Once air is drawn into the engine, it must be combined with fuel to form the charge -- a packet of potential energy that can be turned into useful kinetic energy through a chemical reaction known as combustion. The spark plug initiates this chemical reaction by igniting the charge. As the fuel undergoes oxidation, a great deal of energy is released. The force of this explosion, concentrated above the cylinder head, drives the piston down and creates a reciprocating motion that is eventually transferred to the wheels.
Getting more fuel into the charge would make for a more powerful explosion. But you can't simply pump more fuel into the engine because an exact amount of oxygen is required to burn a given amount of fuel. This chemically correct mixture -- 14 parts air to one part fuel -- is essential for an engine to operate efficiently. The bottom line: To put in more fuel, you have to put in more air.
That's the job of the supercharger. Superchargers increase intake by compressing air above atmospheric pressure, without creating a vacuum. This forces more air into the engine, providing a "boost." With the additional air in the boost, more fuel can be added to the charge, and the power of the engine is increased. Supercharging adds an average of 46 percent more horsepower and 31 percent more torque. In high-altitude situations, where engine performance deteriorates because the air has low density and pressure, a supercharger delivers higher-pressure air to the engine so it can operate optimally.
Unlike turbochargers, which use the exhaust gases created by combustion to power the compressor, superchargers draw their power directly from the crankshaft. Most are driven by an accessory belt, which wraps around a pulley that is connected to a drive gear. The drive gear, in
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