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TECH5 is a regular feature where EngineLabs asks industry leaders five technical questions. This week’s guest is Mike Abney, national sales manager for Nitrous Express

EngineLabs: Is nitrous itself a flammable fuel? 

Mike Abney: Nitrous is not a fuel. In its normal stored state within an automotive application, nitrous is not flammable. It does not become flammable until the heat from the combustion event causes the nitrogen and oxygen to separate. This makes nitrous a great power adder solutions for automotive applications. It’s safe to store but becomes very powerful during the combustion even within the engine.

EngineLabs: Is medical nitrous more potent than automotive nitrous? And also, what is a “window” switch?

Abney: Medical grade nitrous and industrial grade nitrous produce the same amount of horsepower. Medical grade nitrous would work fine in a nitrous system, however, there are restrictions that prohibit selling it to the general public. Industrial grade nitrous (Nytrous Plus) has a small amount of sulfur added to prevent substance abuse, so it is readily available to the general public through most air and gas distributors, welding supply companies and speed shops.

“A window switch is used in conjunction with a wide-open-throttle (WOT) switch and allows the nitrous system to engage only within a user adjustable rpm range, or window.  So for example, if you set an rpm window for 3,000-6,000 rpm, the nitrous system will only engage when the nitrous system is armed, the vehicle is at WOT and the rpm window is within 3,000-6,000 rpm.

EngineLabs: Is purging nitrous a waste of nitrous? Plus, how do I know a solenoid won’t stick open and blow my engine?

Abney: Purge systems are designed to eliminate trapped air and gaseous nitrous from your feed line so that dense liquid nitrous is ready for the nitrous solenoid. This results in full power immediately upon nitrous activation, which can result in quicker ETs. When you activate the purge valve, the output stream will begin clear and will turn white once the air has been purged from the feed line. Most racers vent the output of the purge valve in clear view of the driver so the driver can see when the purge stream is nice and white. If you continue to purge while the stream is white, you are most likely wasting nitrous.

Solenoids do not “stick” open. NX solenoids are designed that if they ever do fail it will fail in the closed position. The only way for a solenoid to allow nitrous flow when the solenoid is not engaged is from debris caught between the solenoid plunger and seat. Trash can be introduced into the nitrous system when the bottle is filled and the person filling the bottle does not use a nitrous filter. NX provides a filter fitting to use in the inlet of the nitrous solenoid to stop debris from ever entering the solenoid.

EngineLabs: My 10-lb bottle seems to hold more. Can I fill it completely full? And what’s the purpose of a bottle heater?

Abney: Filling a nitrous bottle beyond its rated capacity is not recommended. It is possible to overfill a bottle if the bottle temperature is cold but if the temperature rises a bottle that is overfilled will experience high pressures which could cause the safety blow-off disc to rupture, and you will lose all your nitrous.”

“Bottle pressure is critical to a reliable, repeatable nitrous system. NX Bottle heaters come with a pressure transducer that will monitor bottle pressure and will turn on the bottle heater when the bottle pressure is low and will automatically turn off when the bottle gets to the optimal pressure. These pressure transducers are also user adjustable, so you can set the bottle pressure to any pressure you want to target. We recommend targeting 1,050 psi.

EngineLabs: Can we use nitrous on turbo cars?

Abney: Absolutely! Nitrous and boost work great together. Most boosted applications have elevated intake air temps which limit overall horsepower potential. Nitrous sprays out of the system at 127 degrees below zero, which cools the hot intake air temps associated with boost. Adding nitrous to a supercharged or turbocharged application makes huge power gains but in the case of turbocharging there is an additional benefit to running nitrous… Decreased turbo lag.