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Is Nitrous Legal in Cars and How it Works

Many race cars and drag cars use nitrous oxide or NOS for added power during an event.

This specialized gas is a serious performance booster for vehicles when it’s injected into the engine properly.

If you’re searching for a way to make your vehicle fast for short bursts you may want to consider charging up your ride with a NOS kit.

Adding a professional kit to your vehicle can increase your vehicle’s performance by 100 horsepower or more, and it’s something that can be added at a reasonable cost.

There are some risks that come with using nitrous oxide in your car, and it’s vital that you understand how everything works and the risks involved before you power up your vehicle. 

How Nitrous Oxide Enhances a Vehicle

Nitrous Oxide is a gas made of nitrogen and oxygen combined together.

This special gas has the unique ability to release pure oxygen when it’s heated to a high enough temperature.

This makes it perfect for increasing the amount of available oxygen in the combustion chamber of a car. Injecting the gas into the engine of your vehicle before combustion allows you to detonate a larger amount of fuel and generate more power. 

Short-Term Performance Gains Only

Nitrous oxide also known as NOS is typically used during races because it has the potential to provide a short burst of power to a vehicle.

The compound does this by increasing the amount of oxygen present in the engine’s cylinders during combustion.

If enough fuel is added to the cylinders to match this higher level of oxygen your vehicle will enjoy a serious boost in power that could be 50, 100, 150, or more horsepower in additional power.

This power boost only lasts for about 10 or 15 seconds before it wears off, and approximately 1 lb of NOS is used per boost pull.

Tanks can be costly to refill when fully depleted and there may not be local suppliers available to some users.

This is why most everyday drivers don’t invest in NOS for their vehicles. 

Nitrous Oxide Delivers Larger Power Increases for Larger Engines

It’s important to note that the larger your engine is the more power you’ll gain by injecting nitrous oxide into your engine before combustion.

That’s because the special compound increases the power of combustion by a percentage.

Having more power originally means that nitrous oxide will give you greater horsepower improvements versus a small engine. 

Common NOS Tank Sizes

Nitrous Oxide tanks come in several different sizes for in-vehicle use.

Car owners can equip their ride with a tank as little as 2-pounds in size, up to 20-pounds depending on the performance requirements the owner has.

The more charges you want during a single race the larger your tank must be.

Drivers should plan to use about one pound of nitrous oxide per boost during a race and they must decide how many charges will be necessary and weigh that requirement against the additional weight a larger tank adds to the vehicle. 

Understanding the Nitrous Shot Rating

If you’re researching nitrous oxide kits you’ll notice most offer a shot rating. There are 50 shot, 100 shot, or even 250 shot kits available to choose from.

The shot rating is the estimated performance increase in horsepower. In other words, a 50-shot kit will temporarily increase the horsepower generated by your car’s engine by 50 horsepower.

The kits aren’t exact, but looking at their shot rating will give you an idea of what you can expect from one of them.

The higher the shot rating is, the more nitrous oxide that’s being released into your engine when you trigger a boost. 

Is Nitrous Legal in Cars?

Nitrous Oxide isn’t illegal to use in automobile applications on the federal level.

That means you are allowed to boost your engine using nitrous oxide according to the federal government.

There are specific state laws that make it illegal to use in some locations and also put additional limits on nitrous oxide use. 

Nitrous Oxide is Often Legal for Track Racing

There are many states that allow the use of nitrous oxide for racing on a track or during a drag racing event. These states often prohibit the use of nitrous oxide for use while on the street.

Some states also forbid car owners from driving vehicles outfitted with nitrous oxide systems from driving on public roads at all, but most just require vehicle owners not to have a nitrous tank hooked up while driving on public roads.

That means you could drive the car to a track if the tank isn’t set up and ready to go. It’s best to keep it stored safely in a trunk or in another location where you obviously aren’t using it. 

If you’re going to use a NOS setup on your vehicle it’s important to research the laws of your local state and to talk with other auto enthusiasts and auto professionals about what’s allowed in your location.

You’ll very quickly determine whether you can use a NOS setup on your vehicle or not, and what size nitrous tank is allowed in your vehicle. 

