How Superchargers Work

Centrifugal Superchargers

ProCharger D1SC centrifugal supercharger
Photo courtesy Muscle Mustang
ProCharger D1SC centrifugal supercharger

A centrifugal supercharger powers an impeller -- a device similar to a rotor -- at very high speeds to quickly draw air into a small compressor housing. Impeller speeds can reach 50,000 to 60,000 RPM. As the air is drawn in at the hub of the impeller, centrifugal force causes it to radiate outward. The air leaves the impeller at high speed, but low pressure. A diffuser -- a set of stationary vanes that surround the impeller -- converts the high-speed, low-pressure air to low-speed, high-pressure air. Air molecules slow down when they hit the vanes, which reduces the velocity of the airflow and increases pressure.

centrifugal supercharger
Centrifugal supercharger

Centrifugal superchargers are the most efficient and the most common of all forced induction systems. They are small, lightweight and attach to the front of the engine instead of the top. They also make a distinctive whine as the engine revs up -- a quality that may turn heads out on the street.

Monte Carlo

Mini Cooper S

Photos courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper
Both the Monte Carlo and the Mini-Cooper S are available with superchargers.

Any of these superchargers can be added to a vehicle as an after-market enhancement. Several companies offer kits that come with all of the parts necessary to install a supercharger as a do-it-yourself project. In the world of funny cars and fuel racers, such customization is an integral part of the sport. Several auto manufacturers also include superchargers in their production models.

Next, we'll learn about the advantages of supercharging your car.