Tech / Tech Articles

Quick Tech: 8 Tips for Properly Tuning Your Nitrous System

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Congratulations, you’ve settled on a nitrous system.

There are any number of great systems on the market, and choosing a nitrous kit that’s right for your vehicle can be an accomplishment. If you watched our earlier video post, Your Top Nitrous Questions Answered, you know there are specific horsepower guidelines for picking the right system, depending on whether your engine is stock or modified. Hopefully, you followed those guidelines and made the best purchase decision possible.

Now it’s time to tune the nitrous system itself.

Fear not, though, because we’ve got some valuable tuning tips courtesy of Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS). Read on for some good old-fashioned NOS know-how from the nitrous gurus:

Be Realistic About What Your Engine Will Handle

If you don’t know what’s inside your engine, then the safest route is to assume the components are factory stock and can choose a system based on that. If you’ve added aftermarket components, be conservative in assessing the amount of power they’ve added. If you are unsure about those components, you can call the Summit Racing or NOS tech line, and they’ll be able to help you make a reasonable estimate.

Always Start Conservative

Follow the recommended jet combinations and start with the lowest level if you have an adjustable system. It only takes a few moments to change the jets so don’t take unnecessary risks by starting at the highest level.

You can check out baseline recommendations from NOS in these posts:

Bottle Basics (Part 1): Nitrous Baseline Tuning Recommendations for NOS Systems

Bottle Basics (Part 2): More Tuning Recommendations for NOS Systems

Understand the Role of Fuel

Power comes from fuel, and any performance increase is dependent on the amount of additional fuel your system supplies while the nitrous system is operating. If the fuel isn’t there, the power won’t be either and no amount of nitrous or anything else can bring it back.

On stock or mildly modified engines, the factory fuel system will work just fine. On highly modified engines where horsepower levels are substantially higher, fuel system modifications may be needed. Upgrades could be as simple as a higher-flow fuel pump or as complicated as a complete, dedicated fuel system just for use with the nitrous system. When tuning the nitrous system itself, there are two ways to manipulate the amount of fuel available during system use: the fuel jet size and the fuel pressure.

Monitor Fuel Pressure Correctly

Nitrous systems require a minimum amount of fuel pressure to work properly. NOS systems, for example, require 5.5 to 6 psi of pressure. However, the more fuel you can feed the engine, the more power it can make. You may want to bump the fuel pressure up to a rate that will yield greater power without causing detonation or misfire.

While tuning your nitrous system, take any fuel pressure readings while the system is activated. Some fuel pressure regulators give false readings because the pressure reading will creep up when the system isn’t activated. When this happens, the actual flowing fuel pressure will be much lower than expected and can cause problems. The correct fuel pressure is read while the system is flowing fuel.

Reduce Nitrous Jet Sizing to Avoid Detonation

When problems with misfire or detonation are encountered, always reduce the size of the nitrous jet first! Remember that the power comes from the fuel, not the nitrous, so trying to cool things down by adding fuel simply adds more power and complicates the problem. Carburetors jetted over-rich run cooler and release less power. Nitrous systems jetted over-rich will possibly just release more power, so if you run into problems, reduce the size of the nitrous jet(s) first.

Examine Your Spark Plugs

Hopefully, you’ve chosen the right spark plugs to go with your system. A good plug for nitrous applications typically includes a colder heat range (often one or two steps below your existing plugs), smaller plug gap, and shorter reach.

Your spark plugs can give you clues to how your nitrous system is running and what adjustments need to be made. When you check your spark plugs for signs of how your system is operating, check EVERY spark plug, not just the easiest plug to get to. No two cylinders ever run exactly alike.

Nitrous has the unique characteristic of cleaning the spark plugs very well and leave them looking freshly installed. If there are signs of detonation such as tiny silver or black specks deposited on the porcelain, reduce the nitrous jet size. If the ground strap of the spark plug exhibits a bluish-rainbow coloring, reduce the nitrous jet size. If the ground straps show signs of melting, reduce the nitrous jet size and change to a spark plug with a shorter and thicker ground strap.

Check Your Filters

If your system suddenly develops problems even though you haven’t changed anything, the culprit is most often a clogged nitrous or fuel filter. Check them periodically.

Consider a Bottle Heater

NOS systems are calibrated for optimum performance with a bottle pressure of 900-950 psi, but the actual pressure will change with temperature. Heater kits are thermostatically controlled to keep the bottle at optimum temperature to provide correct pressure. Kits are available for the most popular bottle sizes, with both 12-volt and 10-volt heaters available.

Other things that will affect the performance of your nitrous system include ignition timing and fuel octane. Keep in mind, NOS recommends you retard the ignition timing two degrees for every 50 horsepower added. You can find more information on timing and octane in the Bottle Basics posts mentioned near the beginning of this article.

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9 Comments

  1. The Sparkplugs!!! Christ I don’t know how many times I’ve said it to every single person that’s ever asked me about nitrous ox. you need to adapt the ignition system too. Get cooler sparkplugs with a smaller gap…

    This topic does actually sound so similar to “pod filters and re-jetting” in the ways on which simple concepts about the 4 stroke cycle and basic intake-exhaust roles get misunderstood… Then people have a lot of troubles with their modified engines because lack of due dilligence.

    I love this post guys!

  2. Bryan Rogers says:

    Hi guys I’m new here and thanks for the info but I have a 08 vette LS3 with long tubes 1-7/8″primes and 3″ collectors with kooks 3″ high flows and the rest of the exhaust is 2.5″ stock out the back and the rest of the car is also stock how much spray do u recommend using I’ve got a nitros express 90mm plate system I’m putting on it with jets from 50 to 200 how much would be safe I really don’t want to put the 50s in but I will for now but not for long lol and thanks for the article real good info

    • Bryan,
      On a stock Vette engine you will have forged pistons which is what you need to run nitrous. Tuned correctly, you would be safe at a 150 shot of the go juice. I really would not want to run the 200 shot for any length of time.

  3. When tuning for nos and you retard the timing , do you leave the timing retarded for street driving without the nitrous?

    • Dale,
      You can get an automated (like MSD) ignition control box that retards it for nitrous and then re- advances it when you’re off the bottle. Otherwise you must sacrifice your natural power for use of nitrous.

  4. Have you a table showing how nitrous bottle pressure varies with air temperature?

  5. 434 studs copper gasket lunati rotating assembly just want to sniper 150 shot is 7 psi to much for motor and bottle at 950psi or do I need to regulate it have had a big block with fogger

    • I would start with the 150 and 7 PSI. I know from experience that too much nitrous Will cause detonation and if not caught will trash your engine.

  6. Adrian Fogarty says:

    Wow, these are some really good tips and I found them to be really helpful. I was looking online for some aussiewritings review which would be helpful for me to decide if I wanted to use their services or not. If you know about them please tell me.

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