Particulate Matters #GhettoFail
When it comes to engine performance—diesel or gasoline—and the various popular methods of increasing a powerplant’s horsepower and torque, I have to admit, I’m a nitrous guy from the old school. While turbochargers are synonymous with the diesels we work with and report about in these pages (and have been for many years), I’m still a big fan of the gas that was better known as “juice” and “spray” back in the day (today, it’s simply “nitrous”), which, when introduced to an engine’s intake-air stream and air/fuel mixture, makes amazing things happen—typically for the better, but sometimes for more worse than you can imagine.
Here’s a really quick tutorial for newcomers to the diesel hobby who may not know much about nitrous oxide and its performance virtues: In a nutshell, nitrous oxide is a gas that, when injected into an engine’s airstream at high pressure, dramatically reduces the intake air’s temperature (basically, it makes the thing we call “cold air” super cold), which, in turn, increases the air’s density. With more air and fuel entering the engine’s cylinders, the bang of combustion is much bigger. A power increase is typically the satisfying result of all this science, which is widely popular in the diesel space because of its relatively low overall cost.
Nitrous is usually stored in thick-walled steel tanks commonly referred to as bottles. When full, a nitrous bottle is the epitome of the “Contents Under Pressure” safety warning that’s affixed on or stamped into containers that hold pressurized gas. Breaking this message down from a layman’s perspective for this particular commentary, you really need to make sure you’re being very careful if and when you’re handling a nitrous bottle. In most instances, nitrous is introduced to an engine through a nitrous-oxide system, which consists of the aforementioned bottle (secured to a truck’s bed with heavy-duty brackets), braided-steel feed lines, solenoids, nozzles, and jets that vary in size, metering the amount of gas being injected. While this is the formal and preferred (by me, at least) method for injecting the gas, “ghetto fogging”—during which a person stands in front of a truck strapped down on the dyno while holding onto the nitrous bottle and cracks its valve open to spray unmetered nitrous directly at the turbocharger—has become a wildly popular alternative practice.
When it comes to excitement (given the dramatic, immediate rpm increase, and the horsepower and torque gains a direct fog of nitrous promotes), I understand the allure. Seriously, I do. For most gearheads, hype over fogging is simple human nature. But putting our “rational-thinker” caps on for just a moment, I trust you’ll agree there’s also plenty of bad (catastrophic engine or driveline failure, personal injury from flying parts, and so on) that can result from the handheld nitrous blasts. This became blatantly clear for one unfortunate (but very lucky, nonetheless) diesel enthusiast during the dyno shootout at XDP’s 2017 Open House event.
Take a look at the sequence of photos, which were captured from one of the many videos that spread across the Internet like wildfire within seconds after a ghetto fog attempt went horribly wrong. From what we’re able to deduce, while attempting to ghetto fog the turbo in a Dodge Ram, the unidentified man caught the full wrath of a nitrous bottle—and its highly pressurized content—which we can only assume he was not warned about, or, if he was, he grossly underestimated and did not brace himself before opening the valve.
Yes, this mishap made the dude “instafamous” (a term I heard all the cool kids at the open house using). But, more importantly, the guy was jettisoned off the dyno platform, and the out-of-control bottle sprayed nitrous everywhere—clear examples of just how wrong things can go.
As of 2017, the practice is no longer permitted at Diesel Power Challenge. Now, while I know this commentary isn’t going to put an end to ghetto fogging at other events, and I’m not saying it should (heck, the compound-turbo setup on a barking diesel may be getting sprayed somewhere as I type this), all I ask of anyone who acts as the “bottle guy” is that you understand you’re basically holding onto a small missile when you tuck that nitrous tank into your armpit and open its valve. Hold onto it tightly, brace yourself, and, if everything goes according to plan, celebrate big gains on the dyno. But if there is a problem and you wind up being knocked on your duff like the cat in the photos, please don’t say you weren’t warned.