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Should You Use Nitrogen In Your Toyota Prius Tires?

I think the time has come where we need to have the nitrogen discussion and why many people are being sold something they really do not need.

I would dare bet that there are a lot of Prius owners who have visited Costco when needing new tires. I would also bet that that same place also told you that Nitrogen in your tires was the best thing since sliced bread.

I want to discuss why Nitrogen is used and also if you are paying for it, stop, it is a waste of your money.

Benefits Of Nitrogen In Your Tires
Airplanes, Formua1 racecars, and other high-performance vehicles use air in their tires. Why? It is more stable under harsh conditions.

A 777, for instance, is a massive aircraft that weighs a lot. When it touches down, the tires are heated up immediately. Pure Nitrogen in the tires helps keep the tires from overheating and exploding. The tires here are put under extreme pressure instantly, so something like Nitrogen that can help keep them stable is a big deal.

Second, a Formula One racecar. Think about this; you have a very high-stress situation. Formula one needs to have tires that keep constant pressure over time so that grip on the tires can help keep the driver safe. Not only that, but tire pressure needs to remain stable under all the circumstances the car goes through.

In these two examples, the tires are being used in high-stress, extreme ways where using Nitrogen has proven to be beneficial.

Nitrogen has slightly larger molecules over regular air and will stay more stable under these extreme situations. Using Nitrogen is the difference between failure and success in high-stress circumstances.

nitrogen in your winter tires does not help

Nitrogen is also said to stay at a set pressure longer than the regular air we put in tires. While this is somewhat true, why do airlines and race teams continuously check the pressure in the tires?

So, what is the benefit of having Nitrogen in the tires of your Toyota Prius? That is an excellent question,

Nitrogen For Prius Tires
The question does it help is kind of a long one to explain, but there are things you need to know about using Nitrogen over the air.

First, Nitrogen will keep your tire pressure slightly more stable. It is susceptible to heat and cold, just like air is. So expect the tire light to come on when the weather turns. You should be checking your air more than twice a year anyway, so do not wait for the light to come on before you check the pressure.

Second, places such as Costco tell you that you can only fill your tires with Nitrogen and not air once you have them filled. I am sorry, but this is ridiculous. If you have a low tire and the Costco you need to go to is far away, why not just fill it with air and keep going on with your day? The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen anyway.

Avoid costly tire mistakes and check your tire pressure often

Third, some places charge extra for Nitrogen, and some do not. I would never pay extra for a service that shows little to no benefit. In fact, Discount/America's Tire Company, one of the largest tire resellers in the United States, has said the would not use Nitrogen in tires because the data they have shown does not benefit the consumer.

If you want to put Nitrogen in your tires go-ahead, I hope it is free. To me, it is not worth the hassle to have an inert gas in my tires that will deplete at 1.6 times the rate of regular air. So for the whole "more stabilized" argument, the flow rate out of a tire is pretty minimal most would never notice.

Most tire shops will do a free air check any time you want to go in. It takes far less time and can be done for free. The added benefit of that is you are always on top of your tire pressure, and you will see better tire life and better fuel economy out of your Prius.

My opinion is to check your tires at least once a month and put air in them. Unless, of course, you plan on placing your Prius in a Formula One race.

Until next time! I hope your weekend was excellent, and your Monday is off to a great start. Stay safe out there. Check out this story, Despite Lawsuit Rav4 Hybrid Outsells Prius As The New Favorite Hybrid.

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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.


A reply from s… (not verified)    December 5, 2021 - 1:13PM


I would have to fathom a percentage of >95% of ALL air systems for tire inflation do not filter moisture and contaminates out. They are solely compressor systems. Even Discount Tire (in Southern California) states they use a drying system, yet recently-installed tires from then spewed liquid water from the hot tire when I had a go at the stem valve. Nitrogen will never do that. Nitrogen systems are well-maintained and are filtered.

In addition to water, the lubricants in the compressor (oils) have a negative effect in long-term vulcanized rubber. Maybe not to a blowout stage, yet TPMS units and overall integrity can be negatively impacted.

Nitrogen has another interesting side effect... Lower road noise. The test was in Southern Nevada, where the heavily-grooved concrete freeways were notorious for eating tread for breakfast.

Since Costco offers nitrogen as a standard and, maybe unbeknownst to you, most Costco members also religiously use their PEA-treated TopTier gasoline (think Techron on steroids). So, you will see many people checking their tire pressures on the same trip. My family checks its pressures first upon arrival on every other fill-up. (The hot tire helps consistent pressure monitoring. As a side note, Costco will increase hot tire pressure adjustments at a rate of 4 PSI higher. With our Prius and Rav4s, we have found that 5 PSI actually give us a more accurate cold temperature PSI. Regular pressure checks are an ecologically beneficial act that can also improve safety and help ones tires last longer.

Another aside, with all of the computer control of the vehicle, I have learned that overfilling tires does not improve gas mileage enough to justify the safety (in braking and handling losses) changes. My experience (when I first got the Prius) was a tenth of an MPG over 50MPG (the Prius averaged 55.6 MPG the first 10k miles) the next 30k, it averaged 56.7MPG). When I drive my wife's 2018 Prius exclusively, I regularly get over 60MPG on an entire tank. Put me in Los Angeles over a holiday weekend and I got 70+MPG on 3/4 of a tank. The traffic was hell.

So, anybody coming along to justify their own beliefs with this article can have my personal experience to consider. I have been using Nitrogen since 2005 and have had air put in after flat repairs that used air, at Discount Tire as recently as 10 months ago (where water shot out as I was doing a partial refill with nitrogen at the Costco self-service center).

PS I love my generation of Prius! Like the feature photo above, that dorky art-deco taillight works for me in a world of generic ugliness. I am also a sucker for sequential turn signals a la Mustangs. Yes, my Prius is cool. Too bad the back seat is horrible for tall people and that Toyota discontinued the Prius V.