Ron Novak's Homemade Water Injection System

Using simple, standardized hardware, a MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader came up with a water injection system that improved the fuel economy of his car.

| November/December 1979

  • 060-water-injection-system-photo.jpg
    Ron Novak (right) explains the subtleties of his water injection system.
  • 060-water-injection-system-diagram2.jpg
    Diagram shows the parts and assembly method for the water injection system.

  • 060-water-injection-system-photo.jpg
  • 060-water-injection-system-diagram2.jpg

You can improve your car engine's starting ability, pickup, and fuel economy by constructing a homemade water injection system ... for a total cost of under five dollars! And you'll spend that small amount of money (heck, it takes more cash than that to buy one tank of gas nowadays!) entirely on parts, because all the information you'll need to "inject" your own auto is right here in this article!

MOTHER EARTH NEWS' staffers have installed and tested one of the "engine aids" (and, by jeepers, the thing works!), but we can't take the credit for inventing the build-it-yourself device. Nope, all the know-how for this half-hour (or less) shop project comes from a very generous—and clever—visitor to this magazine's seminars: Mr. Ron Novak.

Ron openly shared his under-the-hood "secret" during the July MOTHER EARTH NEWS Week with everyone who was interested. (And once the word of his brainstorm got out, the inventive fellow spent as much of his visit teaching as he did studying!)

Actually, Mr. Novak made two improvements to his 1978 Honda CVCC station wagon before he started the long trek from his upstate New York home to our western North Carolina land. The traveling seminarian's major modification was to install a homemade water injection system that feeds a 4:1 H20/alcohol mist into his vehicle's carburetor, but he also added a drag-reducing "air dam" under the Honda's front bumper to further improve his car's gas mileage. [EDITOR'S NOTE: MOTHER EARTH NEWS' ever busy researchers are hoping to report in the future on this second (the "fender extender') idea.]

Ron got the notion for his water injector from some automotive magazine advertisements that offered a $50 fuel-saving device. The canny Nor'-easterner carefully read the literature about the expensive accessory and realized that the mileage extender consisted of little more than a bottle (partly filled with some "miracle" solution) that was rigged with [1] an underwater air intake line that bubbled air through the liquid and [2] a mist-grabbing outflow tube to feed the "foamed-up" vapor directly into the engine's carburetor. The wet air was reputed to help produce more efficient fuel-burning (by "atomizing" the gasoline droplets and lowering the fuel's temperature) and to improve the power plant's overall performance and life span (by cleaning out the engine's carbon buildup).

Novak figured that he could make a similar fuel-saver himself if he could solve one problem: what "gadget" could he put on his underwater air tube to produce those myriad tiny air bubbles? Well, the tinkerer tried just about every device he could think of (including the pinched end of a cigarette holder), but—in spite of his efforts—the bubbler had him stumped. For lack of one simple piece, Ron couldn't get the whole dang system to work!

Then one day, while the New Yorker was running an errand in a pet shop, he noticed a small aquarium "air stone" that was (what else?) busily breaking an incoming oxygen supply into tiny little bubbles to mix air into the fish tank's water. Ron bought one of the low-cost objects, attached it to his homemade injector's underwater tubing, and—eureka!—he was in business!

The entire installation procedure was easy, inexpensive, and legal (Ron didn't fiddle with his car's EPA emissions devices). And Novak's "new" water-injected Honda ran better—and further on one tank of gas—than it ever had in its life!

Since that first attempt, Ron has installed his "bubbling bottles" on all sorts of vehicles, from a BMW R60/2 motorcycle to a 1973 Opel GT to a 1968 Cadillac. In each case, gas mileage improved dramatically! So, folks, there "ain't no reason" why you can't get better performance and gas mileage by building your own water injector no matter what form of gasoline-engined transportation you're driving! All you have to do is head off to the nearest pet store for your "auto parts" and read the following instructions.

Water Injection: 6% Gas Savings and More Power for as Little as $3.72

6/4/2009 8:24:39 AM

I'm going to try this on my high-compression watercooled 1.8L VW Jetta... only concern at this point is where to inject the humidified air. I may have to do it into the air box after the air filter but before the CIS air vane, to avoid unbalancing the fuel-injection system, as these cars are very vacuum-leak sensitive. It would probably be less of an issue on fuel injected cars with electronic multipoint injection (VW switched to that around 1990 or so from the mechanically metered fuel-injection systems.) I would suggest that those modifying fuel-injected cars, pretty much anything built after about '85, know their car's internals pretty well, or find a friendly mechanic willing to experiment a bit.

Alan _1
11/21/2008 6:50:44 AM

Has anyone done this to a 318cu in. Dodge engine. I'm going to convert this engine to a V-4 as shown in a 1979 Mother Earth News mag. I love my old 1987 Dodge "two" wheel drive Ram Charger but it uses too much fuel. I don't need to pull heavy loads and it is used to get the groceries and take short trips. I'm just not in a position to buy a car or any other type of auto it just not in the cards. So I have to work with what I now have. I like this truck because it has such a long production run so lots of used parts in junk yards at low costs. I used to have an uncle who drove gas powered log tucks back in the 40's and 50's. He told me back in the early 70's that they had a 5 gallon tank of water mounted behind and above the truck cab which was used too allow for water injection for there very under powered log trucks of the day. Water injection allowed there log trucks to climb the gradients out there in the forests when loaded with logs. Water injection gave them the power they needed for those old flat 8 engines. I'm hoping to get at least 24 mpg out of these two conversion instead of the 12 or 15 mpg I get today.

11/4/2008 10:46:06 AM

Doug, I've updated the measurements you were looking for. Some of our articles (this one is nearly 30 years old) got a little messed up when we moved them online. Thanks for bringing this one to our attention. You might want to take a look at the "Image Gallery" in the "Article Tools" box at the top of the page. There's a diagram that you may find helpful. Send us a photo and let us know the results! Troy


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