Alchemy is a power or process of transforming something common into something special. This is perhaps what the engineers at FJO Racing Products have accomplished with their latest generation water/methanol injection system. But have the engine control wizards at FJO chemically produced what we hope to be horsepower gold or are we looking at nothing more than a regular old pail of tap water?

The benefits of water injection are based on the principle that evaporated water in the intake system lowers intake and combustion temperatures thereby reducing pre-ignition, or detonation. Since detonation is normally combated in turbocharged engines by over-fueling, elimination of this nasty necessity not only increases horsepower but leaves piston tops and engine valves sparkling clean. Even the Brake-Specific Fuel Consumption, or fuel mileage, is improved and engine components last longer as a result of the lower temperatures and cleaner operating environment.

Since water injection reduces detonation, users can run lower octane fuel. However, before getting overly excited about lower gas prices realize that the benefits go even further. Most are under the impression that high octane means high horsepower. In the case of racing fuel, this is true. Such fuels are designed to produce both high octane and a high amount of energy per liter. Pump gases, however, do not usually follow this pattern. The additives that increase the octane rating at the local gas station often lower the amount of energy released per liter burned. Adding water in the correct amount allows the use of a lower octane fuel, the ability to add timing and to increase boost levels, which results in a net horsepower gain.

What about water/methanol injection? Adding methanol to the mix simply multiplies the effectiveness of water injection. The byproduct of water mixed with methanol is an oxygenated fuel, which further increases the benefits just outlined. Generally a 30 to 40 percent methanol mix yields the best overall results, although small gains can be made by going as high as 50 percent. Since methanol has a lower detonation point than gasoline, going higher than 50 percent can actually increase detonation.

Interestingly, most windshield washer fluids that are rated for temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees F are a convenient, inexpensive source of a pre-mixed 60/40-water/methanol solution. But before you rush out, running a line from your windshield washer pump to your intake, you may want to ask why all turbocharged cars don't have this. The answer is simple: producing an effective water injection system is more complicated than it sounds. First, the water must be finely atomized so it actually evaporates and doesn't just puddle in the intake, flooding some cylinders while allowing others to detonate. Another problem is pressure. When boosting more than 15 psi, a standard automotive water pump won't provide enough pressure to actually spray anything. A third problem is the corrosive nature of methanol. Not just any liquid pump can handle water and methanol. Then there is the problem of flow control. Users need something that is going to precisely meter the flow based on parameters like engine speed, boost and throttle position. Spray too much and you'll see a power loss instead of a gain. Suddenly this is looking like advanced engineering.

Fortunately the engineers at FJO have this under control. Users only need to select the proper solenoid nozzle and then use their easy-to-use graphics-based computer interface to set up the water injection map. Full integration with their industry-leading wideband oxygen sensor controller allows tuners to monitor the entire system, including air/fuel ratios.