Written by Josh Jimenez
The words “super” and “turbo” are highly evocative. Use them in the context of automobiles, and you instantly remember “turbines to speed” from the intro of 60’s Batman, and the buttons and switches that boost a car into hyperspace in the Fast and Furious franchise. Heck, even the jumps into light speed from the Star Wars universe comes to mind.
What then is a supercharger and a turbocharger, and how do these work in a car?
Let’s revisit the basics of how a car engine works. Your car engine works by taking in air and fuel, combining these and combusting them. These little explosions propel the camshafts that spin the crankshaft that in turn spin your wheels. The more frequent and more powerful the explosions, the more kinetic energy created. More energy means greater movement.
The part of your engine that takes in oxygen in the air is called the induction system. Located at the end of this system In most cars is the air filter. The filter keeps dust and debris out of the mix as the engine sucks in air. In higher performance cars, however, this is often replaced by a turbocharger or a supercharger. These are what are known as forced induction systems that These devices pump more oxygen molecules into the induction system than a normal airbox could. The difference in the supercharger and the turbo lie in how the devices suck in air.
A supercharger is attached to the crankshaft. Remember that the crankshaft spins the wheels when the engine spins the crankshaft. Therefore, the supercharger sucks in air as the crankshaft spins, when the engine enables it to do so. Every time you step on the gas, you activate the supercharger. This means that there is an immediate input of extra oxygen into the engine. At early RPMs, the car already gets a boost. Since superchargers work directly with the engine, this means that it is extra load on the engine. This leads to higher fuel consumption at the expense of quicker acceleration.
A turbocharger, on the other hand, gets its air from the car’s exhaust system itself. The exhaust pushes a turbine that compresses air. Since the relationship between the turbo and the rest of the engine isn’t as direct as that of the supercharger, it will take a while to get a boost. The mid RPM kick is a rewarding feeling, however. This is why cars with turbochargers have a more exponential-feeling acceleration. Turbochargers are relatively silent to superchargers. The smart design of using supposedly waste exhaust gases to power the turbo makes it more efficient as well.
In terms of reliability between the two induction devices, there are varying responses among sources. Some say that a turbo has less problems in the long run, while others prefer the supercharger in this regard. Our advice is to know which system works best with your car.
Differences Between Superchargers And Turbochargers. (2017, August 17). Retrieved from https://procarmechanics.com/differences-between-superchargers-and-turbochargers/
Engineering Explained (2015, May 18). Engineering Explained: The Pros And Cons Of Turbochargers Vs Superchargers. Retrieved from https://www.carthrottle.com/post/engineering-explained-the-pros-and-cons-of-turbochargers-vs-superchargers/