Frank H. Cicerale
April 1, 2008

Ask your wife or girlfriend what matters most to her, and she'll likely say it's the "little things." Take, for example, a marriage proposal. Sure, every girl loves receiving a diamond engage-ment ring, but what separates the experience from that of her friends is the manner in which the ring is presented. Take it from us: Proposing to your girl after a romantic ride through Central Park in New York City goes over a lot better than popping the question in the middle of the mall.

In a sense, the same thing can be said for running nitrous on your muscle Mustang or fast Ford. Sure, just about anyone with basic common mechanical knowledge can install a nitrous system over the course of a weekend and get it to function. The difficult part is getting the system to function correctly, keeping the bullet under the hood intact and running as well as it can while sipping from "the jug." The way to keep your powerplant safe and running the best it can while on the laughing gas is to select the proper accessories to go along with your kit.

Before delving into what you need to complement your nitrous kit, it first helps to have an understanding of what nitrous is and how it works. While we could spend almost a year's worth of issues on nitrous-the theories surrounding it, differences in the numerous types of kits out there, and much more-we'll simply break it down into something a fifth-grader could understand.

Prior to the combustion process in an internal combustion engine, air and fuel are mixed by either the carburetor or through the fuel-injection system. When compressed in the combustion chamber and lit by the spark from the spark plug, the oxygen and the fuel burn rapidly. The ensuing pressure created by the burning air/fuel mixture forces the piston downward at an extremely fast rate. When nitrous is introduced, there are extra oxygen molecules available for combustion. This extra oxygen creates additional power by allowing more fuel to be burned. In addition, nitrous acts to buffer, or damper, helping to cool the combustion process. All of this adds up to more power when the button on the system is pressed.

While in theory nitrous oxide is simple, it has its complications. For starters, the fuel system should be sufficient to provide enough fuel volume to match the amount of nitrous injected. At higher horsepower levels, the fuel system should be stepped up. The last thing you want is a fuel system that is inadequate for the amount of nitrous you're running. This will result in the engine going lean-after which, detonation and a big kaboom! follows.

We spent some time strolling around the Internet and burning up the phone lines with numerous aftermarket companies to get an idea of what accessories should be installed with a nitrous kit to maximize both performance and reliability. Tag along as we show you the ins and outs of the squeeze play.

Cometic Gasket
Largely known for its line of head gaskets, Cometic has stepped up to the plate in the nitrous arena with a pair of nitrous controllers: the NOX BOX-1 and the NOX BOX-2. Both units have identical features and capabilities, except the NOX BOX-2 can directly drive two nitrous stages with progressive control, also known as modulated flow. The NOX BOX-1 is limited to on/off control and requires external relays.

While the NOX BOX-1 requires the external relays to do what the NOX BOX-2 does independently, both are designed to drive two nitrous stages as well as a purge solenoid. Each stage is independently programmable based on throttle position, rpm, vehicle speed, time delay, and First-gear lockout. In addition, both boxes are dataloggers and come with a USB cable so you can download the logged data to a laptop for analysis.

Zex Nitrous
Zex came up with a few items worth noting, one being its new dual-outlet purge kit, pictured here. The dual-outlet kit creates a V-pattern nitrous cloud through the use of two discharge tubes to let you aim the nitrous purge. The kit utilizes the largest and highest-flowing purge solenoid on the market and comes with all of the parts needed for an easy installation. The purge kit allows you to rid the system of any air it might encounter upon activation, and is a must-have to keep the engine from feeling the effects of an air bubble when the nitrous is activated.

To help keep the tires planted when the nitrous kicks in, check out Zex's new traction-control window switch. It allows you to easily select the rpm range of nitrous activation.

The ability to set this window is critical to engine safety because hitting the juice below 2,500 rpm can cause detonation and engine damage. In addition, hitting the rev limiter at high rpm with the nitrous engaged causes the intake manifold to quickly exit the engine. The Zex unit is completely self-programmable and allows you to block off First-gear activation, so you don't blow the tires away.

Another notable item is Zex's V-8 Spark Plug Tuning Kit. Offered in two versions--400 hp and 700 hp--the kits come with a full set of Igniter Core technology plugs, a hard-side plug carrying case, a spark-plug gapping tool, an illuminated spark-plug magnifier, and a spark-plug tuning guide. This kit allows you to swap over to a colder set at the track, while running the normal plugs on the ride to and from. As you probably know, colder plugs are needed when running nitrous to stave off detonation.

Nitrous Works
When it comes to running on the bottle, getting the bottle pressure to the right level is key to proper performance and consistency. Nitrous Works helps out in this area with its MaxPak bottle heater kit. The bottle heater regulates bottle temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which translates to optimal bottle pressure between 1,000 and 1,100 psi. The MaxPak requires a continuous 12-volt power supply and is thermostatically controlled for safety. The kit comes with a choice of -4 or -6 AN lines, a pressure sensor with automatic shutoff, an arming switch, a pressure gauge, a safety-valve vent tube, a bottle blanket with the Nitrous Works logo, and detailed instructions.

