When you are looking to add that extra boost of power to your engine, whether it’s a muscle car or a tractor, you want to make sure that you explore all of the alternatives. Both turbochargers and superchargers have their advocates, but let’s focus on turbochargers and the advantages they have over superchargers.
What is a charger?
Both superchargers and turbochargers add extra horse power to an engine through the compression of air in the cylinder. Compressed air is forced into the engine, and this leaves room for more gas to explode in the cylinder, adding power to the engine. The difference between superchargers and turbochargers is that superchargers are powered by a belt driven by the engine itself, while turbochargers use exhaust gases to power a turbine wheel which supplies the boost.
The Advantages of a Turbocharger
Waste not, want not. Because turbochargers are driven by exhaust gases, they actually using emissions produced by the engine that would otherwise just go to waste in the atmosphere.
Engine wear. Superchargers depend on the engine to produce the power they need to add the extra boost, but turbochargers are strictly exhaust driven. The extra boost that a turbocharger provides is therefore calculated without any loss to drive the charger itself; superchargers use some of the boost they provide just to run themselves.
Efficiency. The turbine wheel and a shaft connecting it to the engine are all the hardware that a turbocharger uses. A supercharger, on the other hand, needs pulleys, belts, and gears to run. The amount of friction created by this extra material and the added weight may make a difference in performance.
More Power? A turbocharger will produce more power at lower RPMs than a supercharger. A regulator built inside the charger opens the waste gate, which gets rid of any extra pressure and enhances the performance. The waste gate typically has opened at between 2000 and 2500 RPMs. Improvements are also creating larger waste gates. In any event, turbochargers will give greater boost to the engine on paper, although there is traditionally concern about lag.
One of the last factors to consider in your decision is cost. Turbochargers cost less than superchargers, and they are also easier and less expensive to repair due to simpler engineering. Continued advancements in turbocharger technology have addressed concerns such as throttle performance due to lag, making the turbocharger the better performer all around.