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4.6L / 5.4L Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide is all the rage among mod motor Mustang street racers, and for good reason. Short of
a well-prepared turbo or blower, nothing runs harder than a motor on the juice. Nitrous oxide offers
a number of benefits, including the ability to adjust the available power level. Much like cranking up
the boost pressure on a turbo, jet changes on a nitrous system allow you to literally dial in the extra
power. Naturally there is a limit to the amount of nitrous that can be added, something usually
dictated by the strength of the internal components of the motor. In addition to the adjustable
power, street racers dig nitrous because it can be easily hidden. Of course it doesn’t take a genius
to figure out that if a ’96 Mustang GT dusts off an LS1 Camaro, it’s probably sporting something
more than a stock 4.6L 2-valve. Nitrous is also cheap. Compared on the basis of available power
gains, nitrous offers far and away the best bang for the performance buck. Stealth, adjustable
power gains, and easy on the wallet—is it any wonder nitrous has become so popular?
NOSzle nitrous oxide system from NOS installed on a Ford 4.6 liter intake manifold
Looking for some show with your
nitrous-power go? This NOSzle system
from NOS is as trick looking as it is
For the uninitiated, nitrous oxide is not a fuel, but rather an oxidizer. Despite the automotive
infernos depicted in movies like The Fast & The Furious, nitrous oxide does not burn, nor is it likely
to incinerate a car. The special effects people in Hollywood – not the compound contained in your
shiny blue bottle – cause explosions of the magnitude depicted on the big screen. You could
literally open the bottle of nitrous and touch a match to the spray and the only thing that would
happen is that the match would go out. No thunderous explosions, no massive fire balls, just an
anticlimactic wisp of smoke as the high-pressure, ice-cold stream of nitrous oxide extinguishes the
flame. If nitrous oxide doesn’t burn, then how does it increase the power? This seems like a logical
question, and it’s one that has a very simple answer. Nitrous oxide adds power by releasing free
oxygen molecules contained in the compound. Since oxygen molecules are a key ingredient in
power production (the more oxygen present, the greater the power potential), the release of these
oxygen molecules adds to the power potential of the motor. More nitrous equals more free oxygen
molecules, which in turn equals more power.
Nitrous Oxide injection nozzle
Wet nitrous systems (like
this unit from Zex) combine
the nitrous and fuel in a
single fogger nozzle.
Naturally there’s a limit to just how much nitrous can be added to any combination. While most stock
motors, even those equipped with cast or hypereutectic pistons, will happily withstand an increase
of 40 to 50 percent (depending on the original power output and displacement), adding more power
brings the strength of the internal components into play. Building a high-horsepower nitrous motor
is not much different than building a high-horsepower turbo or supercharged motor. Short blocks
typically include forged rods, cranks, and pistons, with high-strength head gaskets, head studs, and
possibly even an O-ringed block. Nitrous and forced-induction motors do, however, differ in their
cam timing and cylinder head porting. Nitrous motors tend to like a lot of exhaust flow, since the
nitrous adds all the necessary intake oxygen molecules. All that improved intake efficiency must
now be allowed to escape, thus the need for greater exhaust port flow and wilder exhaust cam
timing (relative to a turbo).
Zex nitrous system installed on a 2003 Mustang Cobra 4.6L DOHC supercharged engine
Ever think about combining nitrous
oxide and forced induction? This Zex
nitrous system was installed on a
Supercharged ’03 4-valve motor with
excellent results. The nitrous actually
acts as an intercooler to lower the inlet
charge temperature.
Adding power through nitrous is different than adding the same amount of power through forced
induction. Sure, both will add an easy 50, 100, or even 200 hp (or more) to your average modular
motor, but how they go about adding the power differs. Both the turbo (or supercharger) and
nitrous increase the amount of oxygen molecules available to produce power. Forced induction
does so by increasing the mass flow of air. The increase in mass flow is accomplished by
pressurizing the air, thus force-feeding the motor more air than it could ingest of its own accord (in
naturally aspirated form). The unfortunate side effect of the pressurization (we see as boost) is that
the pressure causes heat. Turbos and superchargers heat the inlet air, something not desirable
from either a power (less oxygen molecules per volume) or a detonation threshold standpoint. The
hotter the air, the easier it is to ignite. In some cases, the heated inlet air can self ignite before the
spark plug initiates the burn. The result is an expansion of the air/fuel mixture while the piston is still
on its way up to TDC. Naturally the expanding gases resist the upward moving piston. The result of
this struggle is sometimes not very pretty. The same thing can happen with excessive ignition
Nozzle for an NOS NOSzle system
The NOS NOSzle system
features these individual
nozzles for each cylinder
that combines the fuel and
nitrous under the injectors.
Nitrous, on the other hand, doesn’t resort to pressurizing the inlet air, but rather the extra oxygen
molecules are carried in the pressurized compound. Once delivered to the inlet tract from a
pressurized bottle, the liquid nitrous quickly turns into a gas. The transformation of a compound
from a liquid to a gas is a process called vaporization. Vaporization requires an input of energy; in
this case the energy is heat. The vaporization of the liquid nitrous absorbs heat from the
surrounding inlet air, desirable in any performance application (especially a turbo or supercharged
motor). While we associate heat with boiling (for example water turning from a liquid to a gas), the
vaporized nitrous does not produce heat (at least not to the inlet air). Though vaporized, the
temperature of the nitrous oxide is still at or near -129 degrees (the boiling point of nitrous oxide).
Naturally, mixing your inlet air with a gas that is still a chilly -129 degrees provides a dramatic
cooling effect. It is this double cooling that not only reduces the chance of detonation, but also
increases the density of the inlet air. Denser air equals more oxygen molecules, which in turn
(potentially) create more power.
Horsepower dyno testing chart of a Ford 4.6L engine using a 125 horsepower nitrous oxide kit
Naturally Aspirated vs.
With Zex 125-Shot
Early 2-Valve GT:
369 hp @ 5,900 rpm

