by Brad Anesi
Fuel & Fire
With spring upon us (we really didn't have a winter here in the Northeast
this year), it's time to look at a couple modest upgrades that won't take
up several weekends to complete. No heads to pull, no transmissions to remove,
no seized bolts to break off and curse at. Nope, we're talking about relatively
simple bolt-on upgrades, addressing the two most vital components of any
internal combustion engine - spark and fuel delivery.
When I first learned of this product a few years ago, I was skeptical, to
say the least. A set of spark plug wires claiming to increase horsepower?
Surely this was a gimmick product by a company that would disappear within
a year or two I presumed. Three years later, Nology Engineering
(http://www.nology.com / (800) 665-6491) appears to be not only surviving,
but thriving, so further investigation was warranted. To begin with, the
Nology HotWires are more than just a set of heavy-duty replacement ignition
wires; essentially, they are an ignition upgrade as well. Each wire contains
an IN-LINE capacitor that allows energy dispensed from the coil to accumulate
in the capacitor until the voltage at each spark plug electrode reaches the
ionization point. At that instant, the built-up electrical energy is released
over a very short duration, creating a more powerful and precise spark. If
you'll remember from physics class, power is a function of energy over time,
so it would seem the Nology concept of a more powerful spark delivered over
a shorter time interval is sound. But, you ask, does it work in the real
world? First, it would (of course) be necessary to remove the old wires and
install the new ones. On the Alfa 164 this is more challenging than most
cars since the intake plenum blocks easy access to the 1-2-3 bank of plugs.
Rest assured, however, the wires can be removed without removing the plenum
- a pair of pliers may be helpful. To eliminate any possibility of mis-connecting
the new wires, I would suggest installing one wire at a time, shortest wires
first. Since the HotWires use an angled boot, you will find it more natural
to route the wires along the top of the cam cover rather than the "up, over,
and down" approach the factory wires navigate. The factory wire guides will
not work with the Nology wires (due to size and location), so you'll probably
want to use some nylon wire wraps to keep things neat. Also, be sure to install
the ground strap included with each wire to either an intake plenum or cam
cover bolt. Upon starting the car with the newly installed Nology HotWires,
there was a noticeable difference, even in just the cold idle performance
- it seemed smoother and less laborious. Under part-throttle driving, the
motor felt more willing to rev and in need of less throttle for the same
amount of acceleration. Overall, the drive-ability of the car has been improved
enough to easily justify the additional expense (vs. stock) of these wires,
especially if your eight-year old original wires are due for replacement.
But wait, there's more! Ever since reinstalling the motor back in my car,
I've known I had a minor exhaust leak ahead of the 02 sensor (causing a somewhat
overly rich mixture) which I planned on fixing when I installed the Stebro
headers later this spring.
Unfortunately, I had to get my car inspected in the meantime, which includes
emissions output testing here in New Jersey. On my first attempt, the 164
was promptly failed with a hydrocarbon output of 356 ppm. Doing nothing other
than installing the HotWires, I returned to the inspection station the following
day and promptly passed with a reading of 173 ppm; a reduction of over 50%!
Frankly, this is still too high, but the known problem will be attended to
shortly. However, I feel this helped to demonstrate that the Nology wires
were, in fact, enabling the generation of cleaner and more efficient power
(also evidenced by my 5% increase in fuel mileage).