Superchargers 101 - Introduction to Superchargers

Discussion in 'Tech Articles, How-To's & Write Ups' started by 330CubeGt, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. 330CubeGt

    330CubeGt Well-Known Member

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    Superchargers 101 - Introduction to Superchargers

    A supercharger is essentially a large pump that compresses air and forces it into the engine's air intake. Turbochargers do the same thing, only they are run by exiting exhaust gasses, while superchargers are powered by the engine's spinning crankshaft, normally via the accessory belt. Originally built for World War II aircraft, superchargers have become very common in today's performance automotive world, and featured as original equipment on some new sports cars straight from the factory!

    Superchargers have become popular in recent years for several reasons, including cost efficiency, reliability, and of course, performance. Supercharging an engine often results in huge power increases in the range of 50% to 100%, making them great for racing, hauling heavy loads, or just having fun in your daily driver. Although superchargers carry a fairly high ticket price when compared to other single performance upgrades ($1500 - $4000), nothing provides more horsepower for your dollar... in fact, nothing even comes close. And because of the way superchargers work, they provide power only when the engine is under full throttle or under load... not under normal cruising conditions. This means that the supercharger will not affect the engine's reliability, longevity, or fuel economy under normal driving conditions.

    Most of the superchargers sold today are centrifugal-style superchargers, which are internal-compression superchargers, meaning they create the boost (compress the air) inside the supercharger head unit (blower) before discharging it into the engine's air intake. External compression superchargers (roots or screw-type superchargers - Whipple, Kenne Bell, Jackson Racing, Eaton) have become less popular as centrifugal superchargers have evolved. Centrifugal superchargers (Vortech, Paxton, Powerdyne, ATI ProCharger) are more reliable, especially at higher boost levels, and are capable of creating much more boost than external compression superchargers, while creating a much cooler intake charge (which results in an even denser intake charge).


    Supercharger Impeller Boost is created at the point when the supercharger's internal impeller pushes enough air through the blower to overcome the vacuum force naturally created by the engine's air intake, so air is being forced, rather than pulled, into the air intake. Boost is measured in pounds per square inch, or psi. More boost equates to a more dense air charge into the engine's combustion chamber, which allows the engine to burn more air and fuel and create more horsepower. Most street superchargers produce somewhere in the range of 6 to 9 psi, meaning they produce 6 to 9 additional pounds of pressure over the atmospheric pressure at that elevation (at sea level atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi).


    Many people assume that running a supercharger, and hence added intake boost, puts added strain on an engine's engine parts. This is not necessarily true, because engine damage is almost always caused by RPM. Because a supercharger helps the engine produce more power at lower RPM, supercharged engines will make the same horsepower as their naturally aspirated counterparts at substantially lower engine RPM, where today's street engine's are designed to run (around 6000 RPM). Another concern some people have towards using a supercharger is that they think it will increase the engine's compression to the point that it will cause detonation inside the combustion chamber. Detonation exists when the combustion pressure is raised so high that the inlet charge ignites itself before the spark plug fires. When this happens, combustion takes place while the piston is still traveling up in the cylinder bore, which puts tremendous loads on the piston, rod, and crank. While it is true that a supercharged engine creates boost and increases the engine's compression, most supercharger kits include a boost timing retard chip that retards the engine's ignition timing under certain conditions to prevent detonation. With some kits, detonation is not a concern, in which case the kit will not include a boost timing retard chip.

    Supercharger impellers on centrifugal superchargers are spun via an external pulley that is normally driven from the engine's accessory belt. Because the supercharger pulley needs to spin at very high RPM, an internal step-up causes the impeller to run at substantially higher speeds than the input pulley. Because the speed that the impeller spins determines how much boost is produced by the supercharger, changing the input pulley size can have a large effect on the amount of boost put out by the supercharger. Smaller pulleys produce more boost, which is why they have become so popular for supercharger owners who are looking to squeeze every last bit of power from the engine. And because they only cost around $70, they are an inexpensive way to test and tune your supercharger at different boost levels.
    Supercharger Pulley


