"Nitrous fixes everything." Our brain tells us that this statement is a fallacy, but rarely do car guys follow exactly what their brains tell them when searching for ultimate power and performance. But science has more than once proven that the illogical can become logical with time. And science has provided racers with the mystic elixir to ale the ills.
How do we get more power from our engine, without going to the huge trouble and expense of completely rebuilding it? Or how can we get our small-block to think and breath like it's a big-block? The answer to these and many more racing questions is nitrous oxide, because nothing can literally inject more power into your engine than a dose of squeeze. We love running nitrous and wanted to see just how much we could spray into a well-built Mouse before it bit back at us.
To accomplish our goal we had to track down a willing test subject first. For that we looked no further than the 391-cid "Stroke of Genius" small-block that Hye Tech Performance built for us in the June, July, and Aug. '01 issues. We asked the engine's owner if he'd return for another bout on the Vrbancic Brother's DTS dyno. He happily obliged with only one condition: We break it, we fix it. Agreed.
To better understand how and why nitrous oxide pumps up the power in your engine we'll explain some of the basics and do's and don'ts of nitrous tuning first. We also asked the experts at Nitrous Oxide Systems if they'd be willing to supervise our test procedures and offer some advice on the dyno. Two NOS techs, Mike Flynn and Sean Snow along with NOS co-founder Mike Thermos, showed up to prod us along.
What Is Nitrous Oxide?
We posed this question to the guys from NOS and they promptly opened a copy of their current catalog to show us the answers that lie within. To your engine, nitrous is simply a more convenient form of natural air. Since an engine is only interested in the oxygen contained in that air, nitrous provides a simple tool for manipulating how much oxygen is packed in with that air. Nitrous oxide is a mixture of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, chemically bound together to form an N2O molecule. The nitrogen is actually an inert element that won't burn by itself.
The power created with a nitrous oxide system comes from the additional fuel it sprays, along with the extra oxygen it brings. If you left the additional fuel out of the equation, the nitrous oxide would just speed up the rate at which your engine normally burns its fuel and that would lead to a catastrophic failure. Since nitrous really just allows your engine to burn a greater quantity of fuel and oxygen in the same time period, you're able to add tremendous power without making radical changes.
There's no trick to using nitrous oxide. It's really no different than if you were to install a blower or turbo, or to simply swap on a better breathing intake manifold and carburetor. In fact, your engine will run like it's on steroids, because it'll be burning an amount of fuel and air that only a much bigger engine normally could. Understand that the air we live in is made up of around 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent other gases (at sea level). Nitrous oxide is formed by combining two of the major elements of earth's natural atmosphere into an easily injectable mixture to burn the extra fuel. It's only when you don't inject the proper mixture of fuel and nitrous oxide together that you run into serious trouble. Unfortunately, as with all power adders, there's a practical limit to how much you can run into before you reach critical mass and self-destruct.