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24Oct/1261

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 (61) 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.

    • how the f*** the supercharged is stronger? it’s a stronger car engine or the supercharger do more power? i through turbo do more boost and power than supercharger.

    • u wrong.

      Turbocharger is much stronger and do much more power and fell much more stronger than supercharger

  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.

      • Fozzy, you’re a fucking cock. There is no comma before “and” unless you intend to employ a serial comma, or one is utilising an independent clause. Next, unless you are writing a formal address, “nobody” and “anybody” are acceptable here. There was no mispelling, it was a typo, commonly known as a slip error. The letters “s” and “d” are located next to each other, leading to this common error. Finally, the separate statement you refer to is in fact a closing question, thus a semi-colon, or a comma would be appropriate.

        Fucking Americans thinking they know English.

      • The grammar rule you are referring to is commonly called the Oxford comma. Both methods are technically correct and it is a reflection of choice, not necessity. Nice try on the response, but it made you sound like a douche as well.

    • 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.

      • Both are ample power adders, but Turbo cars (Especially TWIN Turbo cars) are WAY MORE TEMPERAMENTAL that a straight Roots, Helix, (Bell, Eaton) or even a Procharger design.

        Let’s remember one thing here people – the more heat, the less efficient. Being that Turbochargers are using exhaust gases, that air is HOT ALREADY. Now COMPRESS that air, and it gets even HOTTER. Hence, Intercoolers were born.

        Turbo’s are GREAT, once sized and cooled properly. I give AMG and the boys over at Brabus alot of credit. They took a stock SL65 V12 Bi-Turbo car, and pushed 810 BHP out of a stock 735 with some computer tweaks.

        NONE OF WHICH are mentioned in this article. Air-Fuel-Spark-Timing-Boost Management adds another 5 GRAND to a Twin Turbo setup. Even if you do a small spooler, with a giant 88mm, you need SOMETHING to manage the boost and timing advance curves to air/fuel delivery.

        You can top a roots with two 750 CFM carbs and depending on overdrive or underdrive, you can realize an IMMEDIATE 150- 165 HP added, and that’s taking into consideration the measly 15 – 20 HP subtraction to drive the supercharger belt. But remember we’re talking POWER ON DEMAND with a Supercharger….no “Bump-Ins” or 2-step let me build boost first B.S.

        One of the pioneer racing teams of turbo cars has been the Al Anabi crew. Their toughest challenge was how to build boost, and have the trans brake not let go, throwing you into a red light? The cars were STUPID FAST with some pretty amazing E.T’s at the 60 foot and 1000 foot run, but getting them to not cook a trans brake was nothing short of a miracle.

        They STILL got the snot beat out of them though by the alky blowers, and the Nitrous 832 blocks…

        Someone said it before….no replacement for DISPLACEMENT. Yes, each has their pro’s and cons but I think the complete LACK of mention into boost and A/F/S Management systems required for an efficient, set-up are a bit lax…

        Roots blowers take new bearings…oil…and maybe re-lining rotors with teflon strips every 25,000 miles in street driven applications. What maintenance are Turbo’s needing at 25,000?

  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
    angle.

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

    Thanx.

  19. I have a 76 Grand Prix with a 455, headers, Moroso valve cover, and breather. I purchased the car from a buddy and I want to add a better sound, more torque and horse power but not trying to speed a lot. I read all the post and seems like some of you do know what your talking about.. So Im asking what are some things that I can do. I thought about a super charger set up with a better air intake or a light cam… Im not a racer but I love speed.. car will be driven so can some one help

  20. Both a have their place but for ultimate bhp and speed supercharger is king, look at funny cars & top fuel dragsters!

  21. from this article what i understand that athough a turbo can make more power and is more fuel efficient, the heat factor makes it far less reliable than a supercharged car. i feel that turbos require higher degree of maintenance than supercharger. rarely heard of a turbo lasting 200,000 miles. correct me if i am wrong

  22. My opinion is that a supercharger is better for a car that u drive everyday

  23. Turbos are extremely reliable. My cummims had 400k on it. My blown 454 made it 65k before the supercharger was sent back for rebuild. That said I’m a supercharger guy and they have a slight advantage in drag racing due to exhaust pushing the car down and down the track. Think the headers are that angle just because?

  24. Which one makes your car go faster

  25. I have a question versus a comment and you guys are the experts so I am asking for information. Did Buick make a factory 1987 Grand National with a Supercharger or were they all turbocharged? My son is a master mechanic but I am aged 64 and he is 37 and I could almost swear they did have superchargers on some of the ’87 Grand Nationals.

  26. Turbos is better and has way more capability. Why do u think Formula 1 cars aren’t supercharged…… Superchargers have their place on the street but for a race car it Turbo.

  27. I don’t know what ancient cars y’all are driving by my BMW M4 has absolutely no turbo lag. Maybe it’s the twin turbo setup, but people are shocked as to how the M4 can have absolutely no turbo lag. Every professional driver and reviews mentions that on the review. Perhaps smaller size?

