Nitrous, Super Chargers, & Turbos All charged talk about going FAST.

Turbo vs. Supercharger

Old 10-07-2006, 12:48 AM
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Default Turbo vs. Supercharger

This question pops up a lot, in fact, more often than I care to continue to see.

"What is better, supercharger or turbocharger?"

First off, better is a very very broad term. You need to decide what you are going to use it for. A turbocharger may be better for some things, and a supercharger for others. It all depends on how you drive your car, where you drive your car, how often you drive your car, etc.

I have PERSONALLY owned and driven both a supercharged Honda Civic and a turbocharged Honda Civic, the following is my conclusion.


How it works - Superchargers are crank driven. The crank turns, which turns a belt, which turns a pulley attached to the nose of the supercharger, which rotates two rotors inside of the casing forcing air into an intake plenum and creating what we call "boost." Boost is just about instant in a supercharger, the intake plenum is fairly small in volume so it doesn't take long to pressurize and the rotors are turned directly by the crank. This also means that it takes torque to make power, the supercharger is extra load upon the engine.

IMO, this leads to one small problem, especially with a Honda. 1.6/1.8L of high revving efficiency does not make productable torque, that's why they're high revving in the first place. Since it takes torque to spin the supercharger, it's sapping what precious power the engine already has. Obviously, the supercharger makes up for it by pressurizing the intake on cue and therefore creating a lot more power, but it's still taking power to make power.

The number one biggest problem is cooling. With the compression of air happening 5" from the intake valves, where in the world would you place a cooling device? LHT introduced their intercoolers, which basically run a core of cold air through the intake plenum. This is a very expensive mod, about $2000+ after it's all said and done. By 10psi, the M45 unintercooled will be pushing almost 300* intake air temperatures, which if you haven't guessed, is extremely dangerous.

Superchargers are rumored to be "more reliable" as well. I disagree, the long complex pulley system of the supercharger is prone to malfunction. The Jackson Racing idler pullies have seizing issues, which on an SOHC setup will throw a belt and fail to rotate the alternator assembly. Basically the car becomes completely undrivable, and the idler pulleys are a serious pain in the *** to replace, excuse my language. The belts also tend to walk off the pulley systems, and when tightened to combat the issue, introduce exessive strain on the blower assembly.

Another issue, the aftermarket has never been very strong for them. Parts are expensive, and often yeild little results. They're also limited to psi they can push, like I said, by 10psi the M45 unintercooled becomes literally a flamethrower for an engine. M62 (Bseries) has seen 14 before that issue occurs.

You're probably asking, well why the hell do people buy these things then? There are less moving parts than a turbo, often times that can get confusing and often intimidating. It's bolt on, no custom fabrication or any of that. It's nice to have instant torque at the push of a pedal, the car is very predictable and a nice intercooled or low boost setup is GREAT for autox/road racing. For daily driven reasons, hills are conquerable in 5th gear with ease, and it's a lot easier to merge in and out of traffic. Oh, and it makes a really cool sound too!


How it works - Exhaust gases are pushed through the exhaust side of the turbo. The gases push a turbine, much like wind would a windmill, and exit out of the car. The turbine is connected by a shaft across the "compressor" inlet. The compressor turbine spins drawing in air through the turbo, and expelling it into a length of tubing called "charge" piping. Often times this piping runs out infront of the car, through an intercooler, and back to the throttle body. Now, a turbocharger turbine can spin upwards of 70,000rpms, this sucks in a LOT of air, and it is all then compressed through the charge piping creating boost. As you can see, the amount of volume that a turbocharger setup has to pressurize is quite a bit more than what a supercharger has to pressurize, this is what causes that turbo "lag." It's basically the amount of time that it takes for the turbo to mash enough air into all of that tubing so that it is pressurized.

There are a lot of parts on a turbocharger. The turbo manifold, the turbo itself, wastegate, charge piping, intercooler, blow off valve, etc. Turbo's are also susceptable to things like boost spike. This normally happens when a wastegate is poorly placed and cannot relieve enough of the air to keep the turbo from creating more and more boost. If you're not tuned for something like this, it could easily destroy an engine.

"Turbo setups aren't reliable." WRONG. Are you going to tell me that Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Audi are making extremely unreliable cars to sell to the consumers? A turbo setup on a Honda can be just as reliable as any of the stock cars you see on the market today, you just need to spend the right money on the right parts. The most overlooked of which is tuning. A good fuel setup, a good tune, and spending the money on good reliable working parts will make your turbocharged Honda that much more reliable, and that much more fun to drive.

Turbochargers are also a lot easier to up the boost with. Swap out the wastegate spring, or simply just slap on a boost controller and boost away. Obviously this all needs correct tuning procedures, but it's not swapping out pulleys like the supercharger.

Aftermarket is also HUGE for turbocharged Honda's. Everything and anything you could ever want turbocharged is available, and often times can be had used for fairly cheap.

What about a vortech supercharger?

It's basically a turbocharger that instead of being driven by exhaust gas, is driven by your crank pulley. It's also a lot more expensive than both the JRSC or a nice turbocharger setup. So in my opinion, overpriced and no good.

So what is better? Supercharger or Turbocharger.

In my experienced opinion, for a Honda, turbochargers. Unfortunately the superchargers have to use our little torque to make boost, and although low end torque sounds great, the benefit is gone by 3K. Throw a T25 on your Honda, you'll make more power and you'll have it by 3K. Throw a T3/T4 on your Honda, and although you'll have to wait a bit longer for the fun, but you won't even be able to look back.

