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Old 04-23-2012, 11:35 PM   #1
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The Science of Tire Blow Outs?

I'm interested in hearing others thoughts on this. Here's a little background on what's got me thinking.

A good friend and I were having a conversation tonight about tires reaching a certain age and their propensity to fail when they get too old, sometimes regardless of their exterior appearance or condition. This friend and I both spent several years in the Army together, part of that time, driving large transport trucks at Fort Bragg, NC. We both experienced our share of changing tires. One of the things we talked about was the smell of the air coming out of a tire that had been mounted for a long time and was ready to be replaced. For those of you that haven't smelled it, it doesn't smell bad, but it doesn't smell like air either. It smells more like a gas.

We all know that tires are made from rubber, and I think most know also, that tire rubber has petroleum products in its compound. Tires get pretty hot when rolling heavilly loaded and we couldn't help but wonder if the combination of heat, heavy loads and the fact that normal air pumped into a tire can expand a great deal, had something to do with premature tire failure and blow outs.

Normal air pumped into a tire has moisture in it. Moisture when broken down to it's basic element is liquid. Liquid expands when it's heated. Perhaps that's the reason why a tires pressure cold is not the same and when it's hot. Ever feel a tire after it's been rolling for some time under a load? Pretty warm on the outside. I can imagine the inside temperature is even greater. If that tires air has actually become a gas of sorts, because of it's exposure to a heated environment containing a petroleum product, common sense to me says it might blow up under certain circumstances. Not flaming explosion kind of blow up, but expansion to the point that it blows up.

Nitrogen inflated tires maintain an even pressure reading whether they're hot or cold. Nitrogen contains no liquid. Makes sense to me. I'm not a chemist or a scientist, just a common sense kind of guy.

I'm thinking of making the investment in getting my tires inflated with nitrogen for reasons that I've just spoke of. At least the steer tires anyhow. I know it's gained popularity in car tires over recent years.

What might be some of your opinions on this? Perhaps there's a forum member that has a background in science or chemistry that could explain whether my thoughts are valid. Thanks!
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:06 AM   #2
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My opinion? Snake oil.

Normal air is 78% nitrogen.

Worked fine just as it is for me for the past 50 years.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:09 AM   #3
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:12 AM   #4
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X3.

The only "saving grace" is that it's moisture free. And compressed air might not be unless there's an air dryer in the line.

Moisture can attack the metal belts in a tire and cause them to rust, which breaks the bond between the metal and rubber and can easily lead to a blowout. And then the tire manufacturer gets blamed for a faulty tire.
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Old 04-24-2012, 06:47 AM   #5
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There has been a lot of Forum conversation regarding Nitrogen. Use "Search" to read. Other than race cars, or aircraft, there isn't any convincing reason to use Nitrogen - unless you are a tire dealer looking for additional profit.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:27 AM   #6
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x4.

Quote:
Nitrogen inflated tires maintain an even pressure reading whether they're hot or cold. Nitrogen contains no liquid. Makes sense to me. I'm not a chemist or a scientist, just a common sense kind of guy.
Not so. Nitrogen expends with heat just like any other gas - it's one of the most basic laws of physics (The Universal Gas Law, aka Charles Law).
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:26 AM   #7
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Not sure. The most compelling reason for me to not use nitrogen is availability on the road. After two blowouts on the MH and losing 4 toad tires I am always searching for a better way. The article below explains advantages and disadvantages.

Nitrogen vs Air In Tires - Why Nitrogen in Tires - Popular Mechanics
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:39 AM   #8
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Nitrogen over air.........Ummmm those famous words of P.T. Barnum come to mind.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:02 AM   #9
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The main reason Nascar mandates nitrogen to be used in the pits, many years ago teams were pegging the compressors to pump more pressure to make the guns run faster = faster tire changes. Accidents ensued from compressor failures and tank explositions took place. Nitrogen was in place to regulate safety. Some body figured it would "sell" and viola, people are paying. I drove Tractor and trailers and owned them for years, we ran 80,000# from Salinas, Ca. to NY through the deserts at high speeds and high temps without failure and without nitrogen. I put 150,000 miles a year on tires with no TPMS, If it makes you feel better to buy this, by all means do so. Not me.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:30 AM   #10
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I've always thought nitrogen was a modern day snake oil but would like to see someone with technical expertise answer your questions. I'm always willing to learn something new.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:44 AM   #11
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I've alway heard that the nitrogen molecules were larger and didn't bleed through the sidewalls as easily.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:46 AM   #12
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Pro's and cons for each.

My biggest fear is where do I get nitrogen if some id-10-t kid walks by and undoes the valve stem?
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:11 AM   #13
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I installed a moister filter in my air line from my air compressor to take care of the water problem.
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:32 AM   #14
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Using nitrogen in tires seems to be one of those things that believers of both sides can find a "scientific" study to support their side of the question, and most are pretty passionate in their advocacy. Consumer Reports did a study a while back and their report was the most commented upon in their history - and some of the discussions got quite heated. If you do a Google search for "nitrogen in tires" you can get enough reading to occupy yourself for days. Since our motorhome tires seem to heat up within normal limits while traveling, and we lose only about 4 psi per year (from 105) I will stick with the cheap ordinary air.
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