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What’s The Difference Between A Super Charger And A Turbo Charger?

By Chad Ina - August 28, 2015

This is one of the questions that get’s asked a lot by people who are interested in increasing the performance of their car.

Because they both perform a similar function, it’s quite confusing and so we would like to clear that up here and now.

Both the super chargers and the turbo chargers charge the air intake by compressing it so that you can force more air into the cylinders. When you do this you are able to burn more fuel with each stroke, thereby giving you more power.

The difference between a super charger and a turbo charger is…

The big difference between the two however is quite significant. A super charger compresses air mechanically usually via a belt system. Though, gear, chain and shaft systems are not uncommon. Whereas the turbo charger uses the built up exhaust gasses to spin its turbine, which in turn spins up a compressor via a shaft, that pumps the extra air into the cylinders.

The big drawback to the super charger is that because it draws its power from the engine directly it robs engine power at very low RPM’s when it’s not actually doing anything. The reason is that it’s always spinning at the same speed as your motor, and to keep it spinning draws power from the crank.

The super charger has a narrow window where it can really help you generate more power in the low to mid RPMs because it’s not donating power at those lower RPMs. However, depending on the size and thus efficiency of the super charger, its greatest drawback is running out of puff at higher RPM, where the engines power is dropping off.

The benefit of the super charger is that because it’s always spinning at the same speed as your engine the power increase is nearly very linear and more or less instant.

The downside to the turbo charger is that because it is exhaust driven it takes a while for it to get into its efficiency range and thus add air volume. This is commonly known as turbo lag.

The upside to the turbo charger is; once the turbo charger does get into its efficiency range it has a longer cycle that it can operate effectively through because it reaches maximum compression at a much earlier point. And it’s not draining power from your engine at the lower RPM’s.

These two factors allow you to have greater power through an RPM range that you drive in. But do be aware of a couple things before you run out and buy one.

Some manufacturers will void your warranty if they discover you have a turbo charger or super charger on your car. Others will only allow you to have one if it’s factory or dealer installed. This is generally going to be for two reasons.

1. So they can ensure you have the right system for your car and that it’s installed correctly.

2. The dealer make a whole lot of money installing aftermarket parts.

Many manufacturers nowadays are installing turbo chargers to their model lineups. Simply because they can potentially be extremely efficient when developed correctly. A bit extreme, but let’s take today’s Formula 1 cars. They generate in the region of 800 BHP from just a 1600 cc, V6 mounted engine. Ok they have a bunch of gizmos such as DRS and KERS systems, but am sure you get my drift.

Turbo chargers are becoming the norm nowadays for most manufacturers. They are not only more green, but are extremely efficient, without sacrificing fuel economy nor horsepower!

About the Author - Chad Ina

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