Nitrogen tyre inflation isn’t a new practice, but it’s one that’s continually being considered by drivers who want to improve their fuel economy and tyre performance.

Close-up of man filling tyre with nitrogen

Nitrogen in your tyres: what are the benefits?

The air you put into your car tyres never consists solely of oxygen. It’s most often a combination of nitrogen, oxygen, CO2, and water vapour, with a few noble gases straggling in along the way. Nitrogen specifically makes up a far more significant portion of your tyres’ chemical consistency than you may believe, often contributing up to 78% of the mass to your tyres. 

It’s not that big of a leap, then, to imagine swapping out your standard tyre air in exchange for pure nitrogen. What, though, prompted this transition?

You can look to professional drivers for that. Most race drivers are constantly looking for ways to improve their control and speed on the track. It quickly became clear that experimenting with tyre pressure and fills allowed drivers to gain an edge.

What, then, are the benefits of driving on nitrogen-filled tyres? Thus far, the practice has been found to:

  • Better maintain consistent tyre pressure – Tyres filled with nitrogen tend to deflate slower than tyres filled with air. As such, they’ll more consistently maintain their pressure over time. This means that you’ll be able to take long road trips across the UK without worrying over the state of your tyres.
  • Lower fuel costs – With more consistent tyre pressure comes lowered fuel costs. As your tyres deflate or expand, your car’s mileage will begin to change. When your pressure stays consistent, you won’t have to deal with inconsistencies in your RPM. You’ll be able to easily anticipate your petrol costs and reduce the number of times you have to stop at the petrol station.
  • Lower maintenance costs – In a similar vein, filling your tyres with nitrogen can help reduce your car’s overall maintenance costs. Because your tyre pressure will stay consistent, your tyres should wear a little more slowly than usual. They should also all wear consistently, meaning that you’ll be able to replace the entire set, when the time comes, instead of one tyre at a time.
  • Lower tyre humidity – You might not think humidity would be a significant factor, when it comes to the ride of your tyres. As mentioned, though, your tyres come into contact with more internal water vapour than you might think. When you swap out standard air for nitrogen, you eliminate the vast majority of that water vapour. In turn, your tyres suffer from less hydrostatic pressure and water damage, as they’re used. This means less rust on your hubs and fewer opportunities to burst while you’re on the road.

Most of the time, you won’t even have to swap out your existing tyres for the nitrogen-carrying variety. If you want to, though, all you need to do is look for the green cap on most commercially-sold, nitrogen-filled tyre sets.

Close-up of man touching a tyre valve

Drawbacks of nitrogen filled tyres

Nitrogen-filled tyres aren’t perfect, unfortunately. It often costs just a hair more to invest in these specialised tyres. You’ll also need to head to a specialist garage if you want to swap the regular air in your tyres out for nitrogen.

Nitrogen also takes up less physical space in your tyres. This means you’ll need to invest in at least 15% more nitrogen than you would regular air when filling your tyres to their ideal weight.

Man operating nitrogen machine

Public drivers versus professional drivers: do you need nitrogen tyres?

As mentioned, it was professional drivers who first came to the conclusion that nitrogen was a more effective tyre additive than traditional air. What does that mean for drivers commuting to and from work, though?

There’s no harm in filling your tyres with unfiltered air. Most of the time, tyres that are manufactured well and cared for will give you the smooth ride you need to make it from one point to the next. If you’re interested in experimenting with nitrogen-filled tyres, you’ll find that your ride smooths out and your costs drop, but there’s no need to make the jump immediately.

In fact, many tyre manufacturers note that while nitrogen has its benefits, it may lull drivers into poor tyre maintenance habits.

If you’re looking to improve your ride, you can readily swap out the air in your tyres for nitrogen. However, you should always remember to check your tyre pressure consistently and look over your tyre tread before driving. With careful tyre care, you’ll be able to take to the roads more confidently, no matter what you’ve filled your tyres with.