Mustang Supercharger vs Turbo
Last Updated: March 3, 2020
You may be at the point where you have put on every last bolt-on performance part that you can find. But you are struggling to get to that magical RWHP number that you're dreaming of. Then chances are, you're starting to shop around for the best possible way to add forced induction into your V8 powered Mustang.
Educating yourself to know the best possible plan of action to achieve tire-shredding horsepower is critical to achieving maximum output potential. This guide will give you all the necessary tools to make the best decision in achieving your ultimate horsepower goal!
What Is Forced Induction?
Forced induction is defined by the process where the air is directly pushed or compressed into the combustion chamber of each cylinder. More air, more fuel, and more spark equals more power. An engine can only produce so much horsepower due to size, airflow, and efficiency. This is where forced induction can play a huge role to those three key areas. By giving your Mustang engine more air and fuel it allows the combustion chamber of each cylinder a much more efficient explosion during the combustion cycle. Therefore allowing the engine to output more horsepower and torque.
What Is A Supercharger?
All superchargers are driven by the crankshaft on the engine. Attached to a pulley on the supercharger, the serpentine belt is used to force-feed compressed air into the engine. This air is then pushed through an intercooler to cool the compressed air before it enters the cylinder heads, which then will be fed into each of the eight cylinders into the combustion chamber. When this happens more air and fuel are added to each cylinder which will create a much more efficient explosion inside the combustion chamber of each cylinder. More efficiency means more power!
How a twin-screw supercharger works is straightforward. They are directly mounted on top of the engine. This is called positive displacement. Positive displacement is the key to giving twin-screw superchargers its signature punch when you smash the throttle. It runs off the crankshaft pulley which is then attached to the serpentine belt. This is then fed through a system of pulleys which will then rotate the supercharger pulley as the engine is running. As the supercharger pulley spins it will then rotate what is known as the rotor pack within the supercharger.
Once these rotories or screws start to spin at a very high RPM it will then force in cool air to create compression also known as supercharger boost. When this pressure is compressed, it will then be forced fed into the the supercharger heat exchanger, which will cool the air even further before it is fed into the engine's combustion chamber.
One thing is crucial you can't have all that air without more spark and fuel being added to the mix. This is where the supporting modifications come into effect. Such as upgraded spark plugs to run a colder temperature, higher pressure fuel injectors, and a boost-a-pump to give the fuel pump more voltage to deliver all the necessary fuel to the engine.
Some areas where this type of supercharger comes up short are that it can create a lot of heat build-up in your Mustang's engine bay. This can cause what is known as heat soak in your engine. It is a must to make sure you have the proper cooling system equipped in your Mustang. This is not only for the health of the supercharger but more importantly the engine. Since a twin-screw supercharger requires power from the engine to run this will put added wear and tear on engine components over the course of its life. Wear items can include the rotating assembly, oil pump, water pump, and cooling system.
Many enthusiasts commonly add a meth injection kit. This kit will allow engine air intake temps to be cooled even further before it enters the engine. The cooler the air coming into the engine and supercharger the much more efficient the combustion cycle will be. This additional method of cooling will lower the chances of heat soak. It will allow the driver or owner to worry much less while racing at his or her favorite autocross course or road race circuit.
A centrifugal supercharger is essentially a belt-driven turbo. It is a specialized type of supercharger in which it will use centrifugal energy to push more air into your Mustang's engine. This will allow you to burn more fuel efficiently which will create more power!
For example at the core of every Vortech Supercharger, there is an impeller that rotates at a very high velocity, in order to draw in as much air as possible into your Mustang's engine. It uses the air leaving the impeller that is traveling at very high speeds while having low pressure. What this low-pressure, high-speed moving air does is move it through what is called a diffuser. This turns the lower-pressure, high-speed air into high-pressure, low-moving air.
Once this occurs, the air is then moved into your engine, where it has created additional free-flowing air that is caused by the increased pressure that the impeller has made. In the end, this will allow the engine to do is burn more fuel at a much higher level of combustion, which will end with more torque and horsepower created.
Unlike a roots-type supercharger, a centrifugal will need the use of a blow-off valve. The reason for this is due to the amount of pressure that is created in impeller housing. All that compressed air needs somewhere to go when the supercharger boost pressure is released from the engine. The blow-off valve will relieve all the pressure in the system. Your end result is hearing a signature “WOOSH” sound that enthusiasts love.
Key facts to know is a centrifugal supercharger does require its own self-lubrication in the supercharger housing, unlike a twin-screw where everything is self-contained. On the upside of things, if you plan on road-coursing your Mustang it is less susceptible to heat soak than a twin-screw supercharger. On the downside of things, you won't have that absolute instant throttle response like a positive displacement supercharger.
What Is A Turbocharger?
By definition, a turbo is comprised of an impeller turbine that is used to compress and harness the exhaust gases that are emitted from your Mustang engine. Just like a supercharger, it forces more air into your engine to create more horsepower. Unlike a twin-screw or centrifugal supercharger, a turbocharger does not rely on the serpentine belt to power it. Instead it uses the engines exhaust gases that turn the impeller inside the turbo to help bring in fresh cold air into the engine.
Unlike a supercharger, a turbo has a lot more components that make up the entire system. In every turbo system there are two sides, the turbine where exhaust gases spin the impeller to speeds of over 100,000 RPM. The turbine is then connected to a shaft which spins the impeller on the other side of the turbo, which helps bring in cold air in. Next, the impeller on the turbo compresses the air, forces it through into the the intercooler (NOTE: Intercoolers can be air-to-air or air-to-water). Which then will finally find its way into your Mustang engine.
With all this pressure and air it has to go somewhere, right? Yes! A wastegate is needed on the exhaust side of the turbo in order to regulate the pressures of exhaust gases that are being exerted. To relieve the pressure a device called a blow-off valve is used to to release the air once you get your foot out of throttle. Turbos have amazing efficiency because it takes no horsepower to make power as a supercharger needs to use power to make power. Some key advantages turbochargers have over superchargers are better fuel economy and a longer lifespan.
But where the turbo falls short is turbo lag. The biggest cause of this is due to the fact that turbos are run by the exhaust gases coming from the engine. Turbos are best when you are rowing through the gears at mid-range RPM in your Mustang when the exhaust gases are more prominent. But during shifts between the gears, RPMs will drop therefore causing the exhaust gases to lag in producing the necessary flow to keep up the boost in the turbo system.
What System Should You Decide On?
This is all going to be based on each Mustang enthusiast's goal for power and performance. By far the most popular option is going to be supercharging your Mustang. This is due to the fact they are more common among American high performance vehicles, just like the all-new 2020 Shelby GT500. One of the biggest reasons enthusiasts pull the trigger on a supercharger is due to the low maintenance that it requires. Unlike a turbocharger where it can be quite costly at times because of the large amount of components that go into the system.
But if your absolute goal is getting the highest horsepower possible, then turbo is the way to go. This reason is solely because turbos give the enthusiast an unlimited amount of potential to grow. No matter what route you decide each of these forced inductions systems will allow for massive power gains from top to bottom. Don't forget to reach out to one of our performance specialists if you're having trouble deciding what route to go. Steeda is here to help!
Check out the graph below to see how each system builds power!
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