Nitrogen helps reduce the rate in which the tire loses pressure, and reduces the corroding effect of moist inside the tire, as well as improving heat dispersal. It's good but it's nothing near mandatory for road cars, you can do very well with normal air, as I have in my tires. The performance of pneumatic tires filled with air can be brought to a higher level if you periodically deflate the tires and and re-inflate them with "fresh" air.
Tires blow out due to heat. In long driving at fast speeds, especially when the car is loaded and the weather is hot, the tires sidewalls which work as springs will create friction which will generate much heat. The heat makes the different layers of the tire (rubber, steel, polyester, etc...) expand at different rates untill they eventually seperate and the tire "collapses" at the thickest and most hot spots, which are the shoulders of the tread. This will occur out of one of the following reasons:
- Under-inflation or over-loading: Reducing tire inflation by 20% is the equivalent of loading them with an extra 70kg, and the tire will buildup heat faster by 10% and reduce it's lifespawn by 18%!
- Driving at a very high speed for a long duration of time: Increasing the speed from 60mph to 70, will reduce tire lifespawn by another 18% or so.
- Using cheap tires from unknown brands (some tires which come from "myserious" manufacturers can be worst than old, cracky tires from a good brand!)
- Using defected tires with scuffs, buldges and cracks.
- Using old tires with a milleage of over 60-70,000km (from this point, the tire's performance is reduced by about 40%!)
- Using old tires over the age of four years. The effect of aging, even if sometimes not even visibile, dries out the rubber and is usually more profound than the effect of milleage, especially in hot countries.
My recommendations: Use four, identical, new tires from a known tire brand. Replace tires at a milleage of 70,000km. If you don't drive so much, replace them at an age of three years. Rotate tires once every 7,000 miles for a more even wear. Try to park the car regularly in the shade. Inflate tires once every two weeks. Inflate when tires are cold. If you must inflate hot tires (and the tires can warm up in short drives of a few minutes too) inflate them by an extra 10% or even more. A personal tire gage can be very helpfull.
Don't drive at very high speeds or with exceeding loads in the car. When you load the car with passengers and/or cargo, increase the air pressure according to manufacturer recommendations. In any case of doubt, prefere to overinflate tires than to risk having them under-inflated. Overinflation does not blow out tires. On the contrary, it makes the tire more rigid and less likely to blow out.
Try to make rest stops in long drives on highways. You can complete a drive of one hour and a half in one go, but don't drive for two hours without stopping once for ten minutes. For trips over two hours, stop on an hourly basis for ten minutes. Stopping in this rate helps maintain concentration (which reduces dramatically after 50 minutes) and also offers a considerable cool-down for tires and for the engine.
I have heard some people complain of factory low profile tires of a certain brand blowing out. However I've never experienced this myself.
I'm wondering if the op changed from factory specs without consulting a pro tire shop.
Some people think you can just willy-nilly put a 40 series on to the same size rim that was factory spec'd for a 50 series. You can Not do this safely! In fact it is out right dangerous because you have just changed the suspension geometry of the car by doing this.
You are right. Low-profile tires, and performance tires in general, are made to operate in a performance-intended environment. They require high speeds and loads, heat and good abrasive tarmac to operate at an effective temperature. For everyday use, a standard road tire wil be superior to a performance tire!
Low-profile tires also suffer when you drive on a rough road, where it overloads the suspension, so overall the tire's performance is reduced and there is a greater risk of wearing the dampers prematurely, changing the car's natural handling characteristics and a higher potential of damaging the alignment or bearings.
Instead, I would try to play with the tire pressure. An increase of the cold pressure by a few PSIG is a reasonable and effective way of tunning up a road car. It gives the same effect as a lower or stiffer sidewall and it does not reduce the contact patch by much (contrary to the popular belief) or increase tire wear.
A tire blow-out will not occur without the contribution of under-inflation or damage to the tire from road debries or curbs. Even the Firestone catastrophe would have been prevented if owners of the cars with the relevant tires would have checked tire pressures better.
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