And of course, here's what I have personally experienced through dynosheets. Both dyno's were done with a 100% stock D16Y8 engine and very similar PSI.
(dyno chart pictures are missing. links were dead)

JRSC 6psi pulley, rising to 8psi by redline.
146whp and 118wtq

T3T04e 57trim at 7psi
210whp and 167wtq

That is a 64whp and 49wtq INCREASE in power at virtually the same PSI level. Granted I am using a fairly large turbo, but it's clear just how much power the JRSC is sapping due to it's leeching qualities and tendency to superheat the intake air.

It seems clear to me that turbochargers are a superior technology, and when researched and tuned correctly will make significantly more power with great reliability.

Feel free to discuss, I will be checking this post frequently to add my input, but I urge everyone to add their opinion or even questions. I'd like this to be a very informative post.

Thanks for reading everyone.

Last edited by trustdestruction; 02-24-2010 at 08:19 PM.
Old 10-07-2006, 10:37 AM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

I like the break down, and graphs and charts are always better when making a point. This subject and other things I see more often than I continue to see. I'm glad you started this post SovXietday

On the turbo components. The turbine being on the exhaust side expands the spent gases to produce work. Push implies boundary work whereas enthalpy implies the internal energy of the air plus PV work. In this case it is the change of enthalpy of the air that is producing work. The shaft of the turbine is common to the turbo and this sort of setup is VERY reliable like SovXietday said. The best example of this would be any turbojet plane in the air. All use a compressor/ turbine arrangement to compress incoming air to the combustion chamber.

Which brings me to another point about forced induction, the concept of RAM. Thank Pontiac for this BS and for confusing everyday people. You never see Ram effects in driving, ever. I dont care if you have a Porsche, Ferrari, whatever. Changes in air from dynamic to stagnation conditions in cars is insignificant when compared to RAMjet engines. You simply dont have a large enough velocity difference. Stagnation conditions arise from a dynamic to complete stop of a moving fluid. Stagnation temperature and pressure and always higher than dynamic temperature and pressure. So if you ever see an intake that says RAM effect or a hood scoop that says RAM effect you know that an engineer was NOT present in the design of that piece of equipment.

Something about combustion, which leads to turbos. SI (spark ignition- Otto cycle) tend to run very close to Phi=1 (equivalence ratio which tells you whether you are running rich or lean). Turbocharged cars need to be TUNED because Phi shouldnt very much from 0.9-1.2 throughout the RPM range of any car. So dont slap a turbo on and expact your car to run OK w/o a tune. You may get lucky with a good kit but at least have the car checked out. Oh and running lean WILL heat your engine up and not help your gas mileage appreciably.. so dont do this!

OK I think I'm done...
Old 10-07-2006, 12:22 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

Great write up!

Btw, mitsus and audis arent known too well for reliability
Old 10-07-2006, 12:34 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

being an owner of both routes as well i agree with you. and really the only decision as to which route to take is your driving style and personal preference. i personally loved my jrsc and regret selling the car. and the whine.........i mean the whine is jsut as nice as a good bov
Old 10-07-2006, 04:58 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

very informative thanks.
Old 10-07-2006, 06:34 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

I completely forgot to mention about variable area turbochargers. I'm heading out so I cant rant about this but check out the new Porsche 911 turbo. Very inovative and turbo lag is essentially gone. Maybe someone else would like to give their two cents about some new turbo technology, unfortunately I am not a trained mechanic so I dont know the hands on part but as a grad student I do get the theory taught to me. I'd like to know what sucks about working on turbocharged cars and difficulties installing them.

Maybe someone could comment on those 9 sec Civics winning drag competitions also... very cool engineering going on there...

Old 10-07-2006, 08:10 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

If you notice, honda also came out w a variable turbo in the new rdx. Its different to the VTG system in the 911 but it has the same purpose.
Old 10-07-2006, 08:27 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

In my opinion, variable turbos are garbage.
Old 10-07-2006, 11:29 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences


In my opinion, variable turbos are garbage.
Mind expanding as to why? I'm just curious, I actually haven't had a chance to look into them, although I've heard about them.

If I had to take one installation over the other, I'd definitely install a turbo kit over installing the SC. I don't know about everyone else, but the one thing that drives me bonkers about engines is the damn vacuum and coolant routing. I ran something like 12 coolant and vacuum lines, taking me over 3 hours to do, with the supercharger. It doesn't really give as much room to play with as I would have liked, and JRs instructions suck. After blowing up my first idler pulley, I discovered just how much of a pain in the *** it was to swap them out. I hated dealing with that damn belt, it was such a nightmare everytime it needed to be fixed.

The turbo on the other hand was a lot easier of an install, nothing overly difficult about it, it just took a lot longer because there's more parts and more fabrication. Biggest things to worry about are the charge pipe coupling and intercooler mounting, everything else goes on pretty easy providing you spent the money for the right parts the first time around. Exhausts are a serious pain in the *** though, I have been driving open DP for the past few weeks because I just simply haven't had the money to get an exhaust completely together!

I haven't had an issue with the turbocharger yet, so I don't really know what to expect when fixing things. Everything is accessible however, and there's not really much that can go wrong. Coupler blows off and the turbo seals blow... that's about it honestly?

Remmy... I've been in the car scene for like a year and a half, I know DSMs hold up for ****, but then again... they're also 10+ year old beat to death every day cars.[8D]
Old 10-10-2006, 02:59 PM
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Default RE: Turbo VS Supercharger; My Experiences

is a turbo the same thing as a turbo charger if not what is the difference?

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