    Powerdyne's Belt-Drive Because superchargers spin at such high speeds, they often create a substantial amount of heat, and require lubrication to keep friction to a minimum. Different supercharger companies have combatted the problems of heat and friction in different ways. While no single method is the best, each method has advantages and disadvantages. Powerdyne uses an internal belt to spin the internal gears (step-up drive), which minimizes heat, is very quiet, and lasts for over 50,000 miles. This internal belt never slips, and does not require you to tap into your engine's oil supply for lubrication purposes, making it the easiest line of superchargers to install. Vortech, Paxton, and ATI (except ATI's and the new Vortech SL self-contained systems) all use the engine's oil to lubricate the step-up gears and keep heat and friction to a minimum. While this lubrication is the most common and works well, it does require the engine's oil pan to be tapped so the supercharger can draw engine oil from the engine. Vortech's SL and ATI's self-contained systems also use an oil to provide lubrication and to minimize heat, but they use a proprietary oil that stays inside the supercharger head unit and never requires changing. This system is efficient and does not require the engine's oil pan to be tapped, but is substantially noisier than Powerdyne's belt drive system.

    Intercoolers and aftercoolers cool the air after it has been discharged from the head unit and before it enters the intake manifold. The cooler air provides a denser air charge which can make added horsepower, especially under higher boost conditions. Intercoolers and aftercoolers, while popular for racing applications, are not normally needed for street drivers running 6 to 9 psi of boost.
     
  2. ttocs

    ttocs Well-Known Member

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    good reading as I am week away from a purchase of one. Powerdyne is still around?
     
  3. krazyrabbit

    krazyrabbit Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, that was very informational!
     
  4. ttocs

    ttocs Well-Known Member

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    can you tell me/us anything about meth kits on superchargers? I was just looking at them last night and think I saw what the difference was in a stage 1 & 2 kit but its all still new too me. Is it worth it? What are the dangers? If I am doing a kenne bell would it be a good idea?
     
  5. decipha

    decipha Well-Known Member

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    methanol can ONLY benefit the tune/engine

    i only recommend using the blue windshield washer fluid rated for 0 degrees, if you self mixing, any more than a 50/50 mix has diminishing returns

    if you have a roots style blower, you want to inject BEFORE the blower

    rwhp / 35 = adquate meth GPH nozzle needed
    if injector pre blower, rwhp / 32 = GPH nozzle needed

    meth has the same benefits of running race gas

    i only recommend the AIS kits for $250, if your making over 600rwhp then i recommend getting a progressive rate controller, most of the factory ecu's can be reprogrammed to operate the meth controller directly in the tune

    i recommend using the windshield washer low fluid indicator so you know when your running low on meth

    i usually recommend using a 5 gallon container or even a gas can in the trunk full of meth, refill it everytime you fill up, this is often overkill but gives you that cushion in case you come along side an LS1 on the interstate and have to run long periods at WOT
     
  6. Orange 94

    Orange 94 Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    I'd recommend the -35c window washer fluid. I used the stock window washer fluid reservoir. Typically the cheap the better so it won't have other aditivies, do your research about the brand.

    I don't agree that meth can ONLY benefit. That's a pretty strong statement. Like everything in life there's pos and negs. That being said I'm running it, I feel its safe enough.
     
  7. ttocs

    ttocs Well-Known Member

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    I thought the snow kits were the go-to for meth kits but willing to look at what ever is recommended. What about nitrous instead?
     
  8. Orange 94

    Orange 94 Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    I think the snow kits are pretty good, but very expensive. My kit is basically a rip off kit of the snow kit. I'll have to look up the brand, can't remember ATM.
     
  9. RichV

    RichV Well-Known Member

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    Scott, the thing with meth on boosted motors is consistency with the fluid. I had a long conversation with Snow Performance at a local event once and beside the fact that regular windshield wash fluid has some additives that do not benefit and corrode the meth systems they are also extremely inconstant in meth content, even if both the bottles say -35. 2 bottles by different manufacturers labeled -35 can have different mixtures of meth along with other additives that will affect performance. You may want to look into alternatives. Either mixing your own, or some of the injection companies have their own product. Because once you tune to a specific meth content you should keep it consistent for power and it may have dangerous consequences. Also one of the guys that tunes a lot of fast boosted cars locally has stated several times that tuning with meth is extremely difficult.

