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Nitrogen-generated profits: Facts overcome customers' fears of the unknown

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Nitrogen-generated profits: Facts overcome customers' fears of the unknown

To inflate tires with nitrogen or not? That is the hot question. And once you look at the facts and decide you can make money and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty by offering the service, how do you convince your customers that you're not selling snake oil?

The answers come from the experts, who tell us this is not new "weird science," but technology that already has been proven effective.

Just the facts, ma'am

Since its invention around 1845, the pneumatic tire has been filled with the same air we breathe -- air made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other gases.

Water is intrinsically part of air, since it is made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Compressing air concentrates the water.

Water is not good for tires and rims since it can corrode the rubber and cause oxidation in the steel beads, tire valves and on the rims. Also, water vapor absorbs and holds heat, so tires inflated with wet air run hotter.

And oxygen in the compressed air seeps through a tire over time, reducing the tire inflation pressure and subtly decomposing the rubber. Tires not properly inflated wear out sooner and are less fuel efficient.

Rubber Manufacturers Association research shows that 85% of U.S. drivers do not properly check tire air pressure. Although drivers still need to check tire air pressure, nitrogen can help save consumers from themselves, say proponents.

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They point out that inflating tires with a concentration of at least 95% pure nitrogen improves tire performance and handling, helps the tire last longer and get better mileage. That's because:

1. Nitrogen, a dry, inert gas, doesn't seep through a tire as quickly as oxygen. "Dry nitrogen gas will extend tire life by up to 25% and will improve fuel efficiency by up to 4%," reports a spokesman for Parker Hannifin Corp.

2. Nitrogen molecules are bigger than oxygen molecules. This means nitrogen migrates through a tire slower than oxygen -- three to four times slower, say the experts. Thus, pressure loss is more gradual. Since the tire will lose pressure more slowly, it will run cooler and last longer.

Jay Lighter, president of Kreska Technologies Inc., summed up the whole pro-nitrogen argument this way: "It's not that nitrogen is 'good,' it's that oxygen and water are 'bad.'"

Kreska Technologies is the worldwide distributor of NitroFill nitrogen inflation equipment, one of the players in this fast-growing market.

In a news release from the Tire Retread Information Bureau on "Why Inflating Tires with Nitrogen Makes Sense," it states, "While the trend toward nitrogen inflation is relatively 'new' to the truck and bus tire market, it has been long used in tires on Formula One, Indy, Le Mans and NASCAR racecars; commercial and military aircraft; military vehicles; heavy off-road construction equipment; and the Space Shuttle. The Moon Buggy had its tires inflated with nitrogen. Also, the Tour de France bikes use nitrogen in their tires. Nitrogen is environmentally safe and non-combustible."

Filling tires with the proper concentration of nitrogen can be a money-making proposition (see accompanying article on a dealer who is successful in this arena). Success can depend on how you educate your customers and market it -- and what your competition is doing.

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The 95% solution

Remember, the tire already has air in it to start with, so when you inflate a tire with 95% nitrogen, you end up with about 93% nitrogen in the tire, which is enough to make a difference, the experts say. And equipment on the market generates nitrogen in concentrations from 95% to 99.9%. What the ideal percentage is will be addressed in the future, as a panel of industry participants is being formed to look into that issue as well as other standardizations.

There are many companies with a myriad of nitrogen-generating equipment to suit your needs. Some are presented here, with others to be covered in our second installment next month.

Importantly, these companies also offer point-of-sale materials to help educate your customers, who may not be sold on this idea just yet.

Parker Hannifin Corp., (800) 343- 4048, www.parkertiresaver.com

The Parker Hannifin TireSaver nitrogen generators produce nitrogen purity of 95% from compressed air using hollow fiber membrane technology. Models TS02, TS06, TS12 and TS18 are wall-mounted, while a floor-standing model also is available (TS24F).

The units require no storage of nitrogen and inflate tires at the same rate as compressed air. They include two stages of high efficiency prefiltration and oil removal filtration and have auto shut-down for less wear on the compressor and less energy use. Each model includes a receiver tank. The generators offer a broad operating temperature range and have no moving parts for reliable operation.

The five models range from TS02's nitrogen capacity of 1.75 scfm and a tire inflation capacity of 30 auto tires per hour (195/65R15 size), up to Model TS24F's nitrogen capacity of 34 scfm and a tire inflation capacity of 68 truck tires per hour.

Also available from Parker Hannifin are Mobile TireSaver models for commercial tire dealers who have service trucks servicing fleets. The units are easy to install and are compact, rugged and weather-proof. Model MTS12 will generate 12 cfm for a fast inflation rate with no operator attention required. It provides double the output flow of the Model MTS06 mobile nitrogen inflation system.

