Turbochargers vs superchargers a guide

Turbochargers Vs. Superchargers: a Guide

If you’re interested in adding power and performance to your ride, no doubt you’ve considered adding a turbocharger (just turbo to tuners), or a supercharger to your ride.  However, it can be difficult to determine which is the best for your needs.  For instance, what is the peak operating range of a turbocharger, versus a supercharger? How much horsepower can you gain from each and which is more cost effective?  Here are a few answers to your myriad of questions.

First, you need to understand how each system operates, before you can make an informed choice.  Both turbos and superchargers are a form of forced air induction.  In other words, they provide boost by forcing more air into each cylinder.  More air means more fuel can be dumped in, resulting in larger explosions, more rapid explosions and greater speed.  Basically, they provide more air, which results in longer, cleaner burns.  You waste less fuel, and go farther, faster.  However, that’s where the similarities end.


Turbochargers operate on spent exhaust gasses.  These gasses enter one half of the turbine, propelling the turbine and forcing compressed air into the engine.  The drawback to this method is that the air is very hot (use an intercooler to combat the heat) and the turbo operates at a fairly high RPM rate (75K to 150K RPMs).


Superchargers are a little different from turbos.  Unlike turbos, they do not operate on exhaust gas.  Instead, they use a pulley and the belts on your engine to drive the impeller, rotating screws or rotors.  This forces air into the engine, providing more boost for your ride.  Superchargers operate at a lower RPM rate than do turbos (anywhere between 15K to 40K, depending on the type of supercharger).

That’s all well and good, but which is better, you ask?  That depends on what you want.  Both systems cost approximately the same (there will be a few dollars difference, but not much).  However, superchargers experience much less lag than do turbochargers. This results in more immediate power.  However, turbochargers can provide more boost at higher rates of speed, meaning that you get more out of them at higher RPM ranges.

Turbochargers also create more boost surge, which can damage engines, as well as creating additional backpressure that must be forced out through the headers.  Superchargers produce more noise than turbos, but are generally longer-lived, providing you with a longer lasting performance enhancement.

In short, it comes down to personal preference.  Both devices provide an amazing boost to your engine performance, knocking your speed capabilities up dramatically. Both systems have pros and cons associated with them, as well.  You choice will also depend on your usage.  For instance, a supercharger is ideal for a street machine, but if you are going to the track, a turbocharger offers better benefits. Before choosing either system, you will need to define your needs, as well as any future use of your ride, in order to make the best choice.

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