When it comes to injecting performance into an engine, most peoples’ minds go straight to nitrous oxide. However, there are other forms of injection with horsepower and efficiency producing benefits. Those systems also have varying price points, allowing alternatives for customers who may not be able to purchase a nitrous system.
In this article, we’ll take a look at three companies (Snow Performance, AEM and Cooling Mist) manufacturing an intriguing new technology, water/methanol injection systems, and in sidebars, we’ll also look at Bully Dog’s propane injection and a DEI’s CryO2 system.
Water/methanol injection just might be the best power producing injection system that performance shops are least informed about. So, we asked the three previously mentioned manufacturers what performance shops should know about water/methanol injection.
The Major Misconceptions
Before we dive into exactly what water/methanol is and does, let’s clear up some of the misconceptions that many have in regard to these systems.
The innovator of this technology who has been educating the market for the last few years is Matt Snow of Snow Performance in Woodland Park, Colo., who tells us that a common misconception is that injecting water into an engine will damage it. He first notes that this technology has been proven over the years, and then adds that his Boost Cooler® systems provide excellent atomization and inject only when needed, so any fears of hydro-lock or corrosion are unwarranted.
“The water/methanol mix is in a vapor state by time it reaches the combustion chamber,” says Snow, adding that a more detailed explanation is available on his website.
He notes that another misconception is that water/methanol systems are difficult to install and tune. “Our installations are very straight forward and about as complex as a car stereo install. Most systems can be installed in two to four hours. Tuning is easily accomplished by following our complete tuning guidelines included in every kit,” says Snow.
Another matter Snow clears up is the perception that water/methanol injection is only for high performance diesel applications. It is not, and in fact, can be installed on just about any vehicle.
There are other benefits Snow’s research has found, including 10-20% increases in fuel economy, up to 300ºF reductions in Exhaust Gas Temperatures (EGTs) while towing, and he notes that gains of up to 70 horsepower are common on any diesel.
Performance aside, there are other benefits that Kirk Miller of AEM in Hawthorne, Calif., is quick to point out, namely, “That something so inexpensive can actually contain more features and higher quality than many of the higher-priced kits.”
For those looking to further research the topic, David Hill of Coolingmist in Norcross, Ga., notes that Coolingmist also offers a lot of data-including videos on their website to help eliminate misconceptions.
Now that we’ve covered some common misconceptions, let’s dig into the products offered.
Snow relays that Snow Performance offers application-specific water/methanol injection systems for all gasoline and diesel engines. He adds, “Snow Performance Boost Cooler® water/methanol injection systems can work on practically any application including forced induction and naturally aspirated gasoline engines as well as diesel.”
To once again address the misconception that water/methanol is for diesels only, this means everything from supercharged domestic V8s to turbocharged four-cylinder imports to high compression n/a motors to daily driver turbo diesel trucks and everything in between can benefit from water/methanol injection.
Miller notes that, “AEM has designed a complete, cost effective water/alcohol injection system that includes all the most popular options into one kit.”
Rounding out this batch of product information, Hill adds that, “Coolingmist methanol/water injection systems are distinctive and have many features.”
Detailed explanations of each manufacturer’s kits and their components can be found on their websites.
What Water/Methanol Does and How it Improves Power
Now that we’ve covered a little bit of what the products can do, let’s dig in to how they do it.
Snow explains that, “The Boost Cooler® increases power by chemically intercooling the intake charge so it is much colder and more dense, getting more air into the combustion chamber. On a gasoline application, water/methanol acts as an octane boost giving pump gas the same combustion characteristics as 120 octane race gas. That’s a definite advantage as fuel and gas prices are up across the board.
He also notes that water/methanol also reduces intake air temps by 60-150° F. This means more boost, higher compression ratios, and more timing can be used to make more power without having to use race gas.
Snow adds, “On a turbo diesel, water/methanol acts as a combustion catalyst allowing more fuel to be burned during the combustion process. Along with a 200°-300° F cooler , denser air charge, this increases the engine’s overall efficiency, which provides more power (70 to 100 horsepower), reduced EGTs (200°-300° F) and better fuel economy (up to 20%).”
Miller explains, “The AEM Water/Methanol injection system allows the user to inject a mixture of methanol and water into the air stream after the turbocharger. The vaporization of the methanol dramatically cools the intake air charge and the knock-reducing effect of the methanol allows for higher boost levels to be run without reducing the timing, resulting in significantly higher horsepower output to be achieved.”
Miller says due to the fact that the controller has a boost-on setting and finish-boost setting combined with the progressive pump, users can dial in requirements and reduce the chances of over injecting or pooling in the inlet tract.”
Providing information on the Cooling Mist products, Hill says, “Our product injects a super fine mist of water, methanol, alcohol or any combination into the intake tract. This injection soaks up heat and ends up giving colder combustion temps, intake temps and EGTs. This allows the engine to make more power, run more boost and timing.”
Hill adds that further advances can be made from tuning.”
Top Selling Points
As any salesman will tell you, whenever a customer is debating a purchase, it helps to have a few key points to go over in order to nudge them a little close to the cash register. Now, each of these systems certainly have more selling points than we are able to mention in this article, but here are a few highlights.
Water/methanol injection is all that Snow Performance does, and so it should be no surprise that they’ve spent countless hours conducting dyno and road testing on their products. Through that testing, Snow Performance has come up with some standard selling points shops can pass on to potential buyers.
“Boost Cooler kits come pre-programmed and pre-mapped to provide out-of-the-box performance that doesn’t require any laptop tuning or adjustment,” says Snow.
While they certainly do more than water/methanol, AEM is another company known to test its products, and they also have some selling points shops should be aware of.
