A while back, I wrote a post about the effects of Nitrous Oxide on your car. I talked about how it basically just shoves oxygen into your combustion chamber. Well there’s an easier way to do that, without hilarious gas…forced induction systems.
The purpose of forced induction systems, aka superchargers and turbochargers, is to push more air/fuel mixture into the combustion chamber. The simplest way of visualizing them is as air compressors that just pump more air into the engine. More air and fuel means more power. That’s the primary goal of these devices: create more power. They both do this same job, although in slightly different ways.
A supercharger is a belt driven device that forces air into an internal combustion engine. It consists of a drive belt, drive, the driven gears inside, and a centrifugal compressor wheel. The belt drives the gear and compressor wheel. The compressor wheel pumps air into the engine. In the picture above, the intake air comes in from the back, and goes out of the bottom, the belt drives the wheel in the front.
Supercharger are installed on top of the intake manifold on V-type engines and on the side of inline engines. Since they’re belt driven, supercharger speed is dependent on engine speed and is most efficient at higher engine speeds.
A turbocharger is actually a type of supercharger. In fact turbos used to be called turbosuperchargers because they’re just superchargers that are run via a turbine wheel.
A turbocharger is an exhaust gas driven device that forces air into an internal combustion engine. Turbochargers use the exhaust gases from the engine to drive a turbine wheel. That turbine wheel is connected to the compressor wheel by a shaft. That shaft speed can get up to 150,000 RPMs, so it has to be supported by ball bearings or tapered roller bearings that are pressure lubricated and cooled by the engine oiling system.
Which one is better?
Turbochargers are appealing because they use waste exhaust to power the boost, while superchargers have to take power away from the engine itself via the belt. Still, superchargers are much easier to install and tune, and they give a broader powerband, meaning more power over a broader spectrum instead of a quick jump in power once you get to a certain threshold – like a turbocharger.
It’s difficult to say which is better flat out. Superchargers are easier to install, they don’t get nearly as hot as turbochargers, they’re more reliable, more low end power, etc. There are lots of benefits to superchargers, but turbos have that one big one…they run off of wasted kinetic energy. Turbos address the one main disadvantage of using a supercharger, the fact that it has to take power from the engine to spin.
This is an age old question, both turbo and superchargers have been around for a while, and the debate still isn’t settled. I gave you the information, it’s up to you to make the informed decision.