Nos is one of the coolest yet most controversial additions you can make to your car. Why? Because it has been grossly misrepresented in movies such as Fast and Furious 1 through to Fast and Furious 27 (or whichever number they are up to now).
Nos is actually fairly simple to understand in real terms so we are going to try our hand at not only explaining what Nos is and what its purpose is but how realistic it is compared to movies, what the benefits of using it are in real life and most importantly, how long does Nos last, both in terms of “use-by” and in terms of length of burn while driving.
Sure, movies and television did a cool job of making Nos look badass and dangerous. But is that really the case and how viable is it to use it ourselves? Let’s get into all of that and more.
Jump ahead to..
What Is Nos?
Nos is a nickname for nitrous oxide. Many people think that Nos is its chemical name but it’s actually just a nickname, its chemical name is N2O. Nos is a colorless, non-flammable gas, that has a slightly sweet taste and smell.
It can be used as a recreational drug though it is incredibly dangerous and incredibly stupid so, please don’t do that! Seriously, just don’t. It is super dumb. Nos has a molar mass of 44.013 grams per molecule and is soluble in water and ethanol (this is important for later).
What Is The Purpose Of Nos?
The purpose of Nos within the engine is to produce a very quick and sustained burst of horsepower and speed. This is not sustainable for very long, mind you, though it can last for 30-odd seconds at a time in some cases.
Nos is best used at lower speeds because it can help you jump from a standstill to moving like a bullet incredibly quickly. Using Nos when you are already nearly at top speed is more likely to blow your engine up rather than actually make you go much faster.
Is Nos Real?
Nos is absolutely real though the way it is presented to the world in movies, on tv, or in video games is pretty inaccurate and has been dramatized to look cooler and have more of a profound effect on the audience. Nos is a real-life thing that real car enthusiasts use (not to say you aren’t a real enthusiast if you don’t use it) and is by no means the figment of people’s imagination.
You can find Nos in your everyday life in whipped cream canisters at the store or in catering and culinary wholesale stores. Some countries even allow you to buy it in very small amounts over amazon. Crazy, right?
How Long Does Nos Last (Use-by)
Nos doesn’t expire the same way that many other things do. It is a natural gas (mostly) it is just harnessed and compressed in a uniquely useful way. If you see expiration dates on Nos items when they are used in culinary settings it is because there has to be an expiration date.
On canisters for cars, there is usually only a production date which has no bearing on the quality of the gas in the can. However, if a can is not properly pressurized and sealed it may very slowly leak meaning the longer ago it was produced the less profound an effect it might have when used.
How Long Does Nos Last When Used?
There is no exact science for how long Nos lasts when it is used. The problem is that every car is different and the point at which you use it matters so greatly that you may find that you could see a huge variance in length of use and effect of use with the same cans and the same car on the same race track.
However, as a rule, you could expect to get 15 to 20 seconds of boost out of a 1-pound canister. Most canisters are either 10 pounds or 15 pounds you will get about 80 seconds of boost at max. The actual impact of the boost tapers off towards the end so the real “umph” probably lasts for about 25-30 seconds.
Are The Benefits Of Nos The Same On Every Car?
No, they are absolutely not. Not every engine is capable of actually producing that much more horsepower even when you basically force it to shotgun an energy drink in the form of nitrous oxide canisters. High-performance cars at low speed, and high revs, are going to have a far more profound effect when Nos enters the mix compared to a 20-year-old sedan sitting in 5th gear at 60.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be an effect, it will just be vastly different. That being said all cars will have the same benefits in the sense that it will make all cars go faster, and no cars get an added extra benefit like better fuel consumption, etc.
How Accurate Is Nos Usage In Fast And Furious
The problem with Fast and Furious, and other car genre movies and videogames is that Nos is used as some kind of last-ditch effort that will make their car go from maxed-out 180-mph pedal to the metal to 220-mph chassis-shaking lightning personified.
It doesn’t work like that. Nos is a catalyst for speed not speed itself. When we discuss a catalyst, it is speeding up the process of something, so in the case of Nos, it is a catalyst for acceleration not speed itself.
This was a super fun article to write and hopefully, that translated into the reading side of this exchange as well. Nos is a super cool trick to have up your sleeve if you are pinging about with friends around country roads or on track days.
But in reality, it is expensive and not quite as profound as many people believe. There are good ways and bad ways to use Nos so make sure you aren’t wasting your money. Plus, you may want to check whether Nos is even legal where you live. There is a good chance that it might not be road legal and therefore is best left to track days.