Nitrous Oxide has been enhancing the horsepower of piston engines for decades now and by and large it does an awesome job. When we watch pro mods with huge engines snorting the stuff to win races and run fast it is really amazing. But like anything else, there are always downsides. A little miss on the tune up, a little miscalculation on how the delivery system works, and you can have a major league problem on your hands.
We’ve long campaigned to kill the phrase “nitrous explosion” around here because it is a misnomer. The proper way to explain this program is a “manifold explosion” because all we are seeing (with different ferocity) is a fuel/nitrous mixture being ignited in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what causes this to happen? It can by a myriad of things from a valvetrain failure to an ignition failure, to simple human error. When street cars explode on the stuff it is normally a situation of asking a relatively stock engine to do too much work. When race car engines turn volcanic on it you are typically looking at a parts failure. No matter how you slice it, you’re looking at a mess.