The comparison of ProCharger vs supercharger is not really a comparison because a ProCharger is a supercharger. To say it another way, ProCharger is the name of a company that makes a certain type of a supercharger.
If you find this a little confusing, think about it this way… saying ProCharger vs. supercharger is a lot like saying Corvette vs car.
A Corvette is a brand name of a type of car.
There are many different types of cars. A Corvette is a two-seater sports car. Other types of cars include minivans, SUVs, and station wagons.
All these types of cars do the same thing – get you from point A to point B.
Now think back to the ProCharger vs supercharger comparison. As with a Corvette being a type of car, a ProCharger is a type of supercharger.
And you guessed it…. there are different types of superchargers.
A ProCharger is a centrifugal supercharger. There are also Roots superchargers, twin-screw superchargers, and turbochargers.
All these types of superchargers do the same thing – feed more air into your engine so that it produces more power.
Now let’s talk about how a ProCharger works compared to other more traditional superchargers.
ProCharger vs Supercharger = Centrifugal vs Positive Displacement
The question ProCharger vs supercharger actually means this: Centrifugal supercharger vs positive displacement supercharger.
As you learned earlier, a supercharger is a bolt-on part that forces more air into your engine. When more air is added to the engine, you can add more gasoline. This causes bigger explosions in your car’s cylinders which ultimately leads to more horsepower.
So when we consider a centrifugal supercharger vs a positive displacement supercharger, the two different types of superchargers deliver the extra air to your engine in different ways. Let’s take a look at each.
Positive Displacement Superchargers
A positive displacement supercharger is what most people think of when they hear the word supercharger.
Have you ever seen an old muscle car with a big, shiny chrome air intake popping out of its hood?
That’s a positive displacement supercharger.
Positive displacement superchargers can be further broken down into two different types – Roots or twin screw.
Both Roots and twin-screw superchargers deliver extra air to the engine in a similar way, but the internal components that move air are a little different.
Roots Positive Displacement Supercharger
A Roots positive displacement supercharger is that classic, hot rod look that most people think of when they hear the word supercharger.
Here’s a bit of trivia you can impress your buddies with when they’re all gathered around your car marveling at your shiny new supercharger: It’s called a Roots supercharger because brothers Philander and Francis Roots patented the technology in 1860.
This is how it works: Two side-by-side rotors, meshed close together are spun by a belt attached to the engine’s crankshaft. The spinning action of the two rotos sucks in air from the big air intake and blows it into the engine.
This blowing action is the reason why some people call this type of supercharger a blower.
Want to see how it all works? Check out this animation:
Twin Screw Positive Displacement Supercharger
A twin screw supercharger is basically a modernized version of the Roots design.
A twin screw supercharger is typically more compact and doesn’t require the huge air intake of a Roots supercharger. Air can be brought in through more discrete intake methods like a hood scoop.
Fun fact: supercharged Hellcats use twin screw superchargers.
The rotors inside of a twin-screw supercharger are (duh) screw shaped and therefore shaped like cones.
This design is more efficient than the Roots design because the air is captured inside of the rotors (as opposed to it being blown out the sides in a Roots supercharger). As the screws rotate, the air is pushed to the smaller ends of the rotors and gets compressed.
Want to see how a twin-screw supercharger works? Check out this animation:
Which Positive Displacement Supercharger is Better?
Each of these positive displacement supercharger has its pros and cons.
A twin-screw supercharger is more efficient because it compresses air more efficiently, the air is cooler, and it takes less engine power to spin the rotors. Plus it’s typically smaller than a Roots supercharger.
But given the higher level of engineering that goes into a twin-screw supercharger, the units are often more expensive.
If you’re looking to make a statement with your car, the big, bold air intake on a Roots supercharger is pretty hard to beat.
Noone is ever gonna ask you, “Is it fast?”
They’ll just know.
If you decided to use a positive displacement supercharger but can’t decide between Roots or twin screw, here’s a great article that geeks out on the differences between the two.
For the next part of our ProCharger vs supercharger comparison, let’s talk about ProChargers (AKA centrifugal superchargers).
A centrifugal supercharger is much smaller than both types of positive displacement superchargers.
