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Supercharger vs Turbo – Which is better and what’s the difference?

Supercharger vs Turbo. The ultimate question in forced induction. People ask us all the time if it's better to go supercharged or better to go with a custom turbo kit or an off the shelf turbo kit. Both are different in terms of how they work, performance and cost. We're not going to get into the technical details of each one, but hopefully this information will show you the difference between the two so you can decide which route you are more interested in going on your car or truck.

Essentially, a turbo sits off of your exhaust manifold, and the exhaust gasses spin one end of the turbo (the exhaust side), which makes your compressor side spin also and force air into the intake system, therefore creating air pressure. A supercharger doesn't work off the exhaust gas, it is attached to your engine and spins with the crankshaft. When the crankshaft spins the supercharger, it forces air into the motor. The turbo is more efficient as it doesn't require engine power to spin it, so it makes more power per boost. A supercharger also does not create full boost until redline, which is when the engine is spinning the supercharger as fast as possible.

What is forced induction?
Both a turbo and supercharger are forced induction systems. They are designed to literally force air into your engine. The more air you can get into your engine, the more power your car will make.

What is a supercharger?
A supercharger is a unit that bolts to your engine and connects with a belt between your crankshaft and the supercharger unit. As the engine spins, it spins the supercharger and makes the supercharger force air into the engine. The size of the pulley that spins the supercharger determines how much boost you will make. A smaller pulley means the supercharger will spin faster so it will make more boost. The supercharger is limited by it's efficiency, so if you overboost the supercharger, it will blow hot air into your engine and you will not make as much power (amongst a myriad of other problems). Since the engine needs to literally spin the supercharger, it is not as efficient as you need to use horsepower to make horsepower.

What is a turbo?
A turbo is similar to a supercharger, except it has an exhaust housing instead of a pulley, and runs off of your exhaust gasses. As your car produces exhaust, the exhaust gas spins the turbine which causes the compressor to force air into the engine. A turbo is more efficient than a supercharger since your engine does not need to work harder to power the turbo. Because a turbo is not connected directly to the engine, it can spin much faster than a supercharger.

Is a turbo or supercharger smog legal?
There are far more smog legal supercharger kits than there are smog legal turbo kits. The reason is that the supercharger doesn't have as much smog altering or modifying equipment such as a turbo usually. While a supercharger can have an intercooler and blow off valve, it does not have a wastegate. These items can make your car or truck not pass smog, and would need to be expensive to be done in an emissions friendly way, which makes them out of the budget for most people.

Turbo vs Supercharger - What we like
At Redline360, we like turbo power over supercharged power. It's a personal preference. Both produce tons of power, both feel great, but we like the power delivery and torque that a turbo produces. Plus, it just sounds cool. Many argue that the supercharger is more reliable, but we have good luck with our turbo cars and know they require more maintenance which we are perfectly ok with. You can't go wrong either way, but hopefully after reading this, you have a better understanding of the difference between a supercharger and a turbo.

In the video above, you can get more information as well as listen to the difference sounds that a supercharger vs turbo make. Enjoy!

Comments (34) Trackbacks (0)
  1. You make the supercharger sound more of a bad deal than it really is. What you say about the super “A supercharger also does not create full boost until redline….” can also be true for most turbos as well, as they provide less boost until the engine is running at higher RPMs, and produce noticeable lag.

    • Actually most turbos peak before redline and some way before….My turbo peaks at 3,000 rpms and it is running at 40,000 rpms itself. So much more efficient power produced at lower rpms for the daily driver!

  2. No mention of “turbo lag”? Unbalanced article…

  3. everyone says turbosdont fraw on the motor… well according to physics that pressure has to come from somewhere, if the exhaust gasses meet resistance the motor must PUSH them out… taking equivelant power to boost ratio. as a super charger would.

    • you’re partially right about the motor having to push the exhaust out against the turbo, but hot gas under pressure (exhaust being pushed from the combustion chamber) will want to expand. Wasted heat (exhaust) is wasted energy so using the hot exhaust to do work (expand against the turbo prop) is actually a way of recovering some of the thermodynamic inefficiencies inherent to the internal combustion engine. Therefore, the turbo actually is more efficient than a supercharger.

  4. what a biased review total crap

    • Any article on turbochargers/superchargers will be biased in some way, everyone has a personal preference.

    • Ok so all of nhra must be wrong dont you think the drag cas would. B using turbo they use superchargers because. There’s. No lag idc what u turbo guys say only way ur winning. A race is if your already rolling. Now that e85 is possible. With superchargers no more 92+ octane

      • you sir Cleary don’t know how a turbo works. you can have way more boost built up at the starting line then a supercharger. and most people are scared of switching from super to turbo because they know nothing about it let alone know how to tune it with a turbo.

  5. This a good article. Turbos are limited to spinning at a certain RPM per engine RPM. My WRX made full boost by 2500 RPM and held it until about 6k. You can also control a turbo A LOT more than a SC. Everything a SC does is RPM dependent. In a turbo, RPMs affect efficiency. But a turbo can also be better balanced and tuned for a greater engine speed range.
    If I push my gas harder (and I’m already in an acceptable engine speed) with a turbo, I get more boost, with a SC I am dependant on engine speed all the way.

