The old school mechanics, nowadays they are called technicians, used to say engine problems narrowed down to one of three components: air, fuel or spark. Today’s best technicians know this too. Internal combustion engine principles have not changed.
Since the first engine was invented, men have tinkered with it. They have relentlessly sought ways to get more out of it in terms of performance and speed. In this quest, technology has brought some clever innovations to the speed and performance game.
They have chemically altered fuel formulas. They have built bigger engines with more horsepower than any otherwise sane person would ever need.
Performance obsessed technicians have developed ways to provide more spark, more fuel and more air into the engine to “make it go faster”.
The development of superchargers has had a dramatic impact on this ‘go faster’ mission. Superchargers are basically air compressors attached to internal combustion engines.
Their basic function is twofold. Superchargers pull in more air to the engine, and they compress the air as it gets drawn in.
Increased, compressed air flow causes the fuel to burn at a much quicker rate. More quickly burned fuel increases engine and car speed.
The next logical step is to add more cylinders to these engines. Why? More cylinders burning fuel more quickly equals more speed.
Ever wonder what those weird looking things sitting on top of the dragster motors are? They are superchargers. These dragsters’ sole aim is to generate as much combustion possible and as quickly as possible from their engine setups.
Techs have learned that one of the main keys to more speed is increased air flow and the increased pressure of that air flow. Adding cylinders multiplies the effect of this principle.
Did you know that superchargers are not a recent speed development? Superchargers have played a major role in engine development for a long time. Check out some interesting facts below about superchargers.
Interesting Supercharger History
Many presume superchargers were birthed in the racing industry. Actually, it was much earlier.
While the racing industry has played a major role in supercharger development, they did not invent the apparatus. The first one was developed in the late 1800’s.
The world’s first engine tested, functional supercharger was developed by Dugald Clerk for the first 2-stroke engine in 1878. Seven years later, Gottlieb Daimler, a German, got a patent for his supercharger.
Best Fuel for Superchargers
People who are not all that familiar with superchargers presume they can use the same grade gasoline they have always used prior to having superchargers installed. Lower grades, commonly referred to as ‘regular’, may not do damage to superchargers, but they perform at their best with premium gas.
Source of Supercharger Sound
Most people think the source for their high-pitched sound is the dramatically increased air intake. While compressed air makes up part of the sound, what you are hearing is not just air flow. That whirring is a combination of air, the belt turning the supercharger and the gears inside it.
Superchargers Drain Horsepower
Superchargers increase engine horsepower, but they also consume horsepower. They use roughly one forth the horsepower they help produce. While a turbocharger generates horsepower, they also drain horsepower.
A turbocharger on a dragster can use around 1,200 horsepower to generate 5,000 horsepower.
Superchargers Must Be Sized According to Engine
Many people think they can just throw a huge supercharger onto their little four-cylinder engine and triple the horse power. That is just not the right understanding of how superchargers work.
Superchargers stress engines. An over-sized supercharger on a small engine is a recipe for engine failure and a new engine. Think about the simple mechanics of a supercharger. What do they do?
They create force. Too much force overwhelms the fuel delivery system. In other words, the fuel system starves the engine of needed fuel to burn.
This disrupts air to fuel ratio. The reduced air to fuel ratio causes pre-ignition. Pre-ignition creates excessive force on engine pistons, and that results in severe engine damage requiring engine replacement.