With Zex 125-Shot:
472 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Largest Gain: 114 hp @ 4,800 rpm
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This has been a sample page from

Building 4.6 / 5.4L Ford Horsepower on the Dyno Building 4.6/5.4L Ford
Horsepower on the Dyno
by Richard Holdener
The 4.6- and 5.4-liter modular Ford engines are finally
catching up with the legendary 5.0L in terms of aftermarket
support and performance parts availability. Having a lot of
parts to choose from is great for the enthusiast, but it can
also make it harder to figure out what parts and modifications
will work best. Building 4.6/5.4L Ford Horsepower on the
Dyno takes the guesswork out of modification and parts
selection by showing you the types of horsepower and torque
gains expected by each modification.

Author Richard Holdener uses over 340 photos and 185
back-to-back dyno graphs to show you which parts increase
horsepower and torque, and which parts don’t deliver on
their promises. Unlike sources that only give you peak
numbers and gains, Building 4.6/5.4L Ford Horsepower on
the Dyno includes complete before-and-after dyno graphs,
so you can see where in the RPM range these parts make
(or lose) the most horsepower and torque. Holdener covers
upgrades for 2-, 3-, and 4-valve modular engines, with
chapters on throttle bodies and inlet elbows, intake
manifolds, cylinder heads, camshafts, nitrous oxide,
supercharging, turbocharging, headers, exhaust systems,
and complete engine buildups.
Click below to view sample pages
Chap. 1 - Throttle Bodies
Chap. 2 - Intake Manifold
Chap. 3 - Cylinder Heads
Chap. 4 - Camshafts
Chap. 5 - Nitrous Oxide
Chap. 6 - SOHC Supercharging
Chap. 7 - DOHC Supercharging
Chap. 8 - Turbocharging
Chap. 9 - Engine Headers
Chap. 10 - 4.6 Engine Buildups
8-1/2 x 11"
208 pgs.
340+ b/w photos
Item # SA115P
Price: $28.95
This is a great book and a
must have for anyone
considering modifying a 4.6 or
5.4 Ford for more power!
Click here to buy now!

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