Skip to main content

What is a supercharger?

What is a supercharger?

A bolt-on supercharger kit can be a great-value way to take your car's perfromance from 'pretty decent' to 'wow!'. Various companies manufacture complete supercharger kits, and it's one of these that we focus on here. 

A supercharger looks like a snail, but in reality, it's spinning an impeller that can spin up to 52,000 rpm to force air into your engine to overcome the vacuum which that's suddenly created when you step on the gas. The induction system of your intake manifold has an atmospheric pressure of 14.7 psi at sea level or almost 15 pounds of pressure, but once you crack that throttle it creates that vacuum inside the engine; the result of this is that your motor is starved of air at exactly the point it needs more of the stuff. 

You can port and polish heads, put on headers to increase the induction flow, but unless you have a turbocharger or a supercharger you're not going to have quite the performance that the engine's capable of putting out when pressurized air is coming in.

Firstly, you've probably heard the terms turbocharger and a supercharger. They're both impellers that inrease air flow into the engine, but the distinct difference between the two is that a supercharger is mechanically driven. A supercharger is usually driven by a belt that's also attached to the crankshaft pulley on the engine, whereas a turbo is driven by exhaust gases.

A crank-driven supercharger is designed so that the faster the crankshaft turns, the faster the supercharger does as well. The turbocharger on the other hand uses exhaust gas to drive the pressurized side of the turbocharger. Because you are relying on the exhaust gas produced from stepping on the pedal, there is a lag (albeit a small one) between the time you put your foot on the gas and the time when the engine has prodcued enough exhaust gases to drive the turbocharger. Rarely does a turbocharger ever get close to the instant performance of a supercharger.

Watch the video below to learn more about superchargers, turbochargers, and what you might need if you're considering more power!


The centrifugal supercharger mounts and operates under the hood of your vehicle, using a drive belt that's connected to a cogged pulley on the supercharger. It's mounted using a bracket that usually comes with a complete kit, and the kit will also allow you to replace the existing serpentine belt with a longer one that will connect your engine’s pulleys to the supercharger.

Something to remember if you’re considering a forced-induction system for your vehicle is that you will need more than just the supercharger. With more air, you will need more fuel, so there are a variety of items you might need that should come in a complete supercharger kit. One of these will be an ECU piggyback system to help your vehicle’s computer provide your engine with the correct air-fuel mixture. You'll also need an upgraded fuel pump to push more fuel into the engine, plus a fuel regulator that will help regulate the amount of fuel into the system. You'll also need an air charge cooler with all the plumbing to cool the air going into the supercharger and engine, and a bypass valve to release excess pressure.

So if you’re looking for more power you may want to consider a supercharger, but keep in mind that it does take some work to get a kit installed correctly if you are doing it yourself. You may be looking at anywhere between 8-12 hours of work. One of the main things you will also need to consider is the cost of purchasing a kit that can range anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 or more. It’s not cheap, but if you’re an enthusiast that might not matter to much to you because you get a lot of power for the money.