I am posing two questions in this post (with two answers too at no extra charge!).
1. Is Inflating Your Tires with Nitrogen a Good Thing to Do?
Plainly said, yes, inflating your tires with an inert gas (such as Nitrogen or Argon) is a good thing. The inert gas does not react with the rubber or the steel in your tires.
Nitrogen is more often used than Argon because it is less expensive, but it is still more expensive than air out of a regular compressor air line.
Sometimes there are claims made that using Nitrogen will give you a more constant inflation pressure. This may be true as compressed gas purchased in cylinders or generated in special equipment is dry and contains little or no water. Water vapor can raise tire inflation when the tires gets hot from driving if there is too much moisture in the tire air chamber. But unless you are running a NASCAR or Indy car racer, I do not know what advantage a more constant inflation pressure gives us as RV owners.
There are also sometimes claims made of improved fuel economy but I believe this is based on the assumption that you seldom check the pressure in your tires and we all know that if you let the inflation pressure decrease over a period of months, the lower tire pressure will hurt fuel economy. All tires lose pressure over time. Some faster than others so simply changing the inflation gas does not relieve us of the responsibility of monitoring our tire inflation pressure every travel day.
Now let’s stop, because it is important to remember that the air we breath is already 78% Nitrogen, and unless you do a number of inflation and purge cycles you will probably only get a little over 95% Nitrogen in there at best. This brings us to another question, what happens if you inflate your tires with Nitrogen and later discover a puncture or valve leak, or that you just need to add a couple psi to get back to your correct pressure?
2. Is it Worth the Money?
Now this is where the question of “Is it worth it” comes in. If you could get Nitrogen at the corner gas station for a buck a tire it might be worth the cost, but many dealers charge $10 or more per tire to inflate with Nitrogen. I have to wonder if you will want to go through the purge and re-inflate cycle to “clean-out” that “bad air” you needed to add after you stopped the valve leak or had the nail puncture repaired. Even if the Nitrogen was free, you would still need to drive your big RV to a location that can provide the gas; this will cost you both time and fuel.
Quite frankly I have to tell you that when I was racing, I did inflate my race car tires with Nitrogen (but I also used the large cylinder of high pressure gas to run my special air tools). However I do not remember ever using the Nitrogen I already had on hand to inflate the tires on my race trailer or tow vehicle when preparing to travel to a race, as it just wasn’t worth the cost.
The Bottom Line
So the Bottom Line is. There is nothing wrong with inflating your tires with Nitrogen. If you do I wouldn’t worry about adding a few PSI of regular air, and I certainly would not make a special trip to purge the 92% Nitrogen back to 95%! You will probably not see any significant improvement in fuel economy and might possibly see a decrease.
Yes that’s me in the picture.
No I am not actually inflating my tire with inert gas.