  6. I too was a “turbo man” until my twin turbo’s failed me, I had trounced my motoring adversary quite expeditiously and quite convincingly and after my latest dusting of said adversary when he finally caught up to me I had to brake for traffic (safety first) as I did this my car catastrophically lost power, nothing I did could get the car to regain power, I had to limp off to the side as my adversary carried on, most embarrassing, though the other driver had no clue as to my malfunction it didn’t make it hurt any less. I took it to the dealer and they told me that my turbo’s suffered waste gate failure, they said they replaced a solenoid but when I drove the car it wasn’t fixed, the car had more power but not what it usually has. I understand from various websites that the Ecoboost engine from Ford isn’t the most reliable, I’ve had the 2010 SHO/PP and never had a problem and that car was driven, this, the Lincoln MKS is living the life of luxury compared to the SHO so why it would fail after only moments of driving is discomforting to me and frankly leaves me with no confidence in it’s future performance. I have a another car with a supercharged engine and it not only is much more powerful it also feels visceral when it’s pushed hard and it’s been through the ringer and has never failed me once, the car begs to be driven and driven hard. I can’t see myself having any faith in the turbo’s once they’re finally repaired whenever that is so I can see why GM didn’t go “turbo” with their new muscle cars and the upcoming V series.

  7. Hj,
    First one question:
    What the differences between the exaust sound?

    And, the new corvette c7 z06/z07 have a v8 engine with supercharger.
    Your opinion is: IF the same engine use the turbo system the results Will be more power?

    For example the new Califórnia T use one v8 too, but turbo

  8. Very poor, ignorant and greatly biased article. Does nobody here know how to proof-read? Notwithstansing that, you show a staggering ignorance of engines and forced induction, are you all twelve years old?

    • It is funny you mention “proof-reading”. You missed a comma after “ignorant”. Also, you used improper grammar with “Does nobody”. The correct way of saying it would be “Does anybody”. You misspelled “Notwithstandsing”. The correct spelling is “Notwithstanding”. Lastly, “Are you all twelve years old” is a separate statement and should be it’s own sentence. In conclusion, your full post should have read as follows:

      “Very poor, ignorant, and greatly biased article. Does anybody here know how to proof-read? Notwithstanding that, you show a staggering ignorance of engines and forced induction. Are you all twelve years old?”

      But good job in calling out others for their lack of “proof-reading”.

      • Where is the like button when you need it? Quite right you are. Truly a hypocritical statement was previously made. While the article is not perfectly written and disinterested, it is worth looking over ones own work when criticizing grammer and the like. Additionally, for those aching for more positive things to be stated of the turbo, it plainly says on multiple occasions that the super is not perfect and the turbo has its advantages.the super is just, in a more tangible manor, connected to the engine. The turbo , quite frankly is run on hit air. And truly just to think of one makes me a bit gassy. That said, I do apprecite in every way, how each each forced induction method works and the potential they possess. And @GRAMMER POLICE, I am no English major so be kind.

    • Proofreading? Pot meet kettle…

  9. The fact is that no matter the source of boost, it takes the same power to get the same boost. Superchargers can be used with intercoolers depending on the style and setup. Both turbo and superchargers can be used with pop off valves, so pressure can be tailored to the engine needs with both kinds of setups. Turbochargers being more efficient is debatable, because of the back pressure they create. Generally, less back pressure means more power. In actual dyno testing, the amount of boost being equal, the power level is usually very close. It mostly comes down to packaging and personal preference. Also, some engines don’t have blower drive setups available, so turbochargers are easier to install. Some people like the whistle of a turbo, and others the whine of a supercharger. The most reliable choice, of course, is just go with a bigger engine. There’s no replacement for displacement… That will win races for you!

  10. I have volvo c30 turbo 4 calendars 2008 ineed to more fast ? Think

  11. in your guys opinion, out of the superchager and the turbo what has better efficiency, what creates more power but also isn’t as bad for the environment?

  12. so what gives the car more power supercharger or turbo

  13. If you don’t want that much of a turbo lag then add twin turbos one small one to spoule up faster for bottom end and a larger one for top end

  14. Forgot to mention, superchargers are abolt on affair, Turbos need exhaust rerouting or custom piping, To me exhaust gas has to heat the heck out of the turbo units.

  15. Turbos also have let off valves you can buy.
    Mine has one and it releases boost pressure out of the engine when you have short burst
    So turbo’s are not that bad

  16. Here’s my two cents. I don’t pretend to be an expert at either application. But I do love cars and own a pretty fast bike. My opinion of the information provided is that a turbo is most effective for track racing and superchargers are preferable for drag racing. Just my thought

    • One thing that is not mentioned in most articles and discussions on this subject is the gain a supercharger will have in allowing for headers, which is a natural power adder by itself, a clue to the effect of back pressure. Pumping loss is pumping loss. There is also the effect that the addition of fuel has on boost with a turbo, which can be advantageous if not unpredictable. Supercharger has boost early, but has to be bypassed because of throttle plate… The other problems I have are the misleading specs on efficiency. Turbo is more efficient, but at what rpm? Supercharger takes more power from your motor, but is it sized properly? Some numbers do lie when other numbers are left out. With that in mind, it’s mostly tuning and where you want your power.

  17. I run a supercharger but have owned turbos. My car is pushing 505 HP.
    Honestly I eat turbos. This article is way off. The boost from an SC smokes the turbo

  18. All interesting comments. I’ve learned something.


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