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What is the Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger?

by LiMona 08 Oct 2023


When it comes to enhancing engine performance, turbocharging and supercharging are the two primary ways. Both are forced induction methods that share the common purpose of boosting horsepower in normally aspirated engines. Although the two technologies are sometimes mistaken for one another or used interchangeably, distinct differences set them apart.


What is a Turbocharger?


A turbocharger has two components: a turbine and a compressor. The exhaust gases flow out of the combustion chamber hit the turbine with substantial pressure and rotated it. The turbine being connected to the compressor, rotates it simultaneously. The compressor draws in fresh air which gets compressed due to the rapid rotation of the compressor. The compressed air is then supplied to the intake of the combustion chamber through a pipe.

Usually, an intercooler is installed between the compressor and the intake of the combustion chamber to decrease the temperature of the compressed air. The suction of compressed air serves more air or more oxygen to burn fuel in the combustion chamber. Turbochargers use the flow of exhaust gases to compress fresh air that gets supplied in the combustion chamber.


What is a Supercharger?


Instead of using the flow of exhaust gases, a supercharger uses the rotation of the crankshaft to compress the air that gets supplied to the intake of the combustion chamber. A gear connected to the crankshaft supplies rotation to the supercharger through a pulley, and the supercharger uses the rotational motion to squeeze air in compact space with the help of rotors, screws, or impeller. The main job is to draw air in, compress it, and supply it to the combustion chamber.


What’s the difference between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger?

Turbochargers are more complicated. Superchargers don’t heat up as much as a turbo does, so they can sometimes send air directly into the engine. Turbos almost always require an intercooler to reduce the intake temperature, creating more energy-dense air for combustion. Turbos also need additional parts like a blow-off valve.


Superchargers always have power ready. When you step on the gas, a supercharged engine will immediately have power available while a turbocharged engine will take a second to make power while the RPMs increase.


The key difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger is its power supply. Something has to supply the power to run the air compressor. In a supercharger, there is a belt that connects directly to the engine. It gets its power the same way that the water pump or alternator does. A turbocharger, on the other hand, gets its power from the exhaust stream. The exhaust runs through a turbine, which in turn spins the compressor.


While turbocharging and supercharging bring a significant increase in horsepower to normally aspirated engines, they each have pros and cons.


Turbocharging Pros:

Ideal for smaller displacement engine applications; often paired with four-cylinder engines

Lighter weight and lower impact on fuel economy

Overall more efficient powertrain operation due to energy loss recovery (exhaust gases)

Utilizes wastegate that reduces carbon emissions


Turbocharging Cons:

The presence of turbo lag

Designed to provide boost within a specific engine operating range rather than across the entire rev band

Higher engine oil requirement due to extremely hot operating temperatures

Complex installation


Supercharging Pros:

Produces significantly more horsepower than turbocharging

A quick solution to boosting power in larger displacement engines with more cylinders

No power lag as is seen with turbocharging; power delivery is instantaneous

Delivers power boost at low engine revs in comparison with turbochargers

Experiences longer life and less heat wear than turbocharging


Supercharging Cons:

Absence of wastegate results in more carbon emissions

Lower fuel economy due to direct power draw from the engine

Louder and more abrasive sounding than turbocharging


Why Are Turbochargers More Popular Than Superchargers In Production Vehicles?

Turbochargers beat superchargers big time when it comes to production vehicles. They not only cater to the ever-increasing requirement of improving fuel efficiency but also reduce the emission helping the automakers comply with strict greenhouse gas emission standards. Moreover, turbochargers allow automakers to downsize the engines, as a turbocharged engine can produce the same power as a larger non-turbocharged engine.



Both turbochargers and superchargers are effective methods to increase the power and performance of an engine. However, turbochargers are preferred over superchargers, as they increase fuel economy, and reduce waste gas emissions. While the turbo lag is not a likable trade-off, it’s a small price to pay for slightly lower emissions.


If you're aware of Turbocharger problems with your automobile or have questions about engine replacement components, hpinjection has the answers you're looking for – and the products, too!

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