interior wall corrosion, you minimize your handling and braking capacity and plain and simply, you burn more fuel. Since the gasses within your tire expand and contract depending on ambient temperatures, adding tire pressure checks to your preventative maintenance schedule will keep your vehicle running more efficiently, and in addition, nitrogen tire inflation may also be helpful.
Understanding Pressure and Temperature Fluctuations
The best time of day to check your tire pressure is in the cool of the morning before heat from the sun and heat from the friction of driving causes the internal temperature and pressure within your tire to increase. In general, you can assume that your tire pressure will fluctuate roughly one pound per square inch (psi) in accordance with a 10° Fahrenheit change in temperature, and under inflated tires will reduce your gas mileage by 0.3% for each 1 psi drop in pressure for all four tires. The air you inflate your tires with at the pump is made up of a combination of gases, the majority being N2 (nitrogen, roughly 78%), O2 (Oxygen, roughly 21%) and the remaining 1% is comprised of a miscellaneous mix of additional gases.
What is Nitrogen Tire Inflation?
Because of the molecular structure of the rubber used to make tires, which expands and contracts depending on ambient temperature and internal pressure, the air inside your tire is able to escape through the permeable rubber membrane, and according to TireRack.com, “It’s been estimated that up to one psi of pressure may escape each month a tire is in service.” Although refillable air is readily available at nearly every gas station, switching to pure nitrogen, with its more robust molecular structure will maintain a more constant pressure as the gaseous molecules remain inside the tire versus permeating the rubber and escaping. Nitrogen is also considered to be a dry, inert gas, and unlike the oxygen-rich blend of “shop air,” N2 minimizes oxidation, reduces wear, limits heat trapping moisture and humidity, and prolongs the overall life of your tires.
What Industry Sectors Use Nitrogen Inflation
Nitrogen tire inflation has been a popular choice for the racing industry for decades due to its molecular properties being inhospitable to moisture and safe against combustion. The aviation industry also relies on nitrogen tire inflation, as do heavy equipment operators for the tires of their super-sized machines. For fleet operators and vehicle owners, the primary benefit to choosing nitrogen tire inflation over regular air lies primarily in the consistency in pressure that N2 allows based on its molecular configuration.
An Ingersoll Rand sponsored study performed by Clemson University in South Carolina, states that “Maintaining your tires with nitrogen can increase (their) life… by 50%, improve fuel economy by 10% and reduce the likelihood of a tire failure by as much as 75%.” In an article related to the study on BusinessWire.com, “The tests conducted indicated that nitrogen inflated tires can maintain tire pressure 74 percent better than shop air per month at normal operating conditions. As a result, nitrogen inflated tires produce about 70 percent less rolling resistance than air-inflated tires. By reducing rolling resistance in both automotive and truck tires, the nitrogen filled tires last longer and reduce the amount of fuel consumption.”
The Bottom Line
Making the transition from shop air to nitrogen will provide your fleet or vehicle with the following benefits:
- Reduced oxidation of interior tire wall and steel wheel components
- Reduced moisture and humidity within tire, which traps heat
- Increased fuel economy with more consistent tire structure and reduced rolling resistance
- Increased tire life with tires that run cooler and smoother
- Increased safety with a lower chance of a tire blowout
- Improved braking and handling with enhanced tire integrity
- Reduced carbon footprint with prolonged tire life and increased fuel economy
The main barrier for fleet operators and vehicle owners to make the transition to nitrogen is its availability and cost, but at SCL we work closely with our Proud Partner, Petra Oil – providers of PetraFlate Nitrogen, the PetroFlate Nitrogen Inflator Machine and PetraFlate Nitrogen Caps – to bring you reliable nitrogen inflation products. For information on how we can assist you in seeing if nitrogen inflation and the PetraFlate line of products are viable choices for your business, contact an SCL consultant today.