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Turbocharger vs. Supercharger; What's the difference?

There are key differences between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger. Many cars came from the factory with them, Mitsubishi, Saab, Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan are all manufactures that do. Chances are, if your car came with one, you've wondered what they do and what the differences between the two are. Whether or not you've got a diesel powered or gasoline powered engine, companies such as Garrett, Holset, Mitsubishi and Borg Warner lead the way with factory forced induction applications.

To understand the difference between the two, it is important to know the function of a turbocharger and a supercharger. Both are forms of forced induction. Both force air into the engine to achieve what we all want and crave – more power.

The supercharger can be powered by a belt, gear, shaft, or chain. There are quite a few different types of superchargers but the take-away point is this – a supercharger is connected to the crankshaft. Meaning, a supercharger is always driven by the car’s engine.

A turbo does the same job as the supercharger – force more air into the car’s engine to make more power. However, a turbo uses a turbine and is NOT connected to the crankshaft. Instead of the engine, the turbo gets driven by the car’s exhaust gases.

The advantages and disadvantages are obvious. Supercharger, being attached at the crankshaft, equals less efficiency – more fuel to power it. With a turbo, you don’t affect efficiency because it is exhaust driven – no additional stress on the engine. However, you deal with turbo lag. With a supercharger, you get the benefits of forced induction from the very beginning. With turbo, you have to wait til it “kicks in".

It is important to note advances in both supercharger and turbo technologies are making great progress. New turbos have all but eliminated turbo lag and there are highly efficient superchargers on the market as well.

Turbo from a Volkswagen Passat Supercharger from a Mercedes SLK


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