Putting Nos On Fuel-Injected And Carbureted Engines
For as long as I can remember being into cars and trucks, I've wanted to own something with nitrous on it. Without a doubt, nitrous oxide is the absolute cheapest horsepower available. But I'd never had any experience with it. In fact, up until I went to Westech Performance and put two NOS kits on a carbureted Chevy and a fuel-injected Dodge, I'd never even been in a vehicle with nitrous oxide, much less had any personal experience. There are so many taboos with nitrous, and that's why the majority of the public stays away from it. But as I have learned with recent experience, those fears are exaggerated. Yes, it is possible to destroy an engine if something goes wrong, but with the almost foolproof nitrous oxide-safety systems available today, those fears aren't really justified anymore. NOS systems have come a long way. And yes, NOS is an official company name, but it gets used as slang for any nitrous-oxide system (think Kleenex and tissues).
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is two parts nitrogen and one part oxygen. In a contained form, it is a very cold liquid that turns into a gas when released into the engine's intake stream. Nitrous is about 36 percent oxygen (compared to the air we breathe, which has about 22 percent oxygen), so when the nitrous is injected into your engine you are basically shoving concentrated oxygen into your engine. On top of that, the extreme cold temperature of nitrous allows for a denser charge, improving combustion and increasing power. Nitrous is not a fuel (read: nitrous oxide is not flammable!), but the concentrated oxygen allows more fuel to be burned which increases combustion and cylinder pressure, therefore pushing your engine to do more work (horsepower and torque).
One of the biggest fears people have is the added strain on an engine equipped with nitrous oxide. And what about that additional engine strain from the additional horsepower? Well, let me answer with a question: What do you think a supercharger or turbocharger does to an engine? It doesn't matter if you are getting 150 hp from a forced-induction situation or a squirt of some "juice" - adding extra oxygen so you can add more fuel increases power and subsequently puts more strain on your engine. The beautiful thing about nitrous is that it's only putting the additional strain on your engine when activated. Turbos and superchargers are on 100 percent of the time. Which do you think is worse for your engine?
As far as how much horsepower is safe for your particular engine, well, that depends on how your engine is built and what kind of engine it is. But a very good rule of thumb is that your engine can handle a 33-percent increase in horsepower over what it puts out stock.
Most nitrous systems on the market today are for "off-road use only," though there are a couple application-specific street legal kits on the market. This does not mean you cannot have a nitrous system plumbed into your street-driven vehicle. It does, however, mean that you cannot have the nitrous-oxide bottle hooked up to your nitrous injection system at any time on streets or highways.
The cost of a nitrous system can range from $250 to many thousands of dollars when brains and mastermind electronic controllers are added to the cost. I'd highly suggest staying away from the cheapest system possible, and instead look at a moderately priced, moderate-horsepower system with decent safety controls that will shut the nitrous-oxide flow off if a problem is detected.
You should not be surprised to spend upwards of $600 for a good system, so be prepared to drop more money than an air intake would cost. But how else could you possibly gain 100hp for less than a thousand bucks?