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What is the Cheapest Power Adder for a Mustang?

What is the Cheapest Power Adder for a Mustang?

Adding large amounts of horsepower at once is the point of power adders. As far as cost is concerned, don't forget the cost of making your Mustang's engine handle the big power from forced induction or nitrous.

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Sometimes all your Mustang needs is a slight boost. You don't have to throw insane amounts of money to power up your pony, and the options are endless.

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What are Power Adders

In the muscle car world of Mustangs, it is impossible to have too much power. After owning a Pony car for several years tunes, cold air intakes, and exhaust system upgrades just can’t feed my ever growing need for speed. What’s next? Something serious. Something sinister. Something so powerful only the brave few ever get around to doing it. I am talking about installing a power adder. Power adders are not for the faint of heart. Not only can they make your Mustang faster, but they can seriously deplete your bank account too.

Power adders are exactly what they sound like. They are an add-on system for your Mustang that will help the engine produce more horsepower. There are three varieties; 1) superchargers; 2) turbochargers and; 3) nitrous kits.

Procharger Centrifugal Supercharger Installed on a Mustang

Supercharger Kits

A supercharger is an engine driven power-adder. The supercharging unit (a glorified compressor) is mounted on the engine like an accessory would be, and is driven off of the crank pulley via a belt. As the engine runs and subsequently turns the supercharger, the compressor is compressing air into each cylinder – filling it with more oxygen than normal. With more oxygen present, more fuel can be added and combusted, thereby making more power. As the Mustang revs higher, the supercharger spins faster too (it is attached directly to the motor) creating more boost. Superchargers typically make between 5-10 PSI of boost.

However, this power does come at a cost. The vanes in the compressor spin very, very fast (75,000 RPM), and therefore supercharger units require very excellent engineering and tight tolerances so that they don’t explode and ruin your engine. Because of their mechanical complexity and design, superchargers are not cheap. Expect a good kit to cost a minimum of $2500 which will include the head unit, bracket and piping for your generation of Mustang. Additional costs are incurred by upgrading the fuel system, intercooling and the possibility of needing the ECU retuned.

1999-2004 SVT Cobra Mustang Supercharger

Turbocharger Systems

Turbochargers use the same concept as superchargers to produce power – they pressurize the intake air to levels higher than atmospheric pressure such that more fuel can be mixed with the extra oxygen. However, a turbocharger runs off the exhaust gas produced by the engine – it is not directly connected to the engine as a supercharger is. Turbo systems are more complicated because of this. Since the engine has to gain RPMs to spin the turbine there is some turbo lag before the turbo starts to take effect.

They also need additional piping and special headers to recirculate some of the exhaust back through the turbo unit to spin the compressor. These systems are also highly precise and complicated – more so than a supercharger. However, your typical turbocharger is going to produce more boost than your typical supercharger. Turbos easily produce 12-15 PSI. But again, this extra power comes at a cost. A quality turbo system, composed of the turbo unit and necessary mounting hardware starts at the $4000 mark. Fuel system upgrades, intercooling, ECU tuning etc can all add to the cost substantially.

2012 Project Blackout Turbo Mustang

Nitrous Kits

Last but not least is the nitrous kit. These systems work by injecting nitrous oxide into the engine. Upon entering the engine, two phenomenon occur. 1) The nitrous oxide separates into oxygen and nitrogen and; 2) As the nitrous oxide vaporizes (due to the heat in the combustion chamber), it actually cools the surrounding air significantly making it more oxygen dense.

Both of these changes add a significant amount of oxygen to the combustible mixture, allowing more fuel to be added and making more horsepower. It is a relatively simple process that can add big power for a short duration. There are two types of nitrous systems, a wet kit and a dry kit. Without going too deep, a wet kit mixes the nitrous oxide with the fuel directly (for example, the nitrous nozzle may be installed on the fuel rail) and they enter the combustion chamber as one. A dry kit delivers the nitrous and fuel separately into the combustion chamber.‚Äč

2013 GT Mustang Hooked Up with Nitrous

Regardless of the method of delivery, nitrous oxide systems utilize the same basic components. A kit will come with the bottle (empty), bracket, necessary feed lines and electronic switches and valves to activate the system. All in all, nitrous oxide systems are by far the cheapest power adder. At the touch of a button, you can instantly add another 200HP (well, it depends what jets are installed) to your Mustang! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?! It certainly is, however there are a few cons. First off, nitrous oxide does not last forever. You will only get that instant boost for as long as you have nitrous oxide left in your bottle. Nitrous oxide needs to be refilled and depending on how often you use it, it may not even last the night. Furthermore, nitrous oxide kits may not be legal in all states for street use. Where I live, it is illegal. You can have the system and bottle and whatnot, but it cannot be hooked up on the street (if an officer were to check and find it was indeed hooked up, it's a huge fine).

A kit will cost around $800, plus the cost to fill the bottle. A standard bottle holds 10 lbs of juice. My local price is $11/lb. How long it will last depends on how often you use it, and what size shot you are running (75, 100, 125, 200 are common shots).

Which is the Best?

  • Superchargers are driven by the engine to compress air
  • Superchargers tend to require fuel upgrades and intercooling to maximize power outputs
  • Turbochargers compress air by using your Mustang’s exhaust to spin a turbine
  • The mounting hardware for turbochargers, including manifolds, tends to be the money hog outside of the turbo kit
  • Nitrous injects more oxygen into the combustion chamber to make power
  • You have to continuously refill nitrous bottles which ups the cost of nitrous systems

As noted above, a nitrous kit is by far the cheapest upfront. However, for constant street use it may leave a lot to be desired. Limited supply of nitrous will definitely cut the fun short whereas a turbo or supercharged Mustang will always have extra power on tap, no refills necessary.

Note: All three of these power adders add significant stress to a motor. It is imperative that each system is installed and calibrated properly to ensure long life and reliability of your Mustang. Regardless of the system installed, always remember to measure twice and cut once!

2008 GT500 Mustang on a Dyno
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