It’s a common trope in almost every racing movie you’ve ever seen. There comes a moment in the film’s plot where the main character’s fast car has to kick it into overdrive and go superfast. Waiting for this most desperate of moments, the hero flips a cover off of the conspicuous red button you’ve been wondering about for the past eighty minutes and punches it, activating their nitro boost. Ta-da.
The Fast and the Furious movies have made their name on well-timed NOS injections. In Redline, Sweet JP uses the Steamlight (and an explosion) to win the big race. Spaceballs had Liquid Schwartz (though that isn’t a racing movie), and Mario Kart players can pick up booster mushrooms from item boxes (though that isn’t a movie at all). Clearly the idea has proliferated widely through media where fast isn’t fast enough. Is there any basis in reality to these injectable engine buffs, though?
As it turns out, there is, and as this feature in the June issue of Car and Driver details, there are three categories: coolants, oxygen enhancers, and additional fuel. Each injection has different ways of giving your engine a little bit of a boost. Coolants can reduce the temperature of a turbocharged engine by about one hundred degrees, upping the ante on available power. Oxygen enhancers – most commonly nitrous oxide – increases the amount of fuel you’re able to burn, giving the car a short term, high capacity boost of horsepower. Finally, additional fuel is the best way to make up for the power a diesel engine sacrifices.
It goes without saying you should be careful about any and all of these systems because it may be more than your engine was designed to handle. After all, there’s a reason N2O doesn’t come standard (a lot of reasons if you count teenagers). It can’t hurt to learn, though, so if you want to find out more about “beefing up your twirly bits,” we recommend you read the full feature, “The Physics of Injectables: Hypodermic Horsepower.”