10 Things Nobody Tells You About Driving A Supercharged Car - SUV VEHICLE

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Driving A Supercharged Car

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An interesting fact about the supercharger is that it is older than what is considered the first modern automobile. Primitive superchargers were first used in England to blow air through coal mines and blast furnaces. In the late 1870s, a Scottish engineer paired a supercharger with an engine for the first time. Gottlieb Daimler, an early pioneer of the car engine, fused supercharging with internal combustion in 1885, a year before Karl Benz unveiled the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.




Supercharging as a concept hasn’t changed much since those days of yore. In a nutshell, a device called a supercharger forces more air into the cylinders of an engine, increasing the oxygen concentration, which burns more fuel, creating more power. Supercharging is an effective way of boosting an engine’s power output; legendary cars like the Jaguar F-Type have supercharged mills. However, as we shall see below, supercharging also has its drawbacks.

UPDATE: 2024/04/14

This update provides more information about factory-supercharged cars. It explores how manufacturers like Volvo and Volkswagen used turbochargers to increase the effectiveness of superchargers and vice versa. It also looks at the use of electric superchargers in Mercedes-Benz models.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including J.D. Power, HotCars, CarBuzz, and Hagerty.


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12 Not All Superchargers Work The Same

A supercharger boosts an engine’s performance by forcing more air into it, which means more gas can be pumped in, and combustion rates can be increased. But not all superchargers do this similarly. Broadly, these forced induction systems can be classified into three types.

There Are Three Main Types Of Superchargers

  • Centrifugal Supercharger: A Centrifugal supercharger works similarly to a turbocharger. As the name suggests, it uses centrifugal force to push air into the engine intake. It has an impeller that can spin through air very fast and offers considerable gains in performance.
  • Twin-scroll Supercharger: A Twin-scroll supercharger is slightly bulkier than the Centrifugal supercharger. It uses twin screws (male and female) that are meshed together. The air compresses as it moves through the female rotor and is pushed into the engine.
  • Roots Supercharger: The Roots supercharger is similar to the twin-scroll supercharger. It also has twin screws. But unlike the latter, in a roots supercharger, both screws have a similar design. Instead of the air getting compressed between the rotors, it is blown through the sides into the engine intake.


Out of these three, the centrifugal supercharger is the most efficient. But the gains it offers are not consistent. Like a turbocharger, it works best when the engine speeds are higher. Unlike a centrifugal supercharger, a twin-scroll moves the same air per revolution, offering a consistent boost. Since a roots supercharger blows air into the air intake instead of compressing it, these are sometimes called blowers.

11 Superchargers Don’t Always Produce A Loud Whine

Like a turbocharger, superchargers also generate some noise when they operate. While automakers try to keep the supercharger’s noise to a minimum in luxury models, they dial it up in high-performance cars like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat.


Why Do Superchargers Whine?

  • Superchargers have rotors that spin rapidly to compress air and force it into the engine. The rapid rotation and the rotors and gears meshing together generate noise.
  • The design and shape of these rotors and their material can affect the pitch and intensity of the sound.
  • The helical or twisted rotors in the twin-scroll and roots supercharger are known to produce a loud whining sound.

Not all superchargers are loud by design. Since a centrifugal supercharger does not use helical or twisted rotors but instead deploys impellers, it is the quietest in operation. But it still produces a whistling noise. A roots supercharger is the bulkiest and the loudest of the three. Factory-installed superchargers are typically quieter than aftermarket superchargers that are part of a tuned build.


10 A Supercharged Engine Has Higher Fuel Consumption

Muscle Cars At A Gas Station Night
Photo by Andre Tan on Unsplash

Superchargers provide a significant boost to engine performance. However, the increase in horsepower and torque comes at a cost. Supercharged engines consume more fuel compared to their naturally aspirated or turbocharged counterparts.

Supercharged Engines Are Thirsty For Fuel

  • More fuel is needed to balance the air-fuel mixture as a supercharger pushes more air into the engine.
  • Unlike a turbocharger, a supercharger always runs, keeping the air-fuel mixture rich even when the engine is idling.
  • The supercharger uses the engine’s power via a belt and pulley system to operate. This means the engine would need slightly more fuel to run to the supercharger.

Automakers offer turbochargers in their economy models because of the higher fuel consumption of supercharged engines. A turbo does not use the engine’s power to operate and is instead spooled by the passing exhaust gas from the engine post-combustion.


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9 Volkswagen And Volvo Combined Superchargers With Turbochargers

White 2017 Volvo XC60
Volvo

An inherent drawback of superchargers is they draw energy from the engine to force air into the combustion chamber. The positive thing is they provide near-instant torque and power. Turbochargers, on the other hand, take some time before delivering power, but do not draw power from the engine – they run on exhaust gases. To provide the engine with an optimum boost during the entire RPM range, automakers like Volvo, Volkswagen, and Zenvo combined turbochargers and superchargers, a phenomenon dubbed twincharging.


