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Summer Travel Season Raises the Question: Are Your Tires Safe?

ANNANDALE, N.J., May 25, 2005 -- The Travel Industry Association and AAA released a forecast indicating that despite soaring gas prices, Americans are expected to travel in record numbers this summer. More than 328 million travelers are projected to be on the road, a 2.3 percent increase in travel for June, July, and August.

What's more, 328 million cars means more than one billion tires. And when you couple that with the statistic from The National Highway Travel Safety Administration, which suggests over 27 percent of cars on the highway are driving on significantly under-inflated tires, you can see the potential for blowouts, accidents, and danger.

Drivers who maintain proper tire pressure have less cause to be concerned, but let's face it -- only a small percentage of drivers take this simple precaution. So what if you could keep your tires at the correct pressure without having to check frequently?

You can by using nitrogen, the most common element in the earth's atmosphere. Filling a car's tires with nitrogen helps maintain proper tire pressure longer, enhancing your safety, improving fuel economy, and prolonging the life of your tires.

This isn't a new discovery. Airlines use nitrogen in jet tires because they know it's less affected by extreme temperature changes than ordinary air, reducing the risk of blowouts. Race cars, military vehicles, and off-highway trucks have also been using nitrogen for years.

In fact, the only reason nitrogen isn't already the gas of choice for everyday car and truck tires is that up until recently, there hasn't been a cost-effective method of delivering it.

Ingersoll-Rand is one of a handful of manufacturers that now offer a system for extracting pure nitrogen from compressed air.

"We've developed an affordable system that uses state-of-the-art membrane technology to deliver nitrogen," explains the company's solutions manager, Ryan Lang. "All tire dealers have to do is connect it directly to their current compressed air system, and they're ready to go."

The benefits of nitrogen are rooted in chemistry. Rubber tires are far from impermeable, so once inside, oxygen starts looking for a way out. In the process, it oxidizes the steel belt structure in the tire, so not only does the tire become under-inflated, it begins to deteriorate.

Regular compressed air also contains high levels of moisture and contaminants, all of which can shorten a tire's life. Nitrogen, on the other hand, is a dry, clean, inert gas that, unlike air, doesn't hold moisture. Keeping moisture out of tires greatly reduces the chance of tread separation, belt failure, corrosion around the valve stems, and other common causes of blowouts.

Thanks to its larger molecules, nitrogen stays confined within the tire longer, and helps maintain tire pressure because it diffuses at a rate about 30 to 40 percent slower than oxygen. Once a tire is inflated to the proper pressure with nitrogen, it can go weeks or months without a refill.

The big question, of course, is "Will American drivers go for nitrogen?"

"There's a good indication they will," said Lang. Properly inflated tires offer reduced rolling resistance, so they boost fuel economy -- music to the ears of consumers who are resigned to paying over $2 per gallon this summer. Since nitrogen creates less wear and tear on the tires, drivers will save money on tire replacement as well. "Once people hear about and understand the benefits of nitrogen, the demand will rise rapidly," he says. "Nitrogen isn't a luxury -- it's a common-sense approach to a very simple maintenance issue, and that's what drivers are looking for."