Tank Storage Regulations

The states often have regulations about what types of tanks you keep nitrous oxide in as well.

There are usually limits to how many tanks of nitrous oxide you can own, and how you can store them.

Get familiar with these laws before you ever purchase any nitrous oxide for your vehicle and be careful to store your tanks properly to keep them safe and to comply with local law enforcement requirements. 

Refilling a Nitrous Oxide Tank

When you have a nitrous oxide tank you have to refill it as it becomes empty. There are only certain locations available you can utilize to refill your tank.

The available nitrous oxide suppliers in your state are determined by whether the gas is legal for automotive use or not.

You’ll have to learn who your local suppliers are as well as what costs you’ll pay to refill your tanks. 

How a Nitrous Kit Works on an Engine

Most nitrous kits utilize a special plate or an injector nozzle. These tools add nitrous oxide into the air that’s entering your intake manifold and going to the car’s engine cylinders.

When nitrous oxide is infused into the air inside the manifold it moves to the engine uniformly mixed.

When that mixture gets detonated in the engine the available nitrous oxide breaks down and releases oxygen making combustion more intense. 

The shot rating of your kit determines how the nitrous plate or injector nozzle functions. A higher shot rating requires a greater rate of nitrous oxide to be fed through to the engine.

A higher rating also demands a greater flow of fuel, and more durable cylinders and pistons to prevent damage during an intense racing performance.

Most experts recommend starting with a 50 or 100-shot setup and slowly increasing the performance boost to determine whether your engine can withstand the additional pressure safely.

Work with a professional to help you achieve the best performance increases without doing damage to your vehicle. 

Enhancements for a NOS System

When preparing your vehicle to handle nitrous oxide there are some upgrades that are important to help you avoid performance issues.

Adding spark plugs with a colder heat range and a shorter gap is important for maintaining proper combustion performance.

You’ll likely need to improve the fuel pump supplying your engine as well, and it’s recommended to increase your fuel pressure slightly so that you’re maintaining between 5.5 and 6 PSI of operating pressure.

It’s also advisable to replace seals and any worn engine components that may be strained by operating with increased power output. 

Work with a Performance Expert

If you aren’t familiar with the process of installing a NOS system and configuring your engine to use nitrous oxide it’s vital to work with an experienced technician to get a system added to your vehicle.

Only work with experts with a reputation for safety practice and avoid doing the work yourself unless you have experience and you understand how to upgrade your vehicle safely. 

Why a Bottle Heater is Recommended

Many NOS kits don’t come standard with a bottle heater, but this addition is recommended for achieving consistent boost performance from a nitrous oxide setup.

It’s important to gauge the pressure level in your nitrous tank and to adjust the temperature of the tank to maintain desired pressure levels within.

As your tank heats up the pressure level of the gas inside will rise.

That’s why a heater is useful for keeping your gas at constant pressure to ensure you’re always getting the same amount of boost when you race. 

Maintain Your Vehicle Carefully for Longevity

If you’re going to add power to your engine using a NOS system it’s vital you have your vehicle examined regularly for any signs of damage.

You’ll want an expert to look at your engine, your exhaust, and your intake components regularly to see if the upgrades are causing any harm to your vehicle.

Maintaining a NOS-enhanced car requires more diligence and regular checkups should become part of the standard maintenance process. 

Along with having your engine examined frequently, it’s important to maintain the other areas of your vehicle as well.

In Conclusion

This means washing down your car regularly or having someone else wash it. Be careful to only visit touchless car washes to avoid wearing your paint and suffering damage to the finish of your vehicle.

You could also hand-wash your vehicle to safely clean it, but to keep things clean as conveniently as possible you should work with a waterless cleaning company like No-H20. 

No-H20 cleans vehicles using very little water and uses a gentle cleaning method to avoid damaging the paint finish of a car.

The best part is that the company will send a technician to your home to clean your vehicle.

You can have professionals go to your home and wash down your vehicles to keep them in pristine condition.

The company could also perform cleanings at the race track, at work, or in other locations that are convenient for you.

Work with the team to maintain the finish of your car and it will hold up better over time for long-term use.

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