If you like performance cars, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Nitrous Oxide. Nitrous Oxide systems are a way to dramatically boost the horsepower of engines without internal hardware modifications. They really aren’t a good idea to install on standard street cars, however, because they can be dangerous. That being said, enthusiasts still install them on all sorts of cars. If you’ve wondered what they are all about, the service guys at Savage Chrysler of Robesonia, PA, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer, gave us the low down.
The old way
Let’s start with traditional methods to increase an engine’s horsepower. Standard methods usually involve high performance hardware: things like high compression pistons, special intake manifolds, modified camshafts, etc. This sort of hardware modification does the trick but is very labor intensive and, if you have someone do it for you, very expensive. An alternative method is to install a nitrous oxide system if you need a car that requires rapid acceleration episodically.
How gas engines work
To understand how nitrous systems work, let’s quickly review how gas engines work. For a gas engine to run, it requires three factors: fuel, air and spark. The way it works is that the engine mixes the air and fuel and then ignites it with a spark. This, of course, creates an explosion that pushes the pistons down in their cylinders which turns the crankshaft and then transfers power downstream to the vehicle wheels.
How Nitrous works
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is what is known as an oxidizer. An oxidizer is a chemical that supplies additional oxygen to a chemical reaction, which is what basically is what engine combustion is all about. When nitrous oxide is added to the airflow into an engine, an enhanced combustion process occurs which generates considerably more horsepower. Think of it as being a stronger explosion inside the cylinders which translates to higher horsepower.
“Wet” and “Dry”
There are two main types of nitrous systems for automotive performance use – “Wet” and “Dry” systems. Wet nitrous systems come with their own special fuel system hardware which allows you to introduce more fuel to your intake charge and increase horsepower. Wet nitrous systems are generally expensive. Dry nitrous systems, on the other hand, don’t come with special hardware and use your existing fuel system. Dry nitrous systems are generally easier to set up between the two simply because you don’t have the added fuel components to install. Most do-it-yourselfers prefer dry systems because of that feature, and the fact that they are cheaper.
Safety is one concern that should be addressed whenever discussing nitrous systems. Nitrous systems really aren’t for anything but specialty vehicles. And, as you might imagine, installing a nitrous system will immediately void the manufacturer’s warranty on your car. Another issue is legality. Check your local laws because in some states it is illegal to have nitrous in a street vehicle, in others it’s legal with certain rules. By all means look to see what regulations apply to you before you start ordering a kit.