Turbos or Superchargers?

A question which gets tossed around a lot among drifters is whether their naturally aspirated car would better suit a turbo or a supercharger for drifting. 

First and foremost, let’s make the distinction between the two. They are both engine power adders in the “forced induction” family. That effectively means they push more air into the combustion chamber, allowing your engine to burn more fuel and therefore make more power.

However , there is a difference between them in operation. A supercharger is “parasitic”. It is driven off the engine by a belt and pulley system. There are many types of superchargers, such as a Centrifugal (basically a turbo driven by a belt), a Roots (two eccentric rotors inside) and a Twin-Screw (two screws meshed together). 

A turbo is not parasitic, because it runs on exhaust gases (a waste product) rather than an accessory drive from the engine. Turbos pretty much always take the same form, however there are a lot of possible differences involved in “sizing”. Smaller turbos spool faster and have less top-end, and bigger turbos do the opposite.

The difference between the two in terms of driving feel, is night and day. As a supercharger is driven off the engine, power is delivered effectively from idle, and begins to get less noticeable further up in the rev range. Whereas, most turbos do almost nothing from idle, and once the exhaust gases have reached a strong enough rate of flow, the turbo spools and begins delivering power (if you’ve ever heard someone talking about “turbo lag”, this is what they mean.) 

What you outfit your car with is up to you. But, it is important to look at your driving style and the setup in your car. If you like to drive pinned on the limiter and work the clutch a lot, a turbo is the way to go, as that is where your power is delivered. If you prefer to keep your engine off the limiter and work the handbrake more than the clutch, then a supercharger is more up your street as the powerband is much lower down. 

Also, it is important to bear in mind the power-band of your engine as it sits. For example, V8s tend to have a ton of low down torque, so if you want to add top-end power, go for a turbo. If you want to boost the power down low, a supercharger is your boy, and this is found powering drivers like Ian Rutherford, Haydn Cruickshank and Ian “Bizz” Phillips. A turbo V8 is a popular setup on the BDC grid as it allows strong power throughout the rev range, and you will find that under the hood of drivers like Stu Jones, Robbie Burgoyne and Mark Brown

Whatever you decide, also consider the difficulty of installing it. Both have upsides and downsides. A supercharger will require some kind of bracket to support it, and a turbo will require a manifold to feed it gases. One advantage a supercharger has is that usually they are self-lubricating and have their own self contained oiling system, meaning you do not need to find oil feed and return lines like you do with a turbo. Regardless of what you pick, you need to make sure your engine can control the extra air, compensate with the correct amount of fuel and run safely, so you should check out LINK ECU for all your engine management needs!

But, most importantly, make sure you do some research into what the components in your car can handle. If you try to put 1 bar of boost through an engine that’s known safe limit is 0.6 bar, you are going to significantly shorten it’s life. And also, consider the other driveline components. Even if your engine will take a million-billion PSI of boost, it’s useless if your gearbox turns into a zero-speed as soon as you wind it up. 

Nobody wants to be sat in the pits with a broken car on a drift day, so whatever you choose, make sure you’re using quality, reliable gear. And if a turbo is your answer, make sure you check out the offerings from our buddies at TURBOZENTRUM

And don’t forget, you need to keep all that extra heat away from the non-metallic parts in the engine bay, so make sure you pick up some quality heat management products from the good people over at FUNK MOTORSPORT!

Don’t rush into boosting the car right away though, make sure you follow the steps in our mod guide first to build your own sick drift car! And if you’ve not decided on your ride yet, we can help you with that too!

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