Nitrogen gas is often preferred over normal compressed air for tire inflation in motorsports applications due to several advantages it offers. Here are some reasons why nitrogen is considered better:
- Consistency: Nitrogen is a dry gas with a very low moisture content compared to regular compressed air, which can contain varying levels of water vapor. Water vapor inside tires can lead to changes in tire pressure with temperature fluctuations, affecting the tire's performance. Nitrogen's low moisture content ensures more consistent tire pressure, providing stability and predictable handling characteristics.
- Pressure retention: Nitrogen molecules are larger than oxygen molecules found in the air. This larger size helps nitrogen to diffuse through the tire's rubber more slowly, resulting in better pressure retention. As a result, tires inflated with nitrogen tend to maintain their desired pressure over a more extended period, reducing the frequency of pressure checks and adjustments during races.
- Temperature stability: When tires heat up during motorsports activities, the air inside them also heats up, causing an increase in pressure. Since nitrogen has a lower rate of expansion than oxygen, tires inflated with nitrogen experience less pressure buildup due to temperature increases. This helps maintain more stable and predictable tire performance, reducing the risk of over-inflation and potential tire failures.
- Corrosion prevention: Compressed air typically contains moisture and oxygen, which can contribute to corrosion within the tire and rim. Nitrogen, being a dry and inert gas, minimizes the presence of oxygen and moisture, thereby reducing the potential for corrosion. This is particularly beneficial in motorsports, where vehicles are exposed to various conditions and environments that can accelerate corrosion.
- Tire life and performance: Consistent tire pressure and reduced temperature-related pressure changes provided by nitrogen inflation can help extend tire life and optimize performance. With stable pressure, the tire's contact patch remains consistent, ensuring more predictable handling and improved grip, which are crucial in motorsports where precision and control are vital.
It's worth noting that while nitrogen offers these advantages, its benefits are typically more pronounced in longer events where small performance differentials matter. In shorter events, the benefits of nitrogen inflation may not be as significant, and regular compressed air can still provide satisfactory results if properly maintained.