You’ve probably seen the famous movies with everyone’s favorite tuner cars doing things that aren’t physically possible while driven by lovably laughable actors. While you might be laughing at their line delivery, you might also find yourself laughing thanks to one of the popularized upgrades found in the movies. We’re of course talking about Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas, as that instant horsepower in a bottle solution to help bump your performance over short durations. Today, we’re going to explain what NO2 does, why it works, and what it might do for you.

Nitrous Oxide is two parts Nitrogen and one part Oxygen, commonly found in gaseous form at the Dentist’s office, head shops, bakeries, and the drag strip. Until the 20th century, it was basically a party trick that folks used to get a little lifted, thanks to the gas’ heavier-than-air weight. However, after a drag racer in the 50’s started messing with oxygen induction systems, NO2 was explored as a way to increase the volume of air in a combustion chamber without increasing the displacement of the engine. While directly introducing Oxygen didn’t work out, Nitrous Oxide injection did work. It worked really, really well.

Thanks to the properties of Nitrous Oxide, the Nitrogen atoms and Oxygen atom only split at a very high temperature. This means you won’t have pinging or detonation like you would if you just introduced Oxygen by itself. Instead, the Nitrogen and Oxygen atoms split once they enter the cylinder. Now, all you need is the proper fuel mixture and you get a bigger explosion for more power.

Basically, your introduction of Nitrous Oxide is a way of sneaking more air into your combustion chamber similar to how a forced induction system works. The biggest difference is that the gas is pressurized in a bottle rather than sucked in from the atmosphere and pressurized in a compressor. The benefit of NO2 is that it is much more powerful than just adding a turbo or supercharger and much cheaper than what you would need to do to match the available power. The downside is obvious; you are limited to however much NO2 you have on hand in the bottle. When you run out, you have no more giggle gas to bump your power and have to re-fill your bottle. This can become costly if you drive on the bottle all the time. Not only that, but the longer you use NO2, the harder your engine has to work. This means you are running additional risks to your engine’s reliability, since it was never designed to produce the power you are capable of generating with a bit of tricky NO2.

So why would you want to add NO2 if it doesn’t match the longevity of forced induction and can only be used in short spurts? That depends on what you do with your car. If you are someone who lives their life one quarter mile at a time, using NO2 is the best bang for your buck and the fastest way to significantly decrease your times while increasing your top speed. Whether you do it on the track or a closed road in Mexico, this is the perfect use for NO2, since you will only be spraying for about 10 seconds with plenty of time between runs to let everything settle down. If you want to spend longer on the bottle, we suggest looking at different upgrades. Anyone who wants to improve their power for constant use should consider something more permanent than a Nitrous Oxide system.

If you are in that category of 1/4 mile killer, then your best bet is a Nitrous Express system. Their high-quality kits come with everything you need and can be configured exactly to your specifications for the best results in your car. Depending on your engine, drivetrain, target goals, and driving needs, NX can help tailor your kit with the best in the business for horsepower in a bottle. Just remember, don’t hit that button too soon. Johnny Tran’s got over $100k in his Honda.