The units are designed for extreme conditions, -30 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees F.

"This product introduction now makes nitrogen inflation available out in the fleet yards and road side," reports the company.

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Branick Industries Inc., (877) N2-HOTLINE, www.branick.com

Branick's nitrogen tire inflation systems run from single membrane units for motorcycle and light volume automotive applications to triple membrane units for high-volume truck and OTR applications.

The company's units offer portability and automatic inflation and are available as stationary systems or space-saving wall-mounted systems. "Our flexible components allow for any combination," reports Gil Schoener, CEO.

Branick's high output generators can accommodate any passenger or commercial shop. The smallest unit, Model 250, has nitrogen output of 1.33 scfm and is wall-mounted. It has an air input range of 110 to 150 psi.

The largest floor-standing unit, Model 1500, has a nitrogen output of 21.30 scfm. It has an air input range of 150 to 175 psi plus a line pressure gauge, filter maintenance indicator and auto shut off.

The company says it offers tools for tire dealerships at an affordable price.

Champion Pneumatic, (888) 436-5499, www.championpneumatic.com

Champion, a Gardner Denver Product, has three new nitrogen generators. Each of the Champion generators are mounted on 60 or 80 gallon ASME-code receivers and are shipped complete with a hand-held nitrogen analyzer, automatic shut off switch and filters with replacement indicators.

The systems are engineered to use a membrane to separate the nitrogen from the oxygen.

The Champion Advantage Nitrogen Generator can be connected to an existing compressed air system or can be ordered with a new system. A variety of tire sizes can be accommodated.

Models include NA 4-60 with nitrogen output of 4 scfm, Model NA 7-80 with nitrogen output of 7 scfm, and NA 14-80 with nitrogen output of 14 scfm.

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Kreska Technologies Inc., (877) 2GO-FILL or (954) 788-8748, www.nitrofillnow.com

NitroFill has 10 nitrogen generators all capable of producing nitrogen purity in excess of 99.9%. The company also can custom build a system to fill a company’s unique needs.

The generators utilize a six-stage filtering process that guarantees production of a verifiable concentration of pure nitrogen, ensuring a minimum of 95% in-tire nitrogen purity.

Also, Kreska Technologies’ portable, self-contained NitroFill inflation system can convert up to six tires simultaneously at the touch of a button. It requires less than 60 seconds of labor time. Most vehicles can be converted to nitrogen in eight to 10 minutes. The unit is programmable from 3 psi to 145 psi.

It replaces the air in the tires with nitrogen automatically, without lifting the vehicle or removing the tires or valves. It accepts standard nitrogen cylinders and has a rechargeable, long-life battery.

The mobile system has an easy-to-see backlit analog screen with graphic and audible indicators.

A complete turn-key system includes the NitroFill inflator/converter, regulator, connection hoses and hardware, four 26-foot hoses with self-locking chucks and a hand-held nitrogen analyzer. Point-of-purchase materials include 100 NitroFill tri-fold brochures, 250 cap kits, one roll of NitroFill windshield stickers, a counter mat and a 22-inch by 28-inch poster.

The cap kits include five self-sealing, chrome-plated copper NitroFIll valve caps, free one-year roadside assistance coverage, one windshield sticker, one registration card/key tag, and 12 monthly e-newsletters/reminders featuring your dealership and customized to your specifications.

Kreska Technologies’s roadside assistance plan comes free with every purchase of NitroFill. It guarantees that if a tire gets a flat within 12 months of purchase, the company will provide a service vehicle to change the tire or tow the vehicle to a facility of the customer's choice and reimburse the customer up to $60 for the needed assistance.

The company provides a full support program for its nitrogen generator customers, including service reminders e-mailed directly to customers; inclusion in regional and national marketing; monthly newsletter updates providing the latest information on product development, industry news and profit-building strategies; inclusion on product Web sites and the use of business analysis software as well as promotional materials and on-site product and sales training.

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”Interest is growing every day for nitrogen,” says Steve Motta, innovation manager for Vehicle Inspection Systems Inc. (VIS). “And tire dealers are in the best position to decide how they establish the nitrogen relationship with their customers.”

That includes what to charge for the service. Most dealers charge from $5 to $10 per tire. Some offer it as a free service.

“Giving it away makes no sense,” says Robin Pearl, president of N2Revolution Inc.

“If people pay for the service, they will be more attuned to maintaining the tires. And if they’re not maintained, the customers will be better off with the ‘good stuff’ in them!”

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