What is turbo lag? … and how a supercharger has lag too!

what-is-turbo-lag

Previously, we covered the difference between a turbo and a supercharger, but we didn’t get into lag between the two as one of our readers pointed out. We decided to create a new post about this, because turbo lag and what causes it can be a whole discussion in itself. However, there is a misconception that only turbo setups have “lag”, and that a supercharger does not have any lag. We’ll explain here a bit further.

What is turbo lag?
Turbo lag is simply the amount of time required for the turbo to spool up and hit max boost. During a race, when both cars hit the gas at the same time, the one with a turbo will require a second or more until their engine produces maximum power from the turbo boost.

How can you reduce turbo lag?
There’s no real way to reduce turbo lag except to properly size your turbo to your engine. There are some small ways you can reduce turbo lag, but if you put a big turbo on a small engine, there’s no way to avoid it easily. This is one of the reason that factory turbos are generally so small. The smaller turbo spools up quicker, and has more power available than a bigger turbo, but has much less top end power than said big turbo.

If a turbo has lag, a supercharger doesn’t, right?
The thought is that people want to go with a supercharger because it doesn’t have any of the lag associated with having a turbo. However, this is actually not true. Superchargers still require to be at a certain rotational speed until they are able to produce maximum boost. Until you hit that max boost, there is still that dreaded lag.

We could keep talking about turbo lag and supercharger lag forever, and there are many cases where you can use a dual turbo/supercharger setup, or nitrous/turbo setup to reduce lag, but in the end, there is still that lag that you have to overcome. However, with that said, we still love our boost!

If you have any comments to add, please do so below.

9 comments
    1. It’s not that poeple are biased towards turbos it’s just that they prefer a more economical solution to horsepower….fuel is expensive for some countries in europe my friend. Not dissing out the superchargers, just sayin i’d love to have a turbocharged camaro ss. Peace out!

      1. Did you say Turbo Charged Camaro SS in reference to efficiency with a straight face or were you laughing uncontrollably at the time?

  1. You guys (like the previous commenter pointed out) are extremely biased towards turbos. You guys don’t even bother pointing out why a supercharger could be better. And some superchargers have hardly any to no lag at all hence the 1.4 tsi from VW. this motor has a supercharger or blower for low end and a large turbo for the high end boost yet you guys failed to mention this.
    Great article non the less, keep up the good work.
    And also do an article about methanol injection and how this helps forced induction and avoids engine detonation.

  2. You forgot to mention about the compound turbo set. And personally I don’t mind both but I favor the turbo boost.
    Mainly because, supercharger sounds like your nagging wife!!!! Not jk!!!
    Turbo shuts her THE f**k UP!!
    Or at least it will put her on mute for the time being…
    Not hating just a persons opinion
    And that kills the supercharger for me
    1 more to add and this is kind of mean but a supercharger reminds me of 300-500lbs people who get 20 piece mc nuggets, 2 Big Macs, frosty ice cream, and of course diet coke.
    Sorry not Sorry I’m from the 90’s

  3. You can completely get rid of lag with the compound turbo set up or variable geometry set up coming to play of course valve timing and overlap Things of that nature but you can completely get rid of lag if you know how to tune the Valvetrain with the proper amount of overlap

    1. That is very true, but that is not what this article is about. This article is for people who are new and looking into purchasing either a turbo or a supercharger. If you have the know how to remove lag by a complete valve tune. i’m pretty sure this article was a complete waste of time for you to read, because you pretty much know everything you need to about basic comparrisons of turbos vs. superchargers. right?

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