Imagine an old rubber band - brittle, cracked and displaying decreased elasticity - and you have a pretty good idea of the war oxidation can wage inside tires.Tire manufacturers do compensate by using...
Imagine an old rubber band – brittle, cracked and displaying decreased elasticity – and you have a pretty good idea of the war oxidation can wage inside tires.
Tire manufacturers do compensate by using antioxidant agents, of course, but these can get depleted over the life of the tire. Oxidation is part of the two-edged sword provided by oxygen inflation. On the one hand oxygen presents an economical and widespread approach to inflating truck tires; on the other hand when rubber is exposed to oxygen it begins to oxidize. Also, when a tire is filled with oxygen, moisture and other contaminants are added and accumulate every time the tire is inflated.
“When tire pressures are checked, fine particles of rust from the wheel well get picked up in the escaping air and get trapped in the valve stem compounding tire inflation problems,” says Bob Hammond, National Maintenance Manager, Praxair Canada.
What’s the solution? Hammond believes it may be found in using nitrogen, an inert gas that makes up about 78% of the air we breathe and which contains no oxygen to create oxidation or moisture that can lead to rust.
“The racing community has used nitrogen for years,” he told the recent CFMS. “They recognized that nitrogen inflation can maintain a more stable tire pressure. In Europe and South America the domestic market has exploded with nitrogen inflation.”
He added that initial testing has shown an up to 30% improvement in fuel mileage over oxygen-inflated tires and an up to 50% reduction of road gators.
The U.S. and Canadian governments are testing this approach to tire inflation as is Praxair, which is currently running nitrogen-inflated tires on its trailer fleet.
“Testing is in the early stages but our expectations are quite high,” Hammond says.