Turbocharger Vs. Supercharger
||By Anna Finger
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Supercharging and turbocharging your engine will get you the same thing: more horsepower. Both work by increasing the amount of air that goes into the combustion chamber,
resulting in a more powerful explosion. However, they both do it in very different ways.
A supercharger works by taking power from the engine via a belt/pulley system. The belt turns an impeller inside the supercharger that forces more air into the combustion
chamber. The benefits of having a supercharger, is that it's very straightforward to use, and the power is there whenever you need it. Also, a cool feature about it is that
it doesn't require special cooling or maintenance. It's easily more reliable than turbochargers.
A supercharger also provides a smooth boost throughout the entire power-band, which results in more predictable handling and power at low, as well as high RPM's. The downside
of supercharging is that it uses a small amount of power from the engine all of the time (because of the pulley). Ironically, the more power the supercharger produces, the
more power it pulls from the system. But the net result of having a supercharger would most likely turnout better than not owning a supercharger at all.
A turbo charger works much like a supercharger, where it forces more air into the combustion chamber. However, instead of being driven by a pulley/belt combo attached to the
engine, the impeller is spun by exhaust gasses from the engine. When the engine is at rest, the turbo charger impeller is idling, because there is little pressure in the exhaust
that is released from the engine. As the engine is revved, more exhaust pressure hits the turbo charger's impeller causing it to turn, which puts more air in the combustion
chamber, which also increases the exhaust pressure by hitting the turbos' impeller. Hopefully you can see where this is going at this point. The faster you go the more power
the turbocharger produces.
The benefits of having this type of system, is having a lot of power being produced with no extra effort on the engine's part. You can also increase the air density by adding
intercoolers, which cools the air before the turbo gets put into the combustion chamber that allows an even greater increase in power. Another great aspect of owning a system
like this is the ability to change the amount of boost available. With some models this can even be done while driving, allowing you to fine-tune the power you need.
However the big con of the turbo charger is the uneven power-band. At low RPM's the engine is not producing enough exhaust pressure for the turbo charger to add power. This is
known as turbo lag. Once it gets going though, it's a very massive boost. So massive, in fact, that a poorly, setup turbo charger can be dangerous: the sudden and dramatic increase
in power can cause the handling characteristics of the car to change. This was especially true of the older Porsche 911 Turbos, which had a habit of swinging the back-end out if
you weren't aware when the turbo boost hit. The other con of the turbo charger is its maintenance. There are more moving parts than in a supercharger, and some models require
cool down time after heavy use before the engine can be shut off.
Superchargers are better used for the daily driver who wants a little more power in their engine without sacrificing the reliability or worrying about sudden amounts of power
causing a spinout. In fact, there have been mini-vans that have come standard with superchargers, attesting to its same power. Turbo chargers are better used in sports cars,
whose handling can accommodate the sudden change in power, where whose drivers are willing to sacrifice some reliability for a large increase in speed.