The entire human existence is dependent on one single element: water. Without it, none of us can be on this planet to go out and play with cars. So H20 is an essential and powerful thing, and when it is introduced correctly inside an internal combustion engine, good things can happen. According to the folks at Snow Performance/Nitrous Express, a water-methanol injection system can increase horsepower and improve fuel mileage. It can also clean valves on direct injection engines. Just adding a little bit of water into an engine to accomplish all of these things seems a bit far fetched at first. Still, after talking to Ryan Lewis, Marketing Director at Snow Performance/Nitrous Express, he explained the science behind how water equals horsepower.
One of the advantages of adding a water-methanol injection system is that methanol increases octane in fuel. For example, 91-octane with water-methanol added can equal 110-111 octane. This is a much cheaper way to increase octane in fuel instead of buying race gas one gallon at a time. Some of the kits available from Snow Performance/Nitrous Express are as inexpensive as $309. Anyone who has purchased racing fuel recently can tell you that a mere two trips to the pumps at a racetrack will cost you more than this water-methanol kit.
The Right Mix
According to Lewis, the mix for success with a water-methanol injection system should be 50-percent water and 50-percent methanol. “Some people think a pure methanol mix would be better, but they’re wrong,” said Lewis. “First, pure methanol can ignite at as little as 140-degrees, and it burns invisible, so it isn’t the safest material to have in your vehicle unmixed with water. Plus, water absorbs almost twice as much heat as methanol in the intake and inside the combustion chamber, which helps cool the combustion chamber. Because water cannot be flash-ignited, it increases the octane number. 50/50 mix is what you want.” Snow Performance/Nitrous Express sells its own 50/50 mix in one-gallon bottles of Boost Juice. They retail for just over $10 a gallon, and a single gallon will give you plenty of opportunities to use the water-methanol injection system.
One of the advantages of a water-methanol injection kit is its ease of how the system works and installation. The system works by spraying water-methanol into an intake plenum via nozzles. The water immediately evaporates into the air in the manifold, reducing intake air temperature and increasing the air density. This is a good thing because internal combustion engines run best with cool, dense air. What you need to make this system work is first a tank of water-methanol. Snow Performance/Nitrous Express recommends using the vehicle’s stock windshield washer reservoir for some of their installs. It is such an easy option it almost seems too good to be true. “A lot of stock vehicles even come with an indicator light on the dash to tell you when your washer fluid is low,” Ryan says. “When the light comes on, you know you need to add more Boost Juice. We also sell a kit to add an empty bottle indicator warning light to any tank.” When asked how well water-methanol Boost Juice does to clean bugs off of your windshield, Ryan informed us that the most commercially available wiper fluid is a mix of water-methanol already. You can use the fluid in your car right now and inject it into the engine for more power.
Once you decide on your water tank, stock windshield washer reservoir, or dedicated tank, the next step is to plumb the tank to the intake manifold through a pump that can reach at least 50 pound-force per square inch (psi). To properly atomize, water-methanol must be injected at above 50 psi. Lower than 50 psi significantly reduces the air charge cooling due to larger droplets and their reduced total surface area. Also, with inadequate atomization, there is a greater propensity to quench combustion resulting in a loss of power. The Snow Performance pumps are engineered to hit the perfect pressure for atomization and optimal performance. Sorry, but your OEM windshield washer pump won’t cut it.
The next step in installing a water-methanol injection system is the controller that dictates when and how much water-methanol is added to the engine. Snow sells its VC-50 controller, which has a 52mm gauge that doubles as a boost gauge. You can set the parameters that proportionally inject more or less to match what the engine requires. That’s it: a tank, a pump, some plumbing, and a controller.
Besides adding more horsepower, a water-methanol injection can also clean valves. We have previously discussed the issue of oil deposits on valves with direct injection engines and how an oil separator can help with this problem. What wasn’t mentioned in that article was the benefits of water injection in assisting with cleaning the valves of pesky mineral deposits, which can weigh the valve down and lower performance. Many manufacturers are charging dealership customers to shoot walnut shrapnel at the valves to clean them (an expensive process). Water-methanol injection constantly cleans the valves, thus avoiding the costly “walnut” process at a dealership and keeping the valves clean, light and efficient.
Rich Olivier, owner and engine builder at TEM Performance, talked about the idea of using walnuts to clean an engine, “At my shop, we work so hard to keep things extremely clean. We have a specific engine building room, a great ventilation system, and we like to keep things clean like an operating room. But, unfortunately, we do all that so that people can start shoving walnuts into an engine? I don’t like that.” Rich said walnuts are used because they are combustible and will eventually be burned away from the internals of an engine. However, he agrees that using water-methanol injection on a direct injection engine is a great way to keep intake valves free of deposits and not use walnuts.
To prove how water-methanol injection can clean intake valves, Lewis said Snow Performance used an Ecoboost F150 test mule with some miles and a fair amount of oil deposits on the valves. They took photos of the valves before installing a water injection system and then drove the truck for a week and a half (over 1,000 miles) with different loads and some towing. While using the water-methanol injection system, they found more power for towing. Then they took the intake manifold off and photographed the valves again to find they were impressively clean and no walnuts were needed.
Water-methanol injection works on a multitude of engine types, from gasoline to diesel. Snow Performance’s original design for a water-methanol system was for a diesel application. Lewis said, “Diesel engines have been direct injection long before its recent popularity with gasoline engines. Water-methanol injection lowers intake air temps on diesel engines, and it also lowers exhaust gas temperatures (EGTs). The lower intake temps help power gain, and the lower EGT is safer and provides more power.” For a diesel towing application, Snow Performance offers a 10-gallon tank for water-methanol.
But water-methanol injection isn’t just for diesel engines. Normally aspirated gasoline engines, especially high compression engines that need race gas, can also benefit from water-methanol. Because water-methanol increases octane in the fuel, it allows for more power and performance and intake cooling and valve cleaning. Where water-methanol injection shines is on gasoline vehicles that are supercharged or turbocharged and use intercoolers. “You can get 3-5 pounds of boost increase just from going from hot to cold,” according to Lewis. “If a vehicle has a less efficient intercooler, then water-methanol can make up the difference in cooling and provide more gain.”
Snow Performance has seen excellent horsepower gains on C7 Corvettes with a Vortech supercharger. For any install with a centrifugal-style supercharger, or a turbo, they recommend installing the water-methanol injectors post supercharger or turbo before the throttle body. For a vehicle with a roots-style supercharger, they recommend installing the water-methanol injectors before the supercharger to help cool the supercharger itself for even more power gains.
The water-methanol injection can be used on drag racing vehicles, road racing vehicles, or just road-going vehicles. The tank size would need to be larger for road racing depending on how often you engage the water-methanol injection. For drag racing, the benefits of having cooler intake temps and higher octane fuel are apparent. The advantage is power and fuel economy for road-going vehicles. A leaner air-fuel ratio can be utilized for regular operation and better fuel mileage with the water-methanol injection.
Water-Meth Is The Answer
Water is life, and water-methanol injection can provide many advantages to an engine. Snow Performance systems can be installed in a matter of hours without having to remove bumpers or do custom intake piping. The system is simple in its design, easy to install, and simplistic to use, and these systems are super affordable. With fantastic benefits like increased horsepower, better fuel mileage, and intake and exhaust valve cleaning, why wouldn’t you want a system on your vehicle?