Because of its smaller size, a centrifugal supercharger uses a small air intake that is typically contained under the hood and doesn’t require any sort of external air intake protruding through the car’s hood.
A centrifugal supercharger uses an impeller to draw in cool air. The impeller spins at a very high speed, often 60,000 rpm or more!
Here’s the cool thing about a centrifugal supercharger: the faster you go, the faster it spins. And when it spins faster, it draws in more air and delivers more power.
Here’s a great animation that shows you how it all works:
Similarities to a Turbocharger
If you’re a seasoned gearhead, you might have noticed that a centrifugal supercharger looks a lot like a turbocharger.
Your gearhead spidey sense is correct!
A centrifugal supercharger is basically a belt-driven turbocharger.
In case you don’t know… a turbocharger’s impeller is spun by the exhaust gasses being forced out of your car.
ProCharger vs. supercharger: which is better?
So now that you know all about how these superchargers work… which one should you choose?
Instead of listing the pros and cons of each and throwing all kinds of data at you, let’s just cut though all the B.S. and get right to the point.
These are the two things about superchargers that most speed freaks (you included) consider important:
- Cost and ease of installation
I want to help you pick the right supercharger for your needs and car.
You want more power. That’s why you’re considering a supercharger.
In deciding between the two types of superchargers, you need to decide when you want that power to kick in.
If you want immediate power right off the line (drag racing is your thing), go with a positive displacement supercharger.
If you want more power while you’re already moving (track days are your thing), go with a centrifugal supercharger.
Why? I’ll tell you…
Positive displacement supercharger performance
A positive displacement supercharger delivers the same burst of air to your engine for each rotation of the crank whether you’re going 5 mph or 105 mph.
The power boost is basically linear. You get the same amount of power increase no matter how fast you’re going. And the power is delivered immediately. As soon as you step on the gas pedal, you get the full boost of power that your super charger delivers.
This fact holds true for both Roots type and twin-screw type. The twin screw just does it more efficiently.
Centrifugal supercharger performance
A centrifugal supercharger does not deliver immediate power like a positive displacement supercharger. It needs time to spool up… which basically means the rotational speed of the impeller needs to increase.
The faster you go, the more power you get.
So from a dead stop, if you mash the gas pedal to the floor, there will be a delay before the power kicks it.
You may have heard people talk about turbo lag in turbocharged cars… this is basically the same thing that happens in a centrifugal supercharger.
Where a centrifugal supercharger shines is when you are already moing. If you’re driving on the highway and need to pass another car, you’ll have power on demand because your engine crank is already rotating at a high rate of speed.
Centrifugal superchargers are a favorite amongst track racers because on a racetrack, you’re already going fast and when you need more power to pass, stomp on the gas and the power just keeps coming!
Cost and ease of installation
Generally, a centrifugal supercharger is going to be the least expensive. It’s smaller and typically bolts right on to your engine with ease. There’s also fewer parts involved.
Positive displacement superchargers are much bigger and have more complicated parts. They often replace your car’s intake manifold.
Between Roots and twin-screw superchargers, twin-screw systems tend to be more expensive from a parts perspective.
Roots superchargers can be more difficult to install. Because of their massive air intakes, you’ll have to cut a hole in the hood of your car… which can be an expensive (and nerve-wracking) experience!
The other thing to take into consideration is the availability of a kit that works for your specific car. You might not be able to get the kind of supercharger you want for your car because there’s no company that makes it.
And certain cars may have several options for superchargers because these cars are so commonly supercharged. So several different companies may make super charger kits for your specific car. And when there’s lots of options, costs will be lower.
Once you decide on the right type of supercharger for you, there may be different sizes and options to consider. For example, a centrifugal supercharger kit for your car may have different compressor sizes available – larger compressors deliver more power. And positive displacement superchargers may have different intercoolers to choose from.
If you are comparing a ProCharger vs supercharger, what you’re actually comparing is a centrifugal supercharger vs a positive displacement supercharger. Both types create more power by forcing more air into your engine. Which one you choose depends on your power needs, budget, and car.
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Header photo credit: Tim Vrtiska