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Using Helium In Tires Instead Of Compressed Air – Crazy Or Not?

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A common question posted across the internet is whether it’s possible to fill car tires using helium instead of compressed air. This article will provide you with all the reasons as to why it may not be the greatest idea!

Table of Contents

Putting Helium in Car Tires

The idea isn’t so stupid, right? Fill your tires with helium instead of air and you’ll save a few ounces of weight. Probably not actually. Tires do not just help the car move forwards and backward but they also carry the load of the vehicle.

Essentially tires are containers of air that provide traction for the vehicle to move about. Now, you may think that because helium balloons are lighter than air balloons, filling car tires with helium will save you weight. But, the problem is that helium is a very low-density gas, it’s far less dense than the Earth’s atmosphere.

Helium weighs less than the air it displaces in a ballon and hence that produces its buoyancy that allows the balloons to float. But, a tire is a heavy object, and you couldn’t put enough helium in it to make it float for sure.

Anyway, the key problem with putting helium in your car tires is that the helium molecules are so small that they won’t be contained in the tire for long. Helium will find its way out of the tire’s small holes a lot faster than air will.

Helium atoms are so small and agile that they can quickly migrate away through the rubber of the car tire. This will therefore lead to the car tires becoming flat a lot more frequently and having to refill the tires or risk damaging yours allows.

It will be difficult to provide your tires with the correct level of PSI they get from the air when using helium instead. You probably won’t even find a can of helium with enough pressure to fill your tire. Not only this, but the cost of helium is substantially more expensive. Helium tanks may cost around 30-40$ when air is completely free.

If you have an air compressor already at home, or you have a tire inflator, the costs to inflate your tires with compressed air will cost hardly anything! Most gas stations across the country offer free tire inflation stands too.

Putting Helium in Bike Tires

The same applies to putting helium in bike tires as it does for putting helium in car tires. Because the helium molecules are so small, you’re more frequently going to have to deal with a deflated tire which isn’t practical at all. You’re far better using compressed air pumps, even the hand pumps, as these will provide with with a far lengthier period of an inflated tire.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What happens if you put helium in your tires?

If you put helium into your tires, the tiny atoms of the gas will migrate a way through the tire and out into the atmosphere a lot quicker than air. This will cause your tires to deflate significantly quicker than they would when using air.

Do race car drivers use helium in their tires?

No, many race car drivers use nitrogen instead of air or helium in their tires because it has much more of a consistent rate of expansion and contraction compared to the others. In terms of race driving, a half-pound of pressure can radically affect traction and handling. Nitrogen tires are more stable than standard air, and this is important when internal temperatures hit upwards of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have any questions about filling your car tires with helium, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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