    I don't believe the benefits on a KB are the same as a centri since on the KB you are spraying in the throttle before the air is pressurized, but does have benefit.
     
  10. Orange 94

    Orange 94 Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    [MENTION=17007]RichV[/MENTION] you may be correct about the window washer fluid, but you do realize that snow sells their own meth so of course they'll put down everything else :p
     
  11. ttocs

    ttocs Well-Known Member

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    When I drop the cash I am planning on dropping for this I am not going to be cutting corners later. I do not put my foot in it all that much around here as the cops have nothing to do in between meth busts except to nail speeders. With that as well as the fact that we have the dumbest speed limits(a 4 lane interstate with a 40 mph zone 8 miles long) and stupid expressways with 28 lights in 14 miles(no joke). I could see a bottle lasting me for a while, what is the shelf life on that stuff might be a better question for me... Then again I hear it is a bit more fun with boost so in case I have the 9500ci ready with laser shifters...
     
  12. RichV

    RichV Well-Known Member

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    Oh of course. That's a no brainer. :)

    But what's windshield washer fluid made for? Washing windows, not engine performance. ><
     
  13. Orange 94

    Orange 94 Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    Yes. But with the cheap stuff they will get away with as little as possible; water and methanol.
     
  14. ttocs

    ttocs Well-Known Member

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    Idunno like I said above it seems a little silly to me to spend all that money, add a meth kit and then skimp a few bucks on what to put in it.
     
  15. Win

    Win Well-Known Member

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    They aren't

    However i know where a Powerdyne bd10 with a 928 motorsports billet impeller and New bearing and Fiberglass reinforced Gates belt. I have talked the guy down to 975 shipped.

    [MENTION=9866]Javi[/MENTION]

    Send him a PM he works for Devils Own and can get you a kit for a good price
     
  16. kb1982

    kb1982 Well-Known Member

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    If you really want to know the exact chemical composition break down of your windshield washer fluid, check out the MSDS sheet for it. It will tell what chemicals are in it and the specific amounts of each one. Bussinesses are supposed to have the data sheets on everything they have. I have a snow stage 3 injection kit i havent installed yet. The difference between the 2 and the 3 is the controller. The stage3 has one that mounts in the car and can be setup based on injector pulse width or via a built in map sensor or a combination of the 2. I think its gonna be a really nice unit.
     
  17. ivan12

    ivan12 Well-Known Member

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    The only thing I'd like to add to 330cubeGT's post is that ATI's self contained headunits need to have the oil changed I believe every other oil change or so.
     
  18. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, this information is very useful for a noob like me. In 2014 I want to learn more about my car and my supercharger.

    Hopefully not a stupid question: more boost creates more horsepower. The opposite of boost is vacuum - this means air is running backwards into the supercharger? Does more vacuum mean less horsepower?
     
  19. MustangChris

    MustangChris Well-Known Member SN95 Supporter Retired Staff

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    Both of these measurements are measurements of pressure inside the intake system (theoretically, the same pressures in the combustion chamber.) Vacuum is exactly what it sounds like, lack of pressure. In this case it is measuring how hard your piston is sucking when it is in the intake stroke process.

    Once the blower "kicks in" (whatever blower you have chosen) that "sucking" stroke is no longer "sucking" it is now being force-fed air from the blower. This is "boost".


    Think of if like your mouth drinking from a straw in a drink. You suck soda into your mouth -- vacuum. your ass-hole friend squeezes the bottle your drinking from and it sprays in your mouth -- boost.


    edit: so, no. The air never runs backwards. The intake stroke of the engine is either a sucking one (vacuum) or that same stroke is being force-fed air (boost.) In either situation, air is traveling into the combustion chamber, not away from it (towards the blower would be away from it)
     
  20. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    Clear, thanks. But as long as there is vacuum, the supercharger is not doing it's job.

    Reason why I'm asking: my car isn't tuned properly and it takes an effort to get it to boost. I'm getting more convinced to do something about this.