Basics Of Twincharging

  • The Supercharger provides boost at lower RPMs as the turbo spools up.
  • The turbocharger comes on as RPMs rise, taking over from the supercharger, which prevents horsepower loss.
  • In some configurations, the supercharger remains active after the turbo spools up, compounding pressurized air into the turbocharger’s inlet, which creates higher intake pressures.

This system theoretically cures the main disadvantages of the turbocharger (low RPM lag) and supercharger (excessive power leeching). Volkswagen offered a twin-charged engine for the MK5 Golf, Volvo offered a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged mill on cars like the Volvo XC60, and Zenvo bolted a twin-charged 6.8-liter V-8 on the chassis of the ST1. However, the system failed to achieve mainstream adoption because it was too complex.

The systems required to maintain optimum supercharger and turbocharger performance are too complicated and too expensive. The trend popular with automakers involves pairing a turbocharged engine with an electric motor which provides low-end torque as the turbo spools up, the supercharger’s role in twin-charged engines.


Zenvo ST1 Performance Specifications

Engine

Twin-charged 6.8-liter V-8

Horsepower

1,089 horsepower

Torque

1,055 pound-feet

Transmission

Seven-speed automatic

Driveline

RWD

0-60 MPH

3 seconds

Top Speed

233 MPH (electronically limited)

(Specs: Zenvo)

8 Mercedes-Benz’s M256 Inline-Six Engine Features An Electric Supercharger

2023 Mercedes Benz S500
Mercedes


In theory, electric superchargers solve the power leeching issue affecting mechanical superchargers. They run on electrical power – not on the engine’s grunt – drawing power from an electrical motor connected to the throttle. The higher the throttle input, the higher the amount of electricity passing through the supercharger, and the higher the amount of boost.

With enough power, an electric supercharger can provide an immediate boost. However, the 12-volt batteries common in most cars can’t produce enough energy to power a supercharger, bringing up the need for an auxiliary power source. 48-volt batteries may be the solution to this problem. Despite the advantages of electrically operated superchargers over mechanical superchargers, automakers seem reluctant to dedicate resources to the development of electric superchargers.


That said, an electric supercharger is a key component of Mercedes-Benz’s M256 inline-six engine, which powers the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S 500 4MATIC. The centrifugal supercharger draws power from a 48-volt electric motor, spinning up to 70,000 RPM and providing boost as the turbo spools up. Valves disengage the electric supercharger as the turbocharger kicks in.

2024 Mercedes-Benz S 500 4MATIC Performance Specifications

Engine

Turbocharged and supercharged mild-hybrid 3.0-liter inline-six

Horsepower

442 horsepower

Torque

413 pound-feet

Transmission

Nine-speed automatic

Driveline

AWD

0-60 MPH

4.5 seconds

Top Speed

129 MPH (governor limited)

(Specs: Mercedes-Benz)


7 Supercharging A Car Could Increase Maintenance Costs

Hood Open Supercharged 1969 Plymouth Road Runner Black
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Higher fuel bills won’t be the only expense you will incur if you add a supercharger to your vehicle. This modification could also increase the amount of money you spend on your automobile maintenance.

Supercharged Engines Are Costlier To Maintain

  • The bump in performance puts additional stress on internal engine components, increasing their wear and tear and demanding frequent maintenance.
  • Increased power output means that the engine runs busier. Frequent fluid changes, such as replacing the engine oil and coolant, are essential to ensure proper lubrication and cooling.
  • Superchargers are precision components and require specialized maintenance, which could further drive up your maintenance bills.


The amount of money you will spend will vary depending on the type of supercharger and your vehicle. It will also depend on how well the modification was carried out.

While aftermarket upgrades like superchargers can lead to increased wear and tear on stock engine components, engines in vehicles that are supercharged from the factory are designed specifically to accommodate the additional strain. Factory-supercharged vehicles typically run on shorter maintenance schedules than their naturally aspirated counterparts.

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6 A Supercharger Could Affect Engine Reliability

Dodge Durango SRT Supercharger Engine Hood Open
Dodge

Adding a supercharger could negatively impact the reliability of an engine. However, this would depend on if the engine was built with a supercharger or if it was strapped onto it later as part of a modification. An OEM-made supercharged engine should run without any trouble with just the regular maintenance specified by the carmaker.


