The Glory of Giggle Gas Explained
Question: I’ve heard that NOS is the easiest way to boost power, I wanted to know if that was true and how nitrous actually works.
Answer: Great question! You can learn a lot “through the grapevine” but it’s always important to do your research. Nitrous is considered to be the cheapest power-adder available, but it’s important to understand how it changes your car’s performance before you go all gas-happy…
The History Behind the Ha-has
Nitrous oxide was first “discovered” by an English minister/chemist named Joseph Priestly, in 1772. For years, it was touted for its use as a medical anesthetic until the convenience and potency of chloroform and ether made it largely obsolete. Later, the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) used it to boost performance of their high-altitude plane engines during World War II. Although the Germans only used nitrous on specialized bombers and high-altitude aircraft, the technology was later adapted for use in automotive applications. After being banned by NASCAR in the 1950’s, nitrous made its debut on the drag racing scene in the 1970’s. The term “NOS” is actually an acronym for “Nitrous Oxide Systems” – the company that pioneered the use of nitrous oxide as a power-adder for cars and motorcycles and made the technology available to the average shade-tree mechanic. Thanks to the Fast and Furious films, “NOS” has now become synonymous with nitrous oxide.
History class is over, folks, so slap on those safety goggles and get ready for some chemistry! There are two types of gas, nitrous oxide for medical use is referred to as “U.S.P.” and is not available to the public. The other type, “Nitrous Plus”, is used for all non-medical applications, and contains a small amount of sulfur dioxide to deter recreational use. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) consists of 2 nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (33% oxygen), which is a much higher concentration than regular air (about 20% oxygen). The heat from the engine breaks the molecules apart, giving your engine an extra boost of oxygen – add some extra fuel to compliment that extra O2 and now you’re cookin’ with gas! Er… pun intended. More oxygen + more fuel = more power, and we all like that! As if that wasn’t enough, the N2O also boosts hp by cooling the inlet temperature – about 50-70 degrees. Considering horsepower increases 1% for every 10 degrees the inlet temp drops, your pony is gaining an additional 5-7%. However –nitrous is not all sunshine and rainbows – because you are forcing more air and more fuel into the combustion chamber, combustion temperature and cylinder pressure is going to increase dramatically. This makes it imperative that you follow the directions and recommendations from your nitrous kit. Failure to do so could end very very badly.
Wet Vs. Dry
There are two types of nitrous kits/systems, wet-injected and dry-injected. In a dry-injected system, N2O is sprayed into the intake while increasing fuel pressure to supply the additional fuel needed. Relatively inexpensive and easy to install, dry kits are great for first-timers and naturally aspirated motors (especially those with a return-style fuel system), but are not recommended for any forced-induction application. Wet systems are considered to be safer than dry because they mix the nitrous and fuel prior to combustion, decreasing the chance for detonation, and are the better choice for forced induction cars. They require more time and skill to install, but are much easier to fine-tune and can produce bigger horsepower gains. It is important that ALL nitrous systems are carefully monitored, as an accidental detonation could end in melted pistons or your intake manifold blown into hundreds of pieces.
You thought you were going to get a free drink out of us, didn’t you? Nitrous shot size has nothing to do with booze ; it actually refers to the approximate amount of horsepower you gain from the amount of nitrous sprayed, and our Zex kits come with jets ranging from 55 to 175 (depending on the application). “Plug-and-play” performance chips are not recommended with nitrous systems, but a custom-tuned flash tuner is always a helpful addition. If you have mostly bolt-on mods, your stock fuel system should be able to handle the nitrous with no problems, however you will have to upgrade your spark plugs (the manufacturer of your nitrous kit can give you specific recommendations). Nitrous is a great power-adder, it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to install, but as with any modification, do your research, and be careful – there are grave consequences for throwing caution to the wind, especially with regards to nitrous. Manufacturers like Zex can provide more information, and our AM reps are always available to assist you as well. Happy Gassing!