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SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 2005
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Some local stores filling car tires with nitrogen

By Jay Wilson
DAILY Business Writer

jwilson@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

Brian's Tire & Service, a new business at 3025 U.S. 31 S., is filling tires with nitrogen instead of oxygen.

"I'm always looking to be the first to do something," said owner Brian Lombardino.

Race cars and airplanes have used tires inflated with the gas for decades.

Lombardino said nitrogen is an inert or slow-moving gas that has no moisture. The gas has larger molecules than oxygen. These two facts combine to make nitrogen more efficient for use in automobile and other tires, he said.

Moisture causes tire pressure to be susceptible to temperature changes. As the car is driven, the tires heat up, and the tire pressure increases.

Oxygen's smaller molecules seep out of tires more easily, causing a gradual loss of pressure. Nitrogen avoids this problem, creating a constant tire pressure, Lombardino said.

"I'm upset I didn't know about it sooner," Lombardino said.

He has been in the tire business since he started at Goodyear on Sixth Avenue Southeast. That was about 17 years ago. He has owned a store since he opened Brian's Tire & Service in Huntsville about 1993.

The constant pressure wears more evenly, and tires last longer than those that wear unevenly, Lombardino said.

Properly inflated tires also increase fuel economy.

Lombardino said he may have been the first to use the gas locally, but others followed suit as the major tire manufacturers, including Michelin and Goodyear, approved the use of nitrogen.

Manufacturer approval means the tire warranty remains intact with the use of nitrogen.

But tire dealers are not changing quickly.

Larry Hollaway, manager at Goodyear on Sixth Avenue, said he didn't know enough about it, but he didn't think it was that big a deal.

"It's supposed to last three to five times longer and reduce the need to check air pressure," he said. "It probably has a few advantages."

He said Goodyear has not planned to use the gas, but it might be something that the industry turns to in the future.

Curtis Hopper, assistant manager at Minor Tire and Wheel on Sixth Avenue, said they have been using nitrogen for about a month.

"It's supposed to keep aluminum wheels from oxidizing," he said.

"Tires run cooler and retain less heat," Hopper added.

Lombardino tests his tires to see that they are filled with 100 percent nitrogen when he changes from oxygen.

Some storeowners and managers said one problem is that people with nitrogen-filled tires can't get the gas for their tires wherever they go. Lombardino said it's not a problem. People can use oxygen temporarily.

The gas is less dangerous than oxygen. It is non-flammable and should not be confused with nitrous oxide or liquid nitrogen, which freezes instantly, said Lombardino.

He said it is more expensive than oxygen because of the costs of labor and the nitrogen machine.

"We charge $29.95 to fill all five tires," he said.

Tires filled with nitrogen have a distinguishing green cap on the valve stem of each tire.

"It's the new standard for me," said Lombardino.

CORRECTION

An article in Sunday's edition said a local tire store is filling tires with nitrogen instead of oxygen.

It should have said the store is filling tires with nitrogen instead of air.

THE DAILY regrets the error and is glad to set the record straight.

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