Explaining the Three Types of Superchargers

Explaining the Three Types of Superchargers

If you’re looking to boost your horsepower, perhaps the most effective modification you could ever make is to add a supercharger to it. A supercharger uses one of a few different methods to force extra air into the cylinders of your engine. This allows your engine to add extra fuel to the mixture, creating a bigger explosion, which means more horsepower to your wheels.

While superchargers can be found for many different makes and models, choosing the right type of supercharger for your needs is extremely important. If you’re looking to dominate the drag strip, you’ll probably want a different type of supercharger than one designed to give you an extra boost in your off-road crawling power. Different types of superchargers have different pros and cons, and on this blog we’ll explain them along with the differences between the different types of superchargers so you can make a better-educated purchasing decision when upgrading your car.

Centrifugal Superchargers

Centrifugal superchargers are one of the most user-friendly types of supercharger you can buy. Many people often confuse them for turbochargers because of their small size and seashell-like design. However, unlike a turbocharger which uses the exhaust to spin an impeller motor, a centrifugal supercharger uses a belt driving by the crank pulley.

The benefits to this type of supercharger are numerous: you have a lot of flexibility for power adjustments, and tuning your car to make the most of them often isn’t all that difficult. They have lower discharge temperatures, which are healthier for your engine and make them generally more reliable than other types of superchargers. However, they also generally don’t have as much power at lower RPM levels, so your “off-the-line” speed may be impacted unless you’re able to rev your engine while waiting for the green light.

Roots Superchargers

The Roots-type supercharger is named after the Roots brothers, who first used this design back in the 1880s as an air conveyor to send fresh air down mine shafts. Unlike a centrifugal supercharger which compresses air in the chamber and then forces it into the engine cylinders, the roots-type supercharger acts as more of an air pump. As a result, you get almost instant horsepower gains from even the slightest crack of the throttle, and that power will hold all the way through to the top of the RPM range. They also look awesome coming out of the top of your engine, which is why so many hot rods and classic high-performance cars choose them.

However, while they’re revered for their power boost numbers and aggressive styling, they’re not the most budget-friendly and they can be extremely complicated, which means their installation times are long, and they’re not as consistent as a centrifugal charger. Generally, Roots-type superchargers have higher discharge temperatures, which means your engine cooling needs to be top-notch in order to safely run one. They’re an ideal choice for drag racing, but if you’re looking to upgrade your lap-track car, you might want to consider a different option.

Screw Superchargers

The design for the first screw-type supercharger was derived from a Roots-type unit, but simplified and vastly improved for general street use. Screw-type superchargers get their name from what you find on the inside: rather than an air pump that forces air into the cylinders, these superchargers compress the air in a twin-screw design. This clever design creates positive air pressure as it moves between the screws, creating the boost that gives you extra horsepower, but without the added heat that’s the ultimate downside to a Roots-type unit.

Because these units have a consistent horsepower boost, particularly in your engine’s low RPM levels, they’re extremely popular for a number of different applications, including general street use and even high-torque applications like towing and off-road work. This makes them a popular modification for larger work trucks that need a ton of horsepower, rock-crawlers. However, they have a fairly flat powerband which doesn’t grow as your engine revs higher and higher, ultimately leading to a reduced boost towards the top of your rev range. Combine this with long installation times and higher costs, and you have a modification that has a fairly specific niche in the market.

Interested in boosting your horsepower by supercharging your engine? Call HP Motorsports today at (281) 231-9950 to request an estimate or speak with one of our Houston high performance auto experts!
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