Nitrous Works also has a purge kit that comes with a choice of -4 and -6 AN lines, as well as a bottle-pressure gauge and adapter. The purge kit is self-explanatory, while the gauge and adapter allow you to fashion a pressure gauge to the top of the bottle, giving you the ability to monitor bottle pressure.

MSD Ignition
The rule of thumb when running nitrous oxide is to retard timing 2 degrees for each 50hp increase. While the stock ignition system may be fine for a small shot, to get the most out of each hit of the sauce and have peace of mind that the engine will stay together when the nitrous is activated, we chatted with the folks at MSD Ignition to see what they offered. We were impressed with the company's Digital Multi-Retard Control. The ignition controller was designed with nitrous oxide users in mind, and uses a microcontroller to manage four different stages of retard that can be activated independently as each stage of nitrous is activated. The retard amounts are adjusted with built-in dials, so there are no programs to memorize. The ignition controller also features an adjustable-start retard function and a magnetic pickup compensation circuit, so you can select a trigger design that matches your application. Of note, though, the ignition controller must be used with an MSD ignition control, so grab an ignition box and accompanying components when you order the ignition controller.

While you're at it, don't forget to check out MSD's Digital RPM Window Switch and TPS/RPM Activated Switch. The digital switch is programmable from 200 rpm to 15,000 rpm in 100-rpm increments, and can be adjusted simply by scrolling through the LED display to the desired rpm. The TPS switch offers the same as the digital switch, along with the ability to select a throttle-position sensor activation point. For those with S197 Mustangs as well as Fox-bodies or SN-95s, the TPS switch works with both normal or drive-by-wire throttle systems.

Nitrous Express
Nitrous Express offers a wide variety of kits, along with what it bills as the ultimate nitrous system accessory, its Gen-X or GenX-2 accessory packs. The packs come with all of the components needed to make your nitrous system dependable and worry-free, including a fully automatic bottle heater with pressure transducer, a fuel-pressure safety switch (which cuts off the nitrous if fuel pressure falls below a certain level), a liquid-filled nitrous pressure gauge, an NHRA-approved pressure-release fitting and blow-down tube, and all of the electrical connectors and wiring needed to complete the installation. The GenX-2 kit comes with an extra purge valve and Nitrous Express' Ice-Man solenoid.

Nitrous Express also offers a really cool remote bottle-valve opener that allows you to open and close the bottle with the press of a button. The company's Octane Series Bottle Volume Display Controller tells you exactly how much nitrous is in the bottle in either percentage or time. The bottle-volume display goes along with the Octane Series Nitrous Controller, which is billed to offer more functions than any progressive controller on the market, without programming via laptop.

For added security when running juice, check out the company's TPS Autolearn, which senses voltage from the throttle-position sensor and activates the nitrous system when it reaches a preset voltage level.

Nitrous Oxide Systems
Nitrous Oxide Systems, better known as NOS, has been around the nitrous game since the '70s. The company has just released its new Launcher Progressive Nitrous Controller, complete with an LCD touch- screen. The controller combines all of the functions a racer using nitrous could ever want into a single, easy-to-use controller. The device can be programmed to independently control up to four stages of nitrous from a laptop computer or via an available full-color 3.5-inch LCD touch-screen. The touch-screen allows you to make changes in the staging lanes to the nitrous program without the need of a laptop. The controller also comes with full datalogging capability, as well as the ability to save configuration files for easy setup at different tracks or for various weather conditions.

NOS also offers its P.O.D. Nitrous Controller. P.O.D. stands for Pressure On Demand, and it's designed to control a remote bottle opener as well as a bottle heater with just the push of a button. The P.O.D. auto-matically cycles the bottle heater on and off to maintain the preset bottle pressure, which can be adjusted via an LCD screen. Coupled with the ability to open and close the bottle, the P.O.D. makes it easy to maintain the correct bottle pressure.

Last but not least, you might want to check out the company's nitrous tool jet drill set. The kit carries a complete set of numbered drills from 0.0138 to 0.098 inch, comes packaged in a durable carrying case, and is designed to precisely drill brass flares and funnel jets.

Edelbrock offers everything from accessories to complete kits, but a couple of items caught our attention--one being the company's new E3 nitrous nozzles. The nozzles are made out of titanium, utilizing a straight-shot configuration and a unique tip design to produce excellent fuel atomization, which is necessary in realizing the perfor-mance benefits of laughing gas. The E3s are designed for use on Edelbrock's Super Victor direct-port nitrous systems, which offer power increases from 200 hp to 500 hp.

Edelbrock also offers a really neat progressive nitrous controller. Slightly larger than a pack of smokes and weighing less than a pound, the controller utilizes pulse-width modulation to regulate the amount of nitrous being delivered over a specific period of time with the nitrous and fuel solenoids. The controller's digital display is precise and easy to read, while the touch switch programming is extremely user-friendly.

Nano Nitrous
Nano Nitrous may be a small company, but it offers some big-time products when it comes to nitrous-system accessories. The company's new Sport Nitrous regulator eliminates variations in nitrous performance and instantly compensates for changes in nitrous-bottle temperature, pressure, and nitrous density. This ensures the perfect delivery of juice for absolute consistency at all times.