Although it may not always seem that way, your car’s tires have a major impact on the vehicle’s overall performance. Besides the design of a tire, the gasses used to fill it are crucial factors too.
While tires usually have regular air inside them, you might be wondering if it’s a good idea to fill the tires with something else instead – such as helium.
After all, helium is the lightest gas in the world, which should make your tires lighter, right? We’ll be exploring these in detail soon to figure out whether you can put helium in tires.
Can you put helium in tires?
Although it is technically possible to inflate your tires with helium, you should refrain from doing so.
Although tires mostly contain nitrogen (atmospheric air has 78% nitrogen), it’s possible to fill them with other gasses like helium too. Your car will still run with helium-filled tires, and there may even be a few perks.
However, just because it’s possible to use helium and it grants a couple of advantages, it doesn’t mean that filling your tires with helium is a good idea.
Using helium in your tires is rather impractical, considering the benefits aren’t very significant and the disadvantages overshadow them anyway.
Helium is also much costlier than regular air, which means you’ll be spending extra money for more hassles than benefits. Hence, it’s simply not very feasible to put helium in tires, even though you can.
What Happens If you Fill tires with Helium?
When you fill your tires with helium, you’d expect them to become very light, right? In fact, it’s quite a common assumption that helium-filled tires can float, just like toy balloons filled with helium.
Unfortunately, that is not how it works – you’ll barely notice any major difference in weight after switching your tire’s air with helium.
A tire’s volume of helium generally contains is too insignificant to make a visible difference. A balloon filled with helium floats because it’s just a thin shell of plastic without much weight of its own.
The buoyancy originating from the low density of helium is enough to negate the weight of the balloon and lift it off. However, a tire is way heavier than a balloon.
Tires have much thicker bodies, and much of their weight comes from their body rather than the air contained inside. Hence, helium would not only fail to make the tires float, but they won’t create enough weight difference to improve performance.
Do race car drivers put helium in their tires?
As race car drivers do not always use regular air in their tires, you might wonder if they use helium to lighten them so the car can move faster. However, the truth is they rarely use helium in their tires.
While some race car drivers use helium to reduce weight, most use regular air or pure nitrogen.
Nitrogen offers a wide range of benefits over helium or regular air, which also makes it a much better choice. If you really want to use something other than air in your tires, you may consider filling them with nitrogen.
Is there any benefit to using helium in your tires?
While using helium does offer a few advantages compared to regular air. Let us check out how you might benefit from putting helium in your tires:
- As helium is a lighter gas with low density, your tires will suffer less wear and tear. This will slightly increase their lifespan in the long run.
- A car’s handling is important in determining how it feels to drive the vehicle. Better handling ensures better control of the car, and helps it run more smoothly. Lightening your tires with helium can potentially make your car’s handling more consistent.
- Your car may deliver more consistent fuel economy upon using helium in the tires.
Helium in tires pros and cons
Now that we know about the advantages of using helium in tires, let us compare them against the downsides to see if filling your tires with helium is a good idea:
- You’ll experience better handling when driving a car with tires full of helium.
- Tires filled with helium help ensure more consistency in fuel economy.
- When filled with helium rather than normal air, your tires will suffer slightly less wear and tear.
- The tires will deflate much faster than regular tires filled with air. This is because helium has the smallest molecules among all gasses. These tiny molecules can make their way out of the tire through the microscopic pores in the rubber much faster than regular air, which is mostly nitrogen. Thus, you will have to get your tires pumped more often.
- As helium is harder to get, it is rather expensive. For instance, a helium tank with enough gas for 50 toy balloons costs almost 33 US dollars. Air, on the other hand, is literally all around us. Is it really cost-effective to spend 33 USD to fill your tires when you can fill them for free?
- The process of filling your tires with helium isn’t very simple either. Firstly, you need suitable equipment for the job, and regular gas stations and garages may not have them. Secondly, the process is rather time-consuming. Together with the fact that you have to refill your tires more often when using helium, it’s even more inconvenient.
It is possible to use helium in your tires, and race car drivers indeed do it sometimes. However, we wouldn’t really recommend doing it, as the disadvantages heavily outweigh the benefits. Spending a significant amount of money for a gas that requires more frequent refills simply isn’t worth it.
If you wish to get a better alternative than air for your tires, go for nitrogen instead. Unlike tires filled with regular air, nitrogen tires do not have any water vapor that can expand on heating up.
Especially if you drive a race car or simply drive at extremely fast speeds, this can be a great advantage. Moreover, nitrogen molecules are relatively large and leak out much slower. These perks are what make nitrogen much more popular than helium for filling tires.