But regular maintenance won’t do you good if you drive the car aggressively. This could increase the wear on the engine components and result in premature failure. Adding a supercharger to an engine that wasn’t designed to run with forced induction could affect its reliability, as the internal components were not built to handle the additional stress such a modification would throw at it.

5 Superchargers Could Affect A Car’s Resale Value

A green 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
Dodge

At some point, you might want to sell your supercharged vehicle. However, if you have added a supercharger to your vehicle’s engine as an after-market modification, it could take a big hit in terms of its resale value. Professionally installed modifications by reputable tuners could very well increase a car’s value, but low-quality and poorly executed modifications could decrease a vehicle’s value.


Why Some Used Car Buyers Steer Clear Of Modified Vehicles

  • It isn’t easy to ensure that a modification was carried out by an experienced technician. Buyers may worry that an improper fitment of the supercharger kit could lead to reliability issues, resulting in frequent breakdowns.
  • Adding a supercharger may not directly void a vehicle’s warranty. But if another part fails due to a faulty installation, it could cause issues with the manufacturer’s warranty.

The best way to ensure the best resale value for your supercharger vehicle is to ensure the modification is carried out by an experienced technician. You can also look for buyers looking to buy a car with the exact modifications you are running on your vehicle.

4 Adding A Supercharger Increases Insurance Premiums

Insurance Policy Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash


Automakers typically fit superchargers to high-performance models, and these vehicles have higher insurance premiums than economy cars. However, getting them insured is not an issue as such vehicles come with a supercharged engine from the factory and are covered under manufacturer warranty. When you step into the aftermarket scene and supercharge a car that wasn’t designed by the factory for it, then you start to run into issues with high insurance premiums or even finding a company that will insure the vehicle at all.

Failure to disclose vehicle modifications to your insurance company may (and will most likely) lead to your policy being considered void in the event of an accident.

Some Modifications Are Easy To Ensure, While Some Are Not

  • Modifications, such as custom paint jobs, body wraps, and updated sound systems, are easy to insure under your existing policy.
  • Big updates, such as adding a supercharger to your engine, are more difficult to insure.


Some insurers do not cover these types of big mechanical modifications. At the same time, some do extend the coverage but at a higher premium. This guide will help you get the correct insurance for your car, supercharged or otherwise.

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3 Aftermarket Superchargers Can Cause Compatibility Issues With Stock Parts

Hood Open Supercharged V8 1969 Plymouth Road Runner Black
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Every mechanical component in a vehicle is designed for a set tolerance level. When you add a supercharger to its engine, you are effectively putting more stress on a lot of stock parts. The bump in horsepower and torque could push the stock parts beyond their design limits.


How Adding A Supercharger Could Affect Stock Parts

  • The bump in performance not only puts extra load on internal engine components but also increases stress on the driveline parts such as the transmission, clutch, and differential.
  • Since adding a supercharger increases the fuel the engine consumes, stock fuel systems may not be able to meet the high demand.
  • The vehicle’s standard cooling system may fail to keep up with the increased heat due to the higher running temperatures of the supercharged engine or the need for additional cooling capacity.
  • Higher performance means that stock brakes and tires may not be able to ensure adequate braking and grip if the vehicle is driven at higher speeds.

2 Using A Supercharger Might Require Additional Upgrades

Underside Supercharged 1969 Plymouth Road Runner Black
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As discussed in the previous point, adding a supercharger to your vehicle might cause compatibility issues with the stock parts as they cannot handle the extra bump in performance. To avoid damaging your car, you might have to do many other upgrades if you strap a supercharger to the engine.


Upgrades You May Need To Do If You Add A Supercharger To Your Vehicle

  • Replace the stock engine internals with higher-grade parts.
  • Upgrade your driveline components and add a stronger clutch, transmission, U-joints, and differential.
  • A higher capacity cooling system may be required.
  • A high-flow fuel pump and high-flow fuel injectors may be required.
  • Depending on the vehicle, a reflash of the ECU with custom software may be necessary for the engine to run properly.
  • A larger exhaust system may be required.

You must upgrade your brakes and switch to high-performance tires to ensure you don’t end up in a wreck. Besides upgrading these parts, it would be advisable also to tune the E.C.U. to ensure that all systems are optimized to avoid engine damage.

1 Supercharged Engines Produce Higher Emissions


The supercharger forces more air into the engine, leading to a higher combustion rate. The result is an increase in engine performance, but it could also lead to higher emissions, as engines that are running too rich or too lean will produce more noxious gases.

So, if you plan to add a supercharger to your vehicle, tune it properly and get a supercharger kit with proper emission control systems. If you’re thinking of upgrading your car’s factory supercharger, make sure you do all the required modifications. As an extra precaution, you can also check your local emission regulations and standards and get your vehicle certified after you modify it with a supercharger kit.

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