Extending Tire Life

Using technology to help maintain proper air pressure provides numerous benefits


Among the major components of the TREAD Act that affect the tire industry are: tire labeling requirements, tire testing standards, an early tire defect warning reporting system, an established recall processes, recalled tire tracking, disposal of recalled tires and tire pressure monitoring systems as standard equipment from the OEMs.

"The TPMS requirement was the detail that helped advance the TPMS technology to a viable and reliable option in the automotive industry," Nau says. "These advancements have trickled down into the heavy duty trucking industry."

Since Congress has already mandated the installation of TPMS on new vehicles under 10,000 pounds gvwr, Van Dyke figures it may be only a matter of time before Congress expands the TREAD Act to also include trucks, buses and other pubic conveyances, including emergency vehicles.

NITROGEN INFLATION

Along with TPMS, another technology that can be used to help maintain proper tire inflation is filling tires with nitrogen instead of compressed air. Nitrogen inflation proponents says nitrogen allows a tire to retain more of its original properties so there is less inflation pressure loss for a more stable and consistent tire pressure, longer tread life and less oxidation of tire components. This assists in increasing tire life, improving fuel economy and reducing tire aging.

Because of its inherent benefits, nitrogen been used for many years used to inflate aircraft tires, off-road truck tires, military vehicle tires and race car tires. Among the key benefits: Tires inflated with nitrogen don't lose pressure as quickly as those filled with air, and since nitrogen disperses heat quicker than air, tires run cooler.

Nitrogen tire inflation in on-highway transportation has been evolving with the greater availability of nitrogen, as on-site nitrogen generators have become more affordable and as more manufacturers of nitrogen generators have entered the marketplace.

Nitrogen is a non-combustible, inert gas that makes up about 78 percent of the air we breathe. The remainder of the atmosphere is oxygen, except for about one percent which is made up of gasses and water vapor.

Air contains oxygen, and oxygen is affected by changes in temperature, especially at high pressures and temperatures. When oxygen reacts with things, the process is called oxidation.

Water vapor and humidity inside of tires is also a concern, as they can cause extreme pressure fluctuations as a tire heats up going down the road.

Being a dry, inert gas - not readily changed by chemical reaction, nitrogen doesn't fluctuate, but rather, provides constant pressure and is less susceptible to accelerated diffusion caused by changing temperatures. Plus, it helps reduce water vapor and humidity in tires.

Because nitrogen inflation minimizes moisture and oxygen in a tire, there is less rubber degradation and no corrosive properties as found in compressed air, say nitrogen suppliers. A reduction in rubber oxidation slows a tire's "aging," improving the casing's structural durability, lengthening its useful life and yielding a higher proportion of retreadable casings that can survive more retread cycles.

Furthermore, because nitrogen's molecules are larger and less permeable than oxygen and all the other gases in air, they migrate considerably slower through a tire. It might take a truck or bus tire inflated with nitrogen about three months to lose two psi, whereas even a well-maintained tire inflated with compressed air will lose, on average, about two psi per month - a natural occurrence as air permeates through rubber.

Nitrogen is also far less reactive, nitrogen suppliers note. It doesn't cause rust or corrosion on steel or aluminum, and it doesn't degrade rubber. Wheel surfaces stay smooth and clean, and rubber remains supple and resilient.

APPLICATION TYPE

Depending on the type of fleet or service provider application, converting to nitrogen could take place in a variety of ways, says Ken Lawton, president of GoNitro Tire. While nitrogen tire inflation systems have traditionally been fixed systems in a shop or service center, recent innovations provide significantly increased flexibility with new mobile systems. Additionally, once the initial conversion is complete, top-offs and ongoing maintenance can be handled using either fixed or the new portable systems.

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