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Nitrous Express

Keith Buglewicz
Mar 1, 2002

There are several ways to measure the effectiveness of a power-enhancing upgrade. The first of course is the dynamometer, but raw power is actually only part of the equation. There's also the time taken to install whatever it is, the amount of money that it costs and the amount of maintenance required to keep it in operating condition.

Nitrous oxide scores well in all of these areas, so it's no wonder the addition of huffing systems is so popular. Relatively inexpensive, the resulting power from a nitrous oxide system can radically transform a car from a sleepy boulevard cruiser to a blistering street racer.

I was reminded of this little fact after driving back to the palatial Honda Tuning offices in a freshly squeezed 2001 Civic EX coupe. With a 50-hp shot from Nitrous Express just a mashed throttle away, the Civic leapt forward like a disobedient dog at the end of a leash whenever the throttle was opened to full song. The expert installation had been performed by Teren King of T. K. Motorsports, and took a full 10 hours to complete.

This was Nitrous Express' GenX kit, with virtually every bell and whistle one can attach to the bottle full of torque. In addition to the basic system of the bottle, injectors and switches that one normally associates with a nitrous system, this one included a remote bottle opener, a bottle heater and blanket, and a much more elegant multifunction switch for all three. Despite the length of the installation, King was quick to point out that a more basic system (minus the remote opener and other extras with this kit) still takes about six hours to install. Interestingly, most of this time wasn't taken up actually attaching hoses and fittings to the bottle, as well as other hardware in the kit. Rather, it was a quite extensive wiring job as well. There are various switches--both manual and automatic--that ensure the nitrous oxide system doesn't shatter an engine into shiny little aluminum bits. Despite the reasonably clear instructions provided by Nitrous Express, the wiring itself is complicated enough that if you don't absolutely know what you're doing, taking it to a professional is an excellent idea.

At the end of the day, however, the dyno proved the labor was well worth the time and effort. Strapped to R&D Dyno's DynoJet dynamometer, the Civic made 110.9 hp at the wheels with the nitrous switched off. However, with the system turned on and properly purged, horsepower jumped immediately to a whopping 154.6 hp. An improvement of 43.7 hp is good by almost anyone's standards, but it was short of the claimed 50-hp increase boasted by the "50-shot" claim of the system itself.

This shortfall didn't go unnoticed and R&D Dyno proprietor Darrin SanAngelo quickly diagnosed the problem as a bottle that wasn't properly warmed up. A quick check of the bottle pressure confirmed it was "only" at 750 psi. To build up enough pressure to really get the system pumping, at least 900 psi is needed. The bottle heater went on, and we waited. With pressure built up, SanAngelo ran the car up to redline on the dyno once again. The result? A full 170.9 hp, a 60-hp increase compared with no nitrous. Even more surprising was the torque increase, from the stock 103.6 lb-ft at a high-ish 5000 rpm to a whopping 210.7 at a low 3500 rpm. Torque in a bottle, indeed.

How can just squirting a little nitrous oxide into an engine result in a more than 50-percent increase in wheel horsepower? Nitrous oxide increases power in two ways. First, it adds a powerful oxidant to the combustion chamber. Gasoline needs oxygen to burn, of course, so more oxygen in the combustion chamber means more fuel can be added to take advantage of it.

The second way is courtesy of the law of thermodynamics. As liquid nitrous oxide expands to a gas, it gets extremely cold, cold enough to freeze flesh. This low temperature makes the intake charge denser, again allowing more oxygen into the combustion chamber and allowing even more fuel into the mix. The result is akin to what happens when an engine is turbo or supercharged, e.g., more oxygen is shoved into the combustion chamber and more gasoline is squirted in to take advantage of it. The result is a bigger bang.

Of course, that bigger bang can devastate an engine if it isn't ready for it. It's easy for the engine to get too lean with so much extra oxygen flowing into it, so it's important to follow correct installation procedures. This means making sure that not just nitrous, but plenty of fuel is added to the mix. First in this is, of course, the injection nozzle itself, which sprays a proportional amount of gasoline into the chamber as well as nitrous. Beyond that, there's a throttle switch that only allows the nitrous to turn on at wide-open throttle.

Installed properly, though, a nitrous oxide system like the one we used should pose minimal problems. It's only active when you want it to be, so fuel consumption can remain virtually the same. The bottle needs to be filled occasionally, of course, but it's a minor price to pay to have so much additional power at your fingertips. From a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, nitrous is still a tough act to beat.

Nitrous Express
(888) GO FAST-1
({{{940}}}) 767-7697 fax

R&D Dyno Service
(310) 516-1003
T.K. Motorsports
(310) 678-9228

(909) 877-6800
By Keith Buglewicz
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