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Pros and Cons of Turbochargers and Superchargers

They look mighty complicated to understand, but the results are simple enough for everyone to see—they give more power to your car’s engine. What’s more, they also add torque while using the same (or even less) fuel.

Turbochargers and superchargers share the same basic function of forcing air into the cylinder to boost engine power, but they have different ways of doing them.

Turbochargers

Turbochargers work by relying on exhaust gases to spin a turbine, and this, in turn, spins an air compressor which pushes extra air into the cylinders and creates that boost.

Simply speaking, turbochargers work by the pressure of exhaust gases.

To make it easier to understand, here’s a video of how it works.

Here’s how it’s made.

Superchargers

A supercharger is powered by an engine belt from the engine’s crankshaft. This spins the compressor gear that draws the air in. The air is then squeezed into the intake manifold, which creates high pressure and boost.

Simply speaking, they’re mechanically driven by the engine crankshaft.

To make it easier to understand, here’s how it works.

Here’s how it’s made.

Three Types of Superchargers

Keep in mind that there are three types of superchargers commonly used today. They include:

3 types of superchargers
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  • Roots – best for street use, towing, extreme drag racing, and show vehicles
  • Centrifugal – best for street use, commercial use, road racing, and drag racing
  • Twin-Screw superchargers – best for towing, road racing, and drag racing

You can watch this video to learn more about them.

Pros and Cons of Turbochargers vs. Superchargers

So what are the strengths and weaknesses of both? Here are some of them:

Advantages of Turbochargers vs. Superchargers

Turbochargers

Superchargers

  • Noticeable upsurge in horsepower
  • Helps small-sized engines to efficiently produce more power relative to their sizes
  • It helps increase fuel economy because it uses less fuel to lag, and has less reciprocating and rotational mass
  • Enhances efficiency by recovering energy that’s typically lost in naturally-aspirated and supercharged engines
  • It provides instant boosting power to an engine
  • It does not lag because it delivers power immediately via the engine’s crankshaft
  • It provides good power even at low RPM boost (for roots and twin-screw superchargers)
  • Small and compact (for centrifugal superchargers)
  • High thermal efficiency (for centrifugal and twin-screw superchargers)

Disadvantages of Turbochargers vs. Superchargers

Turbochargers Superchargers
  • It takes time for them to give off that boost, especially when it comes to larger turbochargers
  • Turbo lags This happens when a time gap arises as the exhaust gases make their way to the cylinder, the manifold, and the turbocharger
  • They have more limited RPM ranges to efficiently provide that added boost to the engine
  • Large turbochargers often can cause a tremendous power surge that can affect tire traction and car stability
  • They can be hard on the engine oil because they can get very hot.
  • Causes “parasitic load” because it’s powered from a rotating engine belt which rotates the gear and then the impeller (applies to all kinds of superchargers) The power used for this can cause inefficient energy losses.
  • It takes power to make power, and may require 40-60 hp to function normally
  • It can create a lot of heat (for roots superchargers)
  • Needs more engine oil (for centrifugal superchargers)
  • Expensive to design (for twin-screw superchargers)
  • Increases center of gravity due to high-weight placement on the car’s engine (for roots and twin-screw superchargers)

 

Choosing Between Turbochargers and Superchargers

Choosing between the two is actually a matter of personal taste, since they boost power and torque quite well.

From our experience, superchargers actually do a bit better when it comes to ordinary vehicles, while turbochargers are great for performance vehicles.

We also think both of them sound great, with turbos sounding like a whistle with a bit of “guttural sound” compared to the ecstatic “whine” of a supercharger.

Turbocharger vs supercharger
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Some drivers prefer superchargers because they’re more reliable, easier to install, and great with large vehicles, while others prefer turbochargers because they’re quieter, a bit cheaper, and more flexible with smaller-sized engines.

However, it takes a turbocharged engine some time before it kicks in. It can also create turbo lags that can last a few tenths of a second or even a full 2-3 seconds.

You can easily remedy this by using two or twin turbochargers, with one working at low RPMs, while the other at higher RPMs.

Turbochargers also generate too much heat. It’s also difficult to install and calibrate, so you really need an expert to do all the re-routing and re-bolting on the engine.

Superchargers, on the other hand, are expensive, and will require a huge financial investment on your part. They’re not as energy-efficient as well, since they use up some portion of the engine’s belt and crankshaft’s energy to operate correctly.

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