The process of water methanol injection was originally developed for war aircraft during the 1940s. It provided the engines of these planes to experience a brief increase in power during their takeoff sequence, which was a useful outcome when the airplanes were stored on carriers where runway length was severely restricted. This approach made it possible to create floating bases at sea where pilots could run missions that would normally be impossible to achieve because of the distances involved.
Now the technology of water methanol injection is useful as an effective way to increase power and control detonation for vehicles that offer turbocharged or supercharged systems. The injection mixes methanol and water to reduce intake temperatures, sometimes by up to 100F. At the same time, this process will steam-clean the engine because the moisture vaporizes due to the heat. There’s not enough water to harm the engine, while the methanol remains compatible with the standard gasoline may vehicles use.
This mechanic system offers a reservoir to hold the mixture, a pump, a nozzle, and a digital controller that oversees the delivery once correctly installed. Because they work well with forced induction systems, there are higher air temperatures and cylinder pressures, which can create some negatives to consider as well.
Here are the vital water methanol injection pros and cons to look at today.
List of the Pros of Water Methanol Injection
1. It is a low-cost option to give your engine a significant HP boost.
There are not many options available on the market right now that can give your engine up to 60HP more in per performance for as little as $300. The water methanol injection allows you to use pump fuel in all situations except for the most extreme that apply in only a handful of cases. That means you receive a tremendous cost savings when achieving the performance you want while getting a higher timing advance potential in return.
2. It is useful in engines that use nitrous.
The water methanol injection process does not create an intake restriction like you would find with an intercooler. Unlike race gas, this option reduces intake air temperatures while improving the charge air density at the same time. Even with nitrous, this system allows for the use of more timing advance with even large HP quantities of 250 or more thanks to the cooling effect of the water and methanol that is inside the combustion chamber. This benefit also makes for lower peak combustion temperatures.
3. It provides a highly efficient system for the engine.
The water methanol injection process requires a leaner air-fuel ratio during normal operation, providing a higher level of efficiency for your engine. Even with a naturally-aspirated engine using less than a 10:1 compression, this mix is used in warm climates to ensure that the intake temperatures are low enough to maximize the performance. Your benefits include up to a 15Hp increase from full time and air density, which means your gas mileage improves and you have a carbon-free combustion chamber.
4. It allows you to use multiple types of fluid in your system.
Most water methanol injection systems allow you to use several different types of fluid to achieve the performance gains that you want to see. One of the most popular options is called Boost Juice® from Snow Performance, as it offers a 51/49 water/methanol mixture, making it possible to use your washer reservoir as the injection tank while doubling as a de-icing agent. Standard windshield washer fluid that is rated to -20F is a 70/30 mix. Some systems allow for ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, or denatured alcohol, but that all depends on what the manufacturer specs happen to be for the equipment.
5. It permits installation before or after the turbo on most vehicles.
Most of the debate regarding a water methanol solution before or after your turbo involves an increase in atomization. If you don’t care about the longevity of your turbo or your system doesn’t atomize correctly and you need turbulence to help, then an installation before could make sense. Many owners prefer it to go after the turbo because they want to reduce the amount of wear and tear that happens under the hood.
6. It can offer a dramatic decrease in your air temperatures.
On a warm day, it is not unusual for the air temperatures coming out of an intercooler to be over 200F. When you look at the discharge temps for your vehicle, then could be over 300F. By installing a water methanol injection system for your engine, you can get those temperatures cut by a third – and sometimes more. Intercoolers don’t remove all of the heat like this system, which means the performance suffers because of it. That means there is less stress on your engine parts and the turbocharger/supercharger if you have it installed before that point.
7. It can help to reduce smoke levels during operation.
Although you must continually refill the tank when using a water methanol injection mix, this inexpensive process can help you to reduce smoke levels. That means fewer emissions can potentially come from your vehicle, especially if you happen to be operating a diesel engine. Even when the engine is properly tuned, smoke comes out – it just isn’t visible. If your exhaust smoke is dark, thick, and continuous, then your engine is improperly maintained. You will need to perform additional work to improve its condition before considering this upgrade.
