Methanol – the juice of power (and power requires octane!)
When modding a car for performance, one of the most important considerations to make is fuel quality. In order to run optimal ignition advance (aka engine timing), high-octane fuel is a must. Pump gasoline does not have the anti-knock properties needed to maximize an engine’s power potential. There are a number of means to utilize high octane fuel in a street driven car and, if you’ve been modding, you’ve likely heard of people utilizing e85 and methanol injection across platforms.
My tuner and I originally discussed either mixing e85 with pump gasoline or methanol injection as the two viable options for my car. After some consideration, I decided methanol injection was the best option for me. Meth has been one of the best "bang for the buck" modifications I’ve done to my Mazdaspeed3 yet. Why Meth? Simply put Ethanol (E85) was not available in my area. The closest pump to me was 35+ miles away. The thought of having to drive there, fill up containers, store them and mix Ethanol with gas once or twice a week was just out of the question for me. On the other hand, with a stock turbo setup, I needed only a gallon of methanol per week with normal driving, though slightly more with more "spirited" driving.
By now you're probably wondering, what exactly does meth do? Well, it gives your engine unicorn wings. Seriously, that’s what it does. Ok, maybe not, but that’s what it feels like.
Scientifically speaking, methanol does two things very well:
- Cools the boost charge temperatures! I see a drop of 40*F during WOT pulls in 90*F weather. That is massive for a small turbo like the stock Mazdaspeed K04 turbo.
- Increases the octane of the fuel being injected into your engine. When the fuel quality (octane) is high enough, an engine can be timed to maximize power without worry of detonation to extract the most power from the combustion process.
In terms of "Bang for the Buck", a methanol injection kit is easily one of the best modifications that can be done. For example, my Mazdaspeed3 gained 30-40 wheel torque and 20-30 wheel horsepower from roughly $300 worth of meth injection parts. Picking up that type of power is very cost effective. Still don't believe me? Let’s compare adding an exhaust vs. adding methanol injection, shall we?
A decent exhaust for the Mazdaspeed would cost between $600-$1000. Average power gains are about ~ 10 wheel torque, which if we did the math we would get a .016 gain of torque per dollar spent. Let’s do the math for a methanol kit. Say around $300 for a kit, gains are about 35 wheel torque, which is 0.116 wheel torque per dollar. So comparing the two mods, methanol injection can be expected to provide as much as 7 times more power gains than an exhaust.
Below is the parts list that was installed on the GE3KSPD Mazdaspeed 3 with great success so far. Before switching to these parts, the Coolingmist stage 1 kit was installed, it was...OK, but we had some leaking issues from the push-to-connect adapters and from the SNOW Performance nozzle holder as well.
Here is the complete list of parts:
- 4mm Tubing Compression x 1/8"BSPP: $10.90
- Aquamist Jet (Standard). Your tuner should tell you the size: $29.95
- 4mm Nylon Hose: $1.50/ft (from solenoid to pump)
- British Standard Threaded Brass Pipe Fitting: $5.69
- Coolingmist pump: $140.00
- Coolingmist 1-25 psi Boost Pressure Switches: $30
- ½ or 1 gallon tank $39 for 1 gal
- (Optional) Throttle body spacer with 1/8" NPT ports recommended (see picture 2): $70.
Or you can tap the IC piping.
- Snow performance solenoid: $57.99
- High pressure nylon hose: $1.75/ft (from tank to pump to solenoid)
The total price should come out to $324 plus the optional Throttle body spacer $70
Below is how all the parts came together.
Enough with all the pros, let’s talk about some cons to keep things in perspective. One of the most important things you need to know about methanol is that it’s extremely flammable and toxic. Always handle it while wearing protective gear if at all possible. Do your research and know what you’re dealing with. You must treat it with respect.
Maintenance! You must maintain your kit. Clogged nozzles, check valves and solenoid failures are prone to happen. Inspect your kit from time to time and make sure everything is in tip top shape. Some of these failures, if gone unnoted, will cause engine hydrolock or extensive knock causing some serious damage.