Increasing the speed of a vehicle is an important aspect to many car owners. A supercharger will intake more air, which will then alert the computer system to pump more gas, which compensates for the excess air. One of the best ways to increase the speed of your vehicle is to add a supercharger (also called a whiner) onto an engine.
Can a stock engine handle a supercharger? In most cases, a stock engine can handle a supercharger. When installing a supercharger on a stock engine, the main focus should be on the fuel delivery system rather than the engine itself, since a supercharger can cause an engine to run at the wrong air-fuel ratio.
Understanding the pros and cons of adding a supercharger to a stock engine and its associated costs is essential if you decide to add one to your vehicle. This article will help you to understand all of the elements relating to adding a supercharger to a stock engine.
Why Can A Stock Engine Handle A Supercharger?
For the most part, yes, a stock engine can handle a supercharger. Forcing air into the engine will give the naturally aspirated engine a bit more pep. Plus most blowers are a bolt-on kit, meaning they don’t take much wrenching to install. The trick is managing the extra power in a way the mechanical components of the engine can keep up. There are a few parts that will take more heat, but the primary concern when boosting an engine is tuning the fuel delivery system. But how specifically does a supercharger work?
The power an engine makes comes from the combustion of air and fuel which is fired by a spark plug. The air-to-fuel mixture is a precise balance; too much of one or the other will cause mechanical problems. The way to make more power isn’t necessarily to add more fuel but to add more air to mix with additional fuel.
Most engines are naturally aspirated, meaning the air intake is purely reliant on the vacuum of the piston as it moves downward. The alternative is called “forced air induction,” which utilizes a turbo or a supercharger to compress the air coming into the engine to make more power.
As mentioned above, a proper air-fuel mixture is a delicate balance for optimal power. If the engine is fuelled, the combustion will burn too hot which can damage valves and spark plugs. This excessive heat can also cause detonation, which is when the air ignites at the wrong part of the cycle. This can cause serious damage to the piston and connecting rod.
Inherently, a boosted engine will want to run lean due to the extra air. However, over-fueling, or a rich fuel mixture, can also be problematic. Too much fuel can cause flooding, and in extreme cases, can wash the cylinder walls causing an under-lubricated condition. There can also be backfiring and poor fuel economy. In either case, a properly tuned fuel system will help create the most power.
Whether it’s a carburetor or a fuel-injected system, it is important to tune the right amount of fuel for what the engine needs. Finding the right carburetor is crucial to getting the proper tune. Typically, getting a larger carberator is better when supercharging. When it comes to fuel-injected engines, upgrading the injectors and rails to accommodate higher flow rates can create a better tuned carburetor. Also implied is using the right grade of fuel and having a strong pump and effective filter.
Aside from the fuel system, other components require upgrading depending on how serious the blower is. For example, the cooling system should be upgraded to keep the engine running cool. Also, if the vehicle is turning out more power, systems such as the transmission, drivetrain, brakes, tires, and suspension should be upgraded to handle the extra juice.
Benefits/Positives Of Adding A Supercharger
There are some benefits of dropping a supercharger under the hood.
- Creates more horsepower
- Makes more low-end torque
- Makes for a cool ride
Of course, the most apparent reason for a supercharger is to gain horsepower. What each individual does with the extra ponies varies, but having a fast car is a classic past-time. While not for everyone, those who drive a sportier car will appreciate having the additional engine response. Superchargers are pretty common on classic muscle cars with big old V8 engines. It’s common to see the hood be modified to accommodate the air intake and the blower.
Along with the extra horse power, a supercharger can also help create low-end torque. A turbocharger is another form of forced air induction, but it requires higher engine RPMs to generate a boost. Since a supercharger is a belt-driven off the crankshaft, the boost is immediate at any RPM. This makes for better burn-outs and launches.
Of course, having a souped-up ride is cool. While there are plenty of performance vehicles that are supercharged, sometimes it’s more about the look. Sure, maybe the 1960-something Mustang could get up and go, but it is also nice just to look at.
