What are turbochargers and superchargers, and what are their differences? Their names are similar, and they fulfill similar purposes, but they are different in how they function. In this blog, we will explore these differences. A turbocharger uses exhaust gasses from the gas engines to turn a turbine, which compresses and forces more air into an engine. When more air enters the engine, more gas can be added to the fuel/air mixture, which in turn produces more combustion, and therefore lets the engine generate more power.
Because of this extra air compression, turbochargers are especially useful at higher altitudes, where the air is thinner and can negatively affect engine performance.
A supercharger is similar to a turbocharger, but is driven by the engine’s crankshaft, and is connected via a belt or chain. A supercharger requires engine power to run, whereas a turbocharger runs off of waste exhaust gasses.
Turbochargers are more efficient than superchargers, since they use air that is already passing through the exhaust pipe. They are not one hundred percent efficient, since it does take energy for the engine exhaust to turn the turbine, but compared to superchargers, they use less fuel, weigh less, and typically provide a greater increase to the engine’s total horsepower. Their greatest downside is that they suffer from lag; because it takes a second for exhaust gas to spin the turbine, there is a delay when the engine is throttled up to the time the turbine achieves the desired speed and output. Turbochargers also provide little to no benefit at idle and low power settings, and can suffer from power surges when the engine power is rapidly reduced, and air pressure builds quickly in the intake manifold, causing a temporary flow reversal and vibration.
Superchargers, on the other hand, have no lag, can boost an engine even while it is operating at low power, run at cooler temperatures than turbochargers, and are relatively cheap when compared to turbochargers. However, they are less efficient in terms of power and fuel economy, and require more maintenance since they have more moving parts.
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