    So, for those people who think every car has turbo lag, they’re wrong. M4 motor had zero lag, I feel boost at 1200rpm.

    #2 superchargers are great too. Nobody said they suck. It’s all about preference. Some people cannot stand the sound of a supercharger. I know this, because I personally know people who keep saying, “I can’t stand that whinny noise”. Others, who are against turbos, say “All it takes is for a wastegate to fail and there goes the turbos.”…….stupid things like that.

    Preference. It’s all it is. How you make power is up to you, all that matters is how well the car puts it down.

  28. What I would like to know is this. Dollar for dollar, including increased maintenance, which gives you the better increase in fuel economy?

    • Daniel~ It is not much about fuel economy in this context, it is about making more horsepower. Keep your foot off the throttle and you get better fuel mileage. Put your foot into it and you get more air into the engine, which then demands more fuel to keep air/fuel ratio correct and “bang” you take off like a rocket. The SC and TC simply increase the amount of air being “forced” into the engine. More air / more fuel / bigger bang.

      With that being said, the SC is typically sized & setup (over-driven/under-driven) to produce X-amount of boost pressure constant at all rpm ranges (check out Whipple SC site). Likewise, the TC is setup to produce a maximum amount of boost pressure / not exceed X-amount of boost pressure after reaching said amount of boost pressure. At idle, the TC is not doing much to nothing, as engine rpm increases so does the exhaust gas flow. As the exhaust gas flow increases so does the TC rpm. The TC “setup” is dependent on the Exhaust Side-to-Compressor Side ratio of the Turbocharger, exhaust flow piping, and the Waste Gate & Pop-off Valve setting/management.

      Therefore, both SC’s & TC’s have variables, which one is the best boils down to a persons preference for the particular application. Your vehicle may be performing awesome with a turbo setup, but it may perform even better with the correct SC setup. Again, “better” may be my opinion, and your opinion may defer.

      Another aspect is once you’ve selected your TC and installed it, if it does not perform exactly as projected, the corrective actions are limited to managing what boost you have, short of changing the TC internals.

      In the event the SC has not provided the wanted boost, the driven pulley can be changed to speed up the SC, or you may have produced more boost than wanted, so you can then change the pulley to lower the boost, and the boost is constant across the rpm range, from idle to full throttle. Additionally, there are three basic types of SC’s available as a Roots Blower, Helix Blower, and a Centrifugal Blower. Various manufacturers make various kits available for specific applications. The full SC kits typically include the Intercooler, Supercharger, and all necessary mounting hardware required. They can be expensive, so this is usually why some folks go to the TC’s.

      My 2014 Ford F350 6.7L Scorpion has TC and it has turbo lag. Once the engine revs enough, and the TC reaches enough rpm to produce boost, it works very well and the power comes on nicely. However, if the engine had been produced with different TC’s it might not have much lag at all. It is hard to say due to Fords control system is certainly monitoring / limiting power at pre-determined times to “protect” the truck from destroying itself.

      Personally, I prefer the SC approach, but I recognize there are applications where the TC may be the preferred solution, simply depends on the application and the budget.

  29. The key difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger is that a supercharger requires engine power to run, while a turbocharger runs off waste created by the engine. so the turbocharger is more efficient because it runs of off waste gasses. so turbocharger is better.
    You have all been schooled by a lady!!!!!!!!!

  30. The methods you use to explain the difference between the two methods of forced induction are missing so many aspects of what system does what. To make a long story short you CANNOT compare the two against each other. Just because they both do the same job DOES NOT make them comparable to each other.

    Torque, Horsepower and the means by which they acheive it are in no way associated with each other. There are so many things that are just flat left out and the way the video shows these makes you biased toward one form of forced induction.

    Dont let this fool you in deciding which one to use if any because the mothods are not explained in a way to actually help you chose which to use. just an opinion i know, but from someone who has used both, this doesnt explain a darn thing. It just shows bias and has no impact on which one is BETTER. Clue: One is not BETTER then the other just different with the end result being the same.

  31. Hi, thanks for the info and the video. There is lots of great information, from what i have read i am leaning towards a supercharger for my 4.2 diesel landy. I want power down low and for towing as well. Great effort guys.

  32. The article is pure shite.

    You cannot get something for nothing. Thus, either form of forced induction require power to run them. The statement in the article above “The turbo is more efficient as it does not require engine power to spin it” is just horseshit.

  33. I have a 97 GMC dually 4wd with a 454. It is sounding like a supercharger would be best for towing? I pull a 22′ toyhauler with 3 quads and gear to Oregon and Nevada from Ca. I would like to get a bigger trailer to fit a sandrail and a quad some day and don’t want to drop under 45mph pulling the grades. Yes a 50k truck would work fine but the 97 only has 127k miles. Any suggestions on what to get and where to go to get a good deal? Thanks.. Gordon.


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