Cons Of Adding A Supercharger
Despite the coolness factor that a supercharger has, there are a few drawbacks to installing one on a stock engine. The first issue is the added expense. Chances are the engine already has an air intake system, so upgrading will cost money. If the vehicle doesn’t need to go super fast, it may not be worthwhile.
Another problem is the issue of power siphon. The supercharger is spun by a pulley that is spun by a belt connected to the crankshaft. This adds a load to the engine, which draws a bit of power. Hopefully, the boost will compensate for that, but at idle or at low RPM there will be some extra draw, which can lead to worse power and fuel consumption. The best way to mediate this is to tune the fuel delivery or just eat whatever lack of power occurs.
Another more serious issue is the risk of detonation and engine damage. As mentioned above, detonation occurs when the combustion happens at the wrong time. This happens in a lean condition when the air temperatures are hot enough to spontaneously combust after the spark plug fires.
Prolonged detonation can burn or melt pistons, valves, and other components centered around the cylinder. To prevent this, adjust the fuel mixture or upgrade the cooling system, run a colder spark plug, or upgrade other components.
Finally, it can be problematic knowing that engine requirements increase with the size of the blower. As a general rule, a bigger blower will make more power, but it all starts with the potential of the engine. A larger engine has a higher potential to make more power, but a bigger blower will likely be more expensive, not to mention the extra modifications required to make the blower fit in the engine bay. Also, as previously mentioned, more power needs a better transmission, running gear, and so on.
Is The Price Tag Worth The Power?
Whether or not the extra prices are worthwhile depends on what you are using the car for. The following is a simplified list outlining whether or not it’s worth it.
- Daily: Probably not
- Touring: Probably not
- Project car: Sure
- Race car: Definitely
When it comes to a daily driver, having a supercharged engine is probably unnecessary. Most people want a daily driver that is comfortable and gets decent fuel economy so they can get to work and back. Of course, this is a preference and many have a more sporty car as a commuter vehicle. Chances are, most vehicles designed as economic drivers aren’t able to be converted anyways, whether the engine is too small or no replacement parts exist.
You likely won’t need a supercharger if your rig is mostly used for road trips or long commutes. It won’t adversely affect your ride or fuel economy per se, but having an extra moving part means an additional risk of something breaking down. Of course, touring can also involve some hill climbing, depending on where you’re going. Having an extra boost could be helpful in those instances, but it’s not a necessity.
A project car can take on many faces: from a Fast and Furious-inspired tuner, a classic that grandpa passed down, or anything in between. Usually, you will see a blower on the old 1960 – 1970 era of muscle cars. Depending on the build, these are usually flashy, chromed-out engines that mostly sit in car shows, but may make a pass or two at the drag strip. A supercharger has its place on a project car, but it is more of an accessory compared to new tires or a fuel filter.
A race car is a perfect place for a supercharger. Whether you’re tuning passes down a drag strip or ripping on a track, squeezing the engine for all its power is the name of the game. Of course, racing depends on regulations conducive to the type of racing being done. Also, big-time race cars will have custom-built engines instead of stock engines. However, for a first-time race car, a supercharger can be a nice touch.
Whatever function your car serves, it ultimately comes down to a judgment call. For some applications, it makes sense to buy that potential extra power. In other cases, it’s optional or falls second to other priorities.
So, can a stock engine handle a supercharger? In most cases, yes. Of course, do some research specific to the vehicle before doing any work. If the engine can’t take it, it’s not working. It’s also smart to look at why you might need a supercharger and go from there. If you’re trying to haul down a quarter mile, then it makes a lot of sense. If you’re hauling the kid’s soccer team, as much fun as it would be, it’s not worth the extra cost.
Is a supercharger good for off-roading? Off-roading with a supercharger can be beneficial. However, this does depend on the type of off-roading you are doing. In slow-speed scenarios such as rock crawling or in navigating tight trails it offers little benefit, but when driving at higher speeds and higher rpms, it can absolutely help. Click here to learn more about this topic.