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Guide to Understanding Aftermarket Turbocharger and Supercharger Car Modifications

Jun 1, 2018

turbocharger modifications and tuning

 

Some of you may be well versed in the world of turbo and superchargers, while others may have not really understood the importance or advantage of this coveted automotive asset until movies like Fast and the Furious came out.

 

A turbocharger, usually just called turbo, is a turbine-driven forced induction device that increases an internal combustion engine’s efficiency and power output by forcing more air into the engine’s combustion chamber.  This force gives a “turbocharged engine” an advantage over a naturally aspirated engine in power output, due to the fact that the compressor can force more air and more fuel into the combustion chamber than without. 

 

Difference Between Turbochargers and Superchargers

 

Some people use the terms interchangeably, but turbo & superchargers are actually two different things.  The term supercharger is a device that is mechanically driven by the engine, often through a belt connected to the crankshaft, whereas, a turbocharger is powered by a turbine driven by the engine’s exhaust gas.  Business in the front, party in the rear. 

 

The mechanical load for the supercharger comes from the car’s engine, as it’s driven by belts, chains, shafts and gears.  Turbochargers place the mechanical load on the exhaust of the vehicle, essentially recycling heat energy that is already there, vs. the need for the car’s engine to produce additional energy to power both itself and the supercharger. 

 

In comparison, turbochargers tend to be more efficient, but less responsive than super chargers.  Your car can also be both supercharged and turbocharged.  This is referred to as twin-charger or twin-turbo.  This is more efficient because the energy that drives the turbine that powers the turbocharger comes from the car’s already expanding exhaust gas.  The downside to this is that the power comes on the back end of the vehicle’s mechanical combustion chain, which causes a lag in performance, since the combustion process has to start and the exhaust has to be created.  The exhaust has to build up pressure to drive the turbine, and simply idling your car won’t create enough to get the turbocharger working immediately out of the starting gate. 

 

Twin-chargers or a twin charged engine works hand in hand to reduce the initial power lag of the turbocharger with the super charger.  You’ll get an initial boost right up front and another when the vehicle’s exhaust builds up enough to kick the turbo into action. 

 

One isn’t necessarily better than the other, many times the choice between super or turbochargers comes down to personal preference. 

 

Things to Consider when Modifying Your Car For A Turbocharger or Supercharger

 

Modifying or tuning your car to handle an aftermarket supercharger or turbocharger is no easy feat.  First we’ll start with the turbocharger.

 

Modifying your Vehicle for a Turbocharger

 

It’s not necessarily something you can do to any car, or something you can add with little to no experience.  In order to put a turbocharger on your car you have to both consider and upgrade a few things, including compression ratio, ECU mapping, fuel delivery, cooling capacity and even your vehicle’s clutch’s ability to get the party started.  We recommend professional help when attempting this modification. 

 

Already got a turbocharger?  Discover what you can do to tune it up here: 

 

17 Ways to Tune Up Your Car’s Turbocharger

 

Modifying your Vehicle for a Supercharger

 

Much like turbo chargers, superchargers are not plug-in-play devices either.  It takes about 50+ hours for a qualified mechanic to get it right, so the average mechanic can plan on a few weeks.  Aftermarket supercharger kits are also not cheap. 

 

supercharger modifications to your car

The considerations for adding a supercharger to your car are as follows…

 

1.     Engine pressure.  If the engine pressure in your car is too great, combustion will happen sooner down the pipeline than you will want it to. 

2.     Air flow sensor will need to be upgraded.  The proper flow of air is critical since the power created from the supercharger is dependent on getting as much air as possible into your engine. 

3.     Engine space.  Engine space could potentially be a problem for some cars.  If you’re going to add extra parts to your vehicle, there needs to be room for them.  Sometimes you’ll have to move your air intake and relocate your car’s battery.  Other people modify their hoods so that the supercharger is on top of the engine, sticking out. 

4.     Belt and additional part modifications.  To get your system moving together, you’ll need a longer belt or a system to crank the power into your supercharger. 

5.     Adding a supercharger may also result in the need for higher octane fuel.  This type of fuel is more resistant to knock, making it necessary to protect your engine and keep it performing its best. 

6.     An ECU remap.  Your car needs to be mapped for the surplus of air that will be forced through the engine.  You’ve got to be careful with aftermarket ECUs. Some of them don’t have knock sensors which are critical for your super charger. 

 

Are Supercharger and Turbochargers worth the Trouble for Aftermarket Upgrading? 

 

Absolutely.  Why? They make your car faster.  ‘Nuff said.  Unless you’re able to afford a vehicle that comes with a super, turbo or twin-charger, or absolutely love your classic car or current that was never available with those options, it’s the best way to improve performance and power output period.  

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