8. It allows you to mix the methanol on your own if you wish.
If you decide to create your own mixture for the water methanol injection, then that is possible in most places around the world. Although the methanol must always be “neat” without additives or lubricants, you can create whatever mixture that you feel will benefit your engine the most. Because you will be controlling the flame during the combustion process, this upgrade acts just like octane. It is not unusual for the rating to jump from the low 90s to around 110 even when using a stock automotive engine.
9. It works with almost any engine on virtually every vehicle.
Formula 1 Racing once started to experiment with water methanol injection technologies for their vehicles, but then decided to ban this technology because it caused their engines to have too much power, allowing them to go too fast. Oldsmobiles and Corvairs began using this technology in the 1980s. When Buick started experimenting with this option on the Grand National, they were able to achieve an extra 40 HP on one of their stock production engines. That is how effective this option is to boost performance. As long as you remember to provide the mixture and follow the instructions for installation, it can benefit virtually any vehicle that is on the road today.
List of the Cons of Water Methanol Injection
1. You must constantly replace the water methanol injection mixture.
For the average vehicle performing in a range that is 500HP or less, a standard 3-quart tank with a water and methanol mixture will last for about the length of time your gas tank can provide fuel for your system. If your engine produces higher horsepower levels, then you may need a full gallon for every tank of gasoline. Even if you include a 2.5-gallon reservoir when installing this system, the cost of the fluid mixture will increase the overall maintenance and operating expenses of your vehicle.
2. There are specific mounting locations that you must consider with this system.
Most water methanol injection systems must have the pump located within 24 inches of hose length from the reservoir. It must also be as low, if not lower, than the base of the reservoir to be an effective system. That is because most of them tend to equip a pushing pump to your vehicle to create results instead of a pulling pump.
In the engine bay, your reservoir and pump can be placed almost anywhere assuming that they are not close to the heat of your exhaust. It cannot be in the path of debris that you could pick up from the road either.
3. You must tune your engine specifically and correctly for it.
Once you have a water methanol injection kit installed, then you must tune your engine correctly so that it can process the adjustments you made. If you do not complete this process properly, then you will dramatically increase the risk of damaging your engine. The same problem occurs if you run out of fluid or the system chooses not to work as it should, since the new tuning requires the system to operate, so the damage would occur once again. If full tuning capabilities are not available on your make and model, then using this upgrade may not be in your best interests.
4. The mixture you choose for your vehicle will dictate the quality of your results.
The water methanol mixture that you use for your vehicle is not complicated, with most manufacturers recommending a simple 50/50 mix of the two. You should use distilled water for this project because it won’t create the potential for scale buildup over time like other resources. You can use other substances or mix ratios with this solution if you wish, although the results may not be as positive as they could be.
5. Tuning the engine correctly can be a challenging process.
Once you have the system installed and the methanol ready, tuning your engine becomes the top priority. It can be a challenge to know where to begin with this option. You must start out rich, with the largest value in your bracket and with more flow then you believe is required. Then you need to discover the quench point where you won’t soak the system with too much fluid. Always follow the guide that is provided with your kit to obtain the results you want, and then work with a mechanic familiar with this technology and your vehicle if you are unsure of how to proceed.
6. Some manufacturers only produce a single kit.
If you work with Snow Performance products to install the water methanol injection you want for your vehicle, then there are three different levels from which to choose in their kit offerings. The first stage includes an adjustable pressure switch that senses your boost level in the intake, spraying one continuous level of the mix. Move to Stage 2 for a start boost and final settings that can be adjusted with a dial knob. Then the controlled changes the speed at which the pump is driven to maximize results. Their Level 3 system offers a control with a visual display and custom adjustments.
If you were to work with AEM products instead, then you would receive a one-size-fits all system that is similar to the Stage 2 kits from Snow Performance.
The pros and cons of water methanol injection have been studied and reviewed since the 1920s. This proven technology can help you to cheaply boost the horsepower of your engine with only a minimal amount of downtime. Even some untuned engines can benefit from this process if you know what you’re doing. Although there are some risks to consider from a damage standpoint, this option is an easy way to pick up HP without much effort.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.