If you’re being charged $49.95 plus tax, as is the case in this ad from Porsche Center of San Antonio, the answer is a resounding “no”. Despite this ad’s claims, nitrogen does nothing to improve ride quality or fuel economy, and won’t prevent false tire warning lights any better than plain old air will. The key to getting a smooth ride, maximum fuel economy and no tire pressure warning lights is simple: regularly check your tire pressure when your tires are cold.
Nitrogen is a larger molecule than oxygen, so it does seep from tires at a slower rate than air. How much? About three times slower, which means your tires will stay properly inflated three times longer. If it’s a major inconvenience for you to check tire pressure, then by all means step up to nitrogen if you can get it cheap. If you have to pay more than a few bucks per tire, it’s just not worth it.
Why do race teams use the stuff instead of air? In racing, tire pressure is absolutely critical, and nitrogen filled tires don’t change pressure with heat as much as air filled tires do. When you’re talking about tenths of a second being worth thousands of dollars, the cost of a tank of nitrogen is just part of doing business.
Hats off to The Truth About Cars for printing this ad. If you see similar scams by you, send them my way. I’d be happy to start running a “scam of the week” piece.