When its time to change tires, CAA-Quebec’s Automotive Advisory Services are sought after by a growing number of drivers who want more information on the characteristics of nitrogen gas, particularly regarding its ability to enable greater tire stability.

Nitrogen is indeed helpful in maintaining correct tire pressure, which, in turn, ensures adequate road grip and better gas mileage. However, despite these advantages, the standard practice of inflating tires with air remains perfectly adequate. Provided they undergo regular and correctly executed pressure checks, air-filled tires will yield performance comparable to nitrogen-inflated tires where gas consumption and pressure maintenance are concerned.

We’re all involved ...
According to a survey carried out by the Rubber Association of Canada, more than 23% of vehicles currently on the road in Canada travel with at least one tire that is underinflated by 20% or more. Every driver should be aware of the dangers associated with underinflated tires—longer braking distance, lack of stability, premature tire erosion, even a higher risk of tire blowout. Motorists must also keep in mind that, for each drop in temperature of 6°C in relation to the temperature at which a tire was inflated, the tire pressure correspondingly drops by one pound—which is why it’s so important to be extra-vigilant in winter. So, whether one opts for nitrogen or the more standard air inflation, prudence is vital, all the more so since the effect of extreme temperature variations on nitrogen-filled tires is still relatively unknown in Quebec.”

... but at what price?
On average, nitrogen inflation costs $4 to $6 per tire. For optimal pressure, the inside of the tire must register a nitrogen concentration of 95% or more. How can you be sure? Nitrogen levels can be measured with a specially designed tool. Doing business with a conscientious garage mechanic who has experience using the required tools, both to inflate the tire with nitrogen and get a proper reading of the nitrogen concentration once the tire is filled, is your guarantee of quality.

Since they are somewhat larger than oxygen molecules, nitrogen molecules are less likely to permeate (or migrate through) the solid tire wall. Because of this, nitrogen-inflated tires are less likely to lose pressure—an important consideration, particularly for low-profile tires. Nitrogen also minimizes humidity levels in a tire, which helps safeguard tires from premature wear and is useful for vehicles equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system. Lastly, it is interesting to note that the trucking and aviation industries have been using nitrogen advantageously for many years, notably to minimize the risk of tire explosion due to overheating.