|Venom VCN-2000 Nitrous System|
In early 2004, I had decided that some form of forced induction was inevitable for the '92. It wasn't so much that I had a need for "more power!!!" - the '92 performs extremely well on the track for it's current level of tune - but I was looking to undertake a new challenge and add to the enjoyment of this hobby. I started to do research, and to slowly accumulate parts that I'd need, but it was obvious that the project was going to take some time. While I've seen and read about quite a few Saturn owners who put together street and/or drag turbo systems pretty easily, some of my requirements would make it substantially more difficult. My #1 concern will be durability, as the motor will have to be able to withstand 3 to 4 hours on a road course on and off of redline, all within the course of a day. Design will take some serious planning, and the project will benefit from as much time as I'm willing to spend on it. This was fine, as most of the projects that I work on are significantly more enjoyable and turn out better in the end when I put a lot of planning and construction time into them.
So while all that takes place, I decided to inject a little more fun into the whole race car project - something that would put more of a big-ass grin on my face during my visits to the dragstrip, and something that would be relatively quick and easy. Unfortunately, the equipment I chose to do it with made it anything but quick and easy. Read on...
Nitrous oxide is probably the best bang for the buck to improve the straight-line acceleration of any car. Unfortunately, it also has a bit of a bad reputation for being dangerous - most likely due to the fact that people think it's quicker and easier than it really is. Safety features are often ignored and not installed, and owners have a tough time with self-restraint when they can add as much horsepower as they want by just swapping out a nozzle or jet.
I've read quite a bit about Venom's VCN-2000 computerized nitrous kit in a number of magazines and on several websites. Based on its specs and capabilities, I would go so far as to call it a wonder of modern technology. The features that it offers clearly put it above all the rest, and make you think, "This is how ALL nitrous kits should work." In addition to the standard components found in all kits (bottle, lines, nozzles, solenoid, wiring), the VCN-2000 includes a very sophisticated computer control unit and remote LCD display which do some pretty neat things.
The unit's wiring harness connects to the factory oxygen sensor, fuel injectors, throttle position sensor, and coil module. These connections are used in various ways.
In addition to the smart use of sensor data, the unit is fully programmable. With a supplied serial cable and special software, various settings can be adjusted and the main control unit can be re-flashed. A laptop can be used while at the track, or even better yet, a Palm Pilot PDA. The PDA makes the most sense, as it's more portable, cheaper, and less likely to be damaged/stolen if you keep it in your car. There are several modes of operation and settings that can be changed.
Most people would probably be short on patience when it comes to installing a system like this. After all, a whole bunch of extra horsepower is only a spray away. But, if you're a regular reader of this website, you know that I'm willing to put as much time into a project as it takes to do it right, make it look good, and be sure that everything functions correctly. I spent an enormous amount of time wrapping everything in wire loom, routing wiring and lines in the best locations and out of the way (and hidden whenever possible), and making everything look as perfect as I could. In fact, most of the components were installed to be quickly and easily removeable for when I'll be on the road course and the system will not be in use. Quick-release fasteners were used on much of the hardware, and Molex connectors were used for all the electrical connections.
In addition to the standard parts that the kit includes, I added a purge solenoid, blowdown tube, pressure gauge, and a new bottle fitting which allows it to be connected to the blowdown tube. The system provides a software adjustable engagement RPM, but oddly does not allow you to specify a shut-off RPM. To protect the motor in case the RPMs reach the vehicle's rev limiter (as a Saturn cuts power to the fuel injectors and intermittently stops fuel flow at that point, which would cause an instant lean condition while the nitrous would continue to spray), a NOS window switch was purchased with an initial upper RPM limit pill of 6000.
Click the thumbnails below to view a larger-sized image.
Palm programming software
Main solenoid, control
unit, and purge solenoid
Bottle, pressure gauge,
and blowdown tube
I'd originally seen this system installed in a 1999 SC2 by another Saturn owner. He experienced a lot of problems with it and could not get it working correctly, and eventually removed the system from his car. You can read his thoughts on the subject in the Saturn Performance Club mailing list archive here.
Before I even purchased this system, I called Venom's tech support in order to verify that they offered a system for my year/model, and that they would guarantee that it would work properly. I was reassured and told that there would be no problems. Since I had a car that was OBD1 (which is much more forgiving than working with an OBD2 vehicle), and a "simplified" electrical system, I was hoping to have better luck with the system and was willing to give it a try. Looking back at the decision, I now wish I hadn't. The system ended up being plagued by one problem after another, including but not limited to:
I suppose that after reading this so far, a person could question or wonder if I did a 'hack' job on installation, or if I even have the technical expertise to do the job right. Well, if you're a frequent visitor to this website, you have seen my attention to detail and the type of work that I do. I assure you that my installation work and troubleshooting procedures went well beyond an average person's - from the standpoint of both time taken and effort put into it. You can read more detail about this aspect in the letter I wrote to Venom that is referenced in the Final Thoughts section below.
At this point, I was very tired of the repeated phone calls to tech support which never seemed to resolve anything, as well as boxing up some part of the system to send it in for testing/replacement numerous times.
Venom was never able to resolve or explain all the problems I had been experiencing, and the system never functioned correctly. Out of 30 or so test runs on the street, it functioned correctly only 2 or three times - and since I was observing the output of the nozzle into the air and not the intake, I never even ran the nitrous through the motor. Because of the fact that this sytem is supposedly made specifically for my make/model of vehicle (and not sold as a universal type system), and because tech support was not able to resolve the problems, this system gets a big F grade from me. Why not an F minus? Because I'm kind. Based on the problems I had observed and all the time I spent on troubleshooting, I don't see how this system can work on any Saturn. No way. If you know of someone who has one working reliably on a Saturn, please e-mail me because I'd like him/her to buy me a lottery ticket.
After a bunch of phone calls and eventually a registered letter to the company summarizing all the problems and requesting a resolution (read it here), they finally agreed to take back the system. I am very disappointed to this day that they did not agree to full refund, but instead offered to send the VCN-1000 kit as a replacement and refund only the difference in cost. I intentionally bought the VCN-2000 system (and for twice the cost of the VCN-1000 system) for the added features that it offered - the VCN-1000 system was more limited and would not give me what I was looking for. But at this point, I was so worn down by the experience and tired of dealing with one problem after another that I reluctantly agreed to try the VCN-1000 system. Here we go again... Details on the VCN-1000 system, install, and results can also be found in the projects section.