Nitrous, juice, squeeze... the very words are loaded with rebellious implications, suggesting that someone'spushing the limits, even getting away with something they shouldn't be. They do call them cheater plates, right? We, on the other hand, say that when it comes to making power, why shouldn't you get away with it? Nitrous oxide is power in a bottle, and it's hands-down the most cost-effective way to make more power and go faster. There is a wide variety of systems available, and with one bolted in place and properly set up, horsepower gains of anywhere from 50 to 600-plus with the multistage systems are available at the tap of a button. Our first goal here will be to cover the basics of how nitrous works as well as what you need to know to use it safely and effectively. Second, we've picked the minds of some expert nitrous tuners and manufacturers so that you can reap the benefits of their experience. And last but not least, we've also filled this nitrous extravaganza with several informative mini-tech articles, all in the name of giving you the most bang for your buck-which is what nitrous is all about, after all.
Why Nitrous Oxide?
We know you've heard it before, but we're gonna say it one more time: An internal combustion engine needs fuel, air (oxygen), and spark (ignition) to run and make power. The more air/fuel mixture you can get into an engine, burn, and get out, the more power you can make. Which leads us to nitrous oxide, or N2O as it's known in chemical shorthand. First of all, nitrous is not a fuel, and it's not flammable. Nitrous consists of two atoms of nitrogen joined to one atom of oxygen, and contains about 36 percent oxygen. The air we-and our engines-breathe is only about 23 percent oxygen. So by injecting nitrous into an engine, we're essentially filling the cylinder with concentrated oxygen.
When kept under pressure in a bottle and through the system, nitrous oxide exists in liquid form. As soon as it's injected into the intake tract, it becomes a gas. Once this gas makes it into the combustion chamber, many things happen. First and foremost, the heat and pressure of an engine's compression stroke break down the nitrous molecule into its components, freeing all that oxygen and allowing much more fuel to be burned than would normally be possible. Second, the force of this molecular breakdown improves fuel atomization-you not only get more fuel into the combustion chamber, but you also get it in a form that's easier to burn. And finally, because nitrous gas is very cold-we're talking -125 degrees F here-the intake charge is chilled, creating a denser charge, which leads to better combustion and increased power.
With significantly more air/fuel mixture on hand for the burning on the power stroke, the result is a significant gain in cylinder pressure, which translates into substantial power gains. In theory, it's actually pretty simple, and if you pay attention to some important details, it can be fairly simple in practice as well.
Although their basic internal components are the same, nitrous and fuel solenoids come in a wide variety of sizes, each with internal orifices designed to deliver specific amounts of nitrous and fuel. Amperage draws also vary, depending on the pressure being dealt with. Manufacturers tailor solenoids to specific setups. For example, a small solenoid may not have the power and capacity to deal with a big shot. It's not a good idea to mix and match them.