How Does Nitrous Oxide Help an Engine Perform Better?

Y­ou may have read our article about how sodium chlorate acts as a way to store oxygen. You release the oxygen in sodium chlorate by heating it. It turns out that nitro­us oxide (N20) works exactly the same way. When you heat nitrous oxide to about 570 degrees F (~300 C), it splits into oxygen and nitrogen. So the injection of nitrous oxide into an engine means that more oxygen is available during combustion. Because you have more oxygen, you can also inject more fuel, allowing the same engine to produce more power. Nitrous oxide is one of the simplest ways to provide a significant horsepower boost to any gasoline engine.

­Nitrous oxide has another effect that improves performance even more. When it vaporizes, nitrous oxide provides a significant cooling effect on the intake air. When you reduce the intake air temperature, you increase the air's density, and this provides even more oxygen inside the cylinder.

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The only problem with nitrous oxide is that it is fairly bulky, and the engine needs a lot of it. Like any gas, it takes up a fair amount of space even when compressed into a liquid. A 5-liter engine running at 4,000 rotations per minute (rpm) consumes about 10,000 liters of air every minute (compared to about 0.2 liters of gasoline), so it would take a tremendous amount of nitrous oxide to run a car continuously. Therefore, a car normally carries only a few minutes of nitrous oxide, and the driver uses it very selectively by pushing a button.

For more car engine information, check out the links on the next page.

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Originally Published: Apr 1, 2000

Nitrous Oxide Engine FAQ

How does nitrous oxide make a car go faster?
When nitrous oxide is heated to 570 degrees F, its molecules split into nitrogen and oxygen. This means more oxygen is produced for combustion, allowing the engine to produce more power in the process.
Is NOS street legal?
Nitrous oxide systems, also known as NOS, may be permitted for use depending on local city regulations. NOS is legal to use in some classes of auto sports.
Does nitrous damage your engine?
No. Using high-quality nitrous that's been fitted correctly and according to the requirements of your car should be safe for the engine and will not cause the engine to overheat or explode.
How do you apply nitrous to a car?
You will first need to find the safest place to mount the nitrous bottle. You will then have to install a nitrous line by removing the carburetor and setting up the nitrous plate. There is also quite a bit of wiring involved, which is why it is always best to hire a professional.
Can you buy NOS for your car?
Nitrous kits are available and can be easily installed in cars. They are also more affordable as compared to a turbo system or supercharger for your vehicle.

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