Miller notes, “The kit includes all the popular add-ons: the one-gallon tank, level sensor and progressive controller (considered ‘must have’ items), and the Boost-safe feature output allows the user to automatically reduce boost or timing in case of fluid loss or system failure. In addition, there is a test feature which allows the manual activation of the system to confirm proper operation.”
“Coolingmist manufactures an S-HSV (Super High Speed Valve Kit),” says Hill, providing selling points of his own, “and this offers fast performance. We also manufacture a trunk-mount tank (1.5 gallons) that houses our pump. We have programmable progressive controllers, making exact tuning possible. Our controllers also offer data logging ability and computer connectivity, and our failsafe is flexible, offering unlimited potential for the tech savvy customer. Our controllers and kits ship with pre-programmed maps so using a laptop is not necessary, for those that have a laptop, tuning potential is unlimited.”
Make Sure the Retailer is Aware
Whenever a customer buys a product that can significantly increase their vehicle’s power, it’s a good idea to cover your you-know-what. And, a good way to cover your you-know-what is to caution them on a few points before they’re out the door and driving their automobile like a racecar to every place they go, from the office to the supermarket.
Snow notes that, “Used correctly, the Boost Cooler can make significant increases in power, so the rest of the driveline should be in good condition. Gasoline engines need to be tuned to show the power potential.”
Miller cautions, “Water injection kits are not a band aid, nor are they a magical system that allows you to run 30 psi boost on a stock engine. You still need to use caution, know the mechanical and fuel system limitations and smart tuning to develop the full potential of your application. One additional point that is overlooked in colder/winter regions: water freezes, and this can wreak havoc in the entire system, so the methanol mixture really counts for reliability as well as performance in those environments.”
“Like all aftermarket products,” says Hill, “Coolingmist kits should be installed properly. It’s important to make sure that the check valve or solenoid is installed properly. If the customer chooses a flammable mixture of methanol, it’s critical to make sure all hoses are installed properly and to perform maintenance checks frequently.”
Make sure your customers use their performance safely, and they’ll keep coming back for more.
These days, Bully Dog is known mainly for their software performance tuners and modules. And, though they now also offer nitrous injection, when the company based in Aberdeen, Idaho, first got its start, it was with a propane injection system.
Their Mike DeFord explains, “It was our first product. Over the past 10 years, the system has been refined and perfected to provide safe operation, optimum performance and efficiency.”
The Bully Dog propane kit comes complete with everything needed for a complete installation, from the regulator to hose clamps, all you have to do is open the box and install it. The one variable is the size of the tank, everyone has a different need or desire so they offer four different tank sizes, says DeFord.
He adds, “We also offer a Remote Mounting Kit that allows the bottle to be mounted under the bed or other locations and be filled easily.”
DeFord tells us that propane is generally misunderstood. “Unless you have knowledge of how it works, it can be confusing. There are two important things to remember: install the kit correctly and use it correctly. Misuse of a system is the biggest problem with nitrous and propane.”
How does it work? “Propane is injected into the engine, where it serves as a catalyst with the fuel. It creates a cleaner and more thorough burn, thus providing more power and better fuel economy,” says DeFord.
As for selling points, DeFord points out that, “Propane is a product that will give you improved performance while at the same time increasing fuel mileage. It is also very inexpensive, and with the rising price of fuels, saving every lie bit helps.”
Oddly enough, when explaining what something is, sometimes the best way to do so is to explain what it is not.
When telling us about DEI’s CryO2™ system, Mike Zenone of the Avon Lake, Ohio, based business says every performance retailer should know that the injection system is not nitrous.
“It may look like nitrous, but that’s where it ends. Our CryO2 system cools separate components like the intake air charge and fuel—and if equipped, intercoolers. We are not injecting CO2 into the engine.”
He adds, “Our CryO2 system can be used to cool the intake air charge on naturally aspirated engines as well as supercharged and turbocharged forced induction applications.”
The CryO2 system is completely modular and can be tailored to cool components depending upon application needs. It all starts with the choice of either a 5 lbs or 10 lbs tank and installation kit.
CryO2 plumbs just like nitrous right up to, and including, a solenoid valve. The valve controls the flow of liquid CO2 to the installed CryO2 components.
Zenone explains that, “A CryO2 Air Intake segment that mounts in a section of fresh air piping is typically is the first component to receive a charge of CO2. CO2 passing through a patented cryogenic bulb mounted in the segment builds up pressure within the bulb and reduces the temperature of the bulb down to -80º F. The temperature of the intake air flowing through the segment and over the bulb is ‘chilled,’ thus creating a cooler denser air charge. A cooler intake charge means more power.”
Ideally, the next link for the flow of CO2 exiting from the bulb is the Cryogenic Fuel Bar. CO2 flowing through one of two parallel channels in the Fuel Bar, transfers heat from the fuel that passes through the other channel acting as a heat sink.
Because this is a total loss system, CO2 must have a final venting point. “For those with vehicles equipped with intercoolers,” says Zenone, “CO2 can then be vented through a CryO2 Intercooler Sprayer directly onto the intercoolers surface. The blast of super cool CO2 helps reduces the extremely high air temperature within the intercooler thus improving the intercoolers efficiency by as much as 50% and permitting a perfect vent location for the system.”
Zenone notes that the CryO2 system, on average, drops intake air temperatures 30 degrees Fahrenheit, duplicating that 40 to 60 degree Fahrenheit day that your engine craves on those hot, humid, heat-soak condition days.
He adds that CO2 is safe. “Using our CryO2 system does not run the risk of damaging any engine components, since it is not sprayed in to the engine like nitrous.”
He adds that the CryO2 tank can be refilled at any local welding or medical supply shop or paintball gun location—providing they can fill liquid CO2.