Supercharged Vs. Turbocharged

Supercharged Vs. Turbocharged

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Supercharged vs. Turbocharged

In the world of high performance engine parts there is probably no other topic

more debated than superchargers vs. turbochargers. In a fast paced world of automotive

ingenuity, both of these products prevail in horsepower production. Compared to other

possible engine modifications, these modifications remain on the top of the list for

creating power. Many different things need to considered when comparing these two

modifications, such as how they work their cost, fuel economy, durability, and generated

Both superchargers and turbochargers are forced induction systems and thus have
the same objective - to compress air and force more air molecules into the engine's
combustion chambers with more pressure than would normally be allowed at atmospheric
pressure here on Earth (14.7 psi at sea level). The benefit of forcing more air molecules
into the combustion chambers is that it allows your engine to burn more fuel per power
stroke. With an internal combustion engine, burning more fuel means that you convert
more fuel into energy and power. For this reason, supercharged and turbocharged engines
normally produce 40% to 100%+ more power (depending on the amount of boost). Boost is any pressure above atmospheric pressure in the intake manifold. When there is more air pressure in the intake manifold that means that there can be more fuel pressure as well. The higher pressure in the combustion chamber means that the

explosion used to move the pistons up and down is greater however this pressure has to resist combustion in order to achieve
more energy from the power stroke. A resistance to combustion is achieve
d through the type of gasoline used. There are uasually three different types of gasoline avaible at most gas stations and their resistance to combustion is represented by the octaine number shown at the pump, for instance 87, 89, and 92. The higher the number, the higher the resistance to combustion.
The cost of supercharger or a turbocharger system for a specific engine is
approximately the same, so cost is generally not a factor. If one is interested in purchasing a super of turbo charger, they should expect to spend approximately 2,500 dollars for a quality product. There are companies that offer these parts for as little as 1,500 dollars, however the reduced price comes with a cost not in a dollar amount. One thing that should be considered is that you get what you pay for.

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With a reduced price you will usually get reduced overall performance gains as well as reduced reliability and durability. On top of the cost for the part there is also a cost for installation. A person can install a turbo or supercharger for almost nothing if they are knowledgeable of such a process. For those who plan on installing such a part by themselves they should be aware that most all manufacturer warranties will be void, where as an auto shop will usually guarantee there work against defects that could potentially destroy the product due to improper installation. Most part manufacturers require that their product is installed by a certified mechanic in order to insure quality control and to qualify for warranty.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, it should not be a concern. When a person has installed a modification that adds anywhere from 40% to 100% of an engines original power, there will be a significant loss in fuel economy. A driver can still limit gas consumption depending on how often he or she uses unnecessary power.
A supercharger is mounted to the engine and is driven by a pulley that is inline
with the engine crank (or accessory) belt. Air is drawn into the supercharger and
compressed by either an impeller (centrifugal-style supercharger), twin rotating screws
(screw-type supercharger), or counter-rotating rotors (roots-type supercharger). The air is
then discharged into the engine's intake. Faster crank speed (more engine rpm) spins the
supercharger faster and allows the supercharger to produce more boost (normally 6 to 9
psi for a street vehicle). Typical peak operating speeds for a supercharger are around
15,000 rpm (screw-type and roots style superchargers) and 40,000 rpm (centrifugal-style
A turbocharger operates in much the same way as a centrifugal (internal impeller)
supercharger, except it is not driven by pulleys and belts attached to the engine's crank. A
turbo is instead driven by exhaust gasses that have been expelled by the engine and are
traveling through the exhaust manifold. The exhaust gas flows through one half of the
turbocharger's turbine, which drives the impeller that compresses the air. Typical
operating speeds of a turbocharger are between 75,000 and 150,000 rpm.
A lag or delay, is perhaps the biggest advantage that the supercharger enjoys over
the turbo. On the road a lag means almost nothing unless one is engauging in illegal street
racing. Lag is generally not an issue unless racing, in racing this lag could be the
difference between winning and loosing, because of the second or two that a turbo takes
to spool up. Because a turbocharger is driven by exhaust gasses, the turbocharger's
turbine must first spool up before it even begins to turn the compressor's impeller.

This results in lag time which is the time needed for the turbine to reach its full throttle
from an intermediate rotational speed state. During this lag time, the turbocharger is
creating little to no boost, which means little to no power gains during this time. Smaller
turbos spool up quicker, which eliminates some of this lag. Turbochargers thus utilize a
wastegate, which allows the use of a smaller turbocharger to reduce lag while preventing
it from spinning too quickly at high engine speeds. The wastegate is a valve that allows
the exhaust to bypass the turbine blades. The wastegate senses boost pressure, and if it
gets too high, it could be an indicator that the turbine is spinning too quickly, so the
wastegate bypasses some of the exhaust around the turbine blades, allowing the blades to
slow down. A Supercharger, on the other hand, is connected directly to the crank, so
there is no "lag". Superchargers are able to produce boost at a very low rpm, especially
screw-type and roots type blowers.
When speaking in terms of durability a supercharger will enjoy a substantial

reliability advantage over the turbocharger. When a turbo is shut off (i.e. when the

engine is turned off), residual oil inside the turbo's bearings can be baked by stored

engine heat. This, combined with the turbo's extremely high rpms (up to 150,000rpm) can

cause problems with the turbo's internal bearings and can shorten the life of the

turbocharger. In addition, many turbos require aftermarket exhaust manifolds, which are

often far less reliable than stock manifolds.

While the supercharger is generally considered to be a better method of forced

induction for almost all race vehicles, the turbo will always have its place in a more

specialized market such as in diesel engines.

Superchargers generally provide a much broader powerband that most drivers are looking

for with no "turbo lag". In addition, they are much easier to install and tune, making them

more practical for a home mechanic. Many vehicle manufacturers are offering both turbo

and superchargers on some of their more sporty models. Superchargers are more

commonly used on American based vehicles where as turbochargers are more frequently

seen on import vehicles.
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