There is a common misconception that superchargers and turbochargers are the same thing, which makes sense sine the term turbocharger is derived from turbo-supercharger. While both of them essentially do the same job, which is to add efficiency and power to an engine without adding excess weight in the process, they do it by using different energy sources. Turbochargers use the flow of exhaust gases to do their job, whereas the superchargers are mechanically driven, usually by a belt or chain drive that comes from the crankshaft. Let’s take a quick look at how a supercharger works and why you might want one in your engine.
There is a very large section of drivers that crave more power under the hood, but as we mentioned earlier, they don’t want to do that at the expense of adding weight to the vehicle. It’s the mixture of fuel and air that creates the explosion that powers the pistons downwards. You might then believe that simply adding more fuel into the mix would make for a more powerful explosion, but since there has to be a perfect mix of 14 parts fuel to 1 part air, there also has to be an increase in the air intake if you want to increase the fuel.
That may all sound a little complicated, but the addition of a supercharger makes it a lot easier. Supercharger increase the air intake dramatically by compressing it, which then allows that extra fuel to be added into the mix. The result is a significant boost in power with almost 50% more horsepower and over 30% torque added when the supercharger is used. Now that we know what the supercharger does the answer becomes how it goes about doing its job, which is again quite straightforward.
In order to work effectively, a supercharger must spin rapidly and even faster than the speed of the engine. It needs to do this in order to compress the air that is mixed with the fuel, with the average supercharger hitting speeds of 50,000 to 65,000 RPM. The downside to all this is that the air quickly becomes heated and loses density, so it has to be cooled before it is allowed to enter the engine chambers. This is done by using an air to air or air to water intercooler, both of which act in a similar fashion as a radiator, cooling the air before sending it on its way.
When it comes to making the choice between a turbocharger and a supercharger, it pretty much comes down to personal choice as they both do the same job. What it boils down to is whether you want a system that is powered by exhaust gases or one that is mechanical in nature. Before making a decision on which of the two you would prefer, it might be best to look at the pros and cons of each to see which one best suits your need for more power.