By Marc Barth|
After owning my 1997 Honda Civic EX coupe for over 2 ½ years, I had completed the common bolt-ons, and was still interested in more power and lots of it. There were many paths I could have chosen: turbo, motor swap, continuing to work on the SOHC VTEC engine and staying all motor, or choose the somewhat less common path of supercharging. Many may be wondering why I chose this method. I will explain my decision and compare to the more popular methods and list my results before and after the supercharger has been installed.
All motor with the SOHC VTEC engine: After installing an intake, header, and exhaust I still wanted more power. I was well aware of the other parts available for this engine such as cams, throttle bodies, polished and ported heads etc. However, after investing the time and money in these modifications my 0-60 times would never be better than 7 seconds on street tires. Besides, many of these modifications would jeopardize the smog legality of my car. While it is possible to achieve dramatic performance with an all motor D16Y8, I chose no to go this route.
By now many are probably saying, "go turbo." "Turbochargers are so much cheaper than superchargers and they are faster too." Originally, this was my plan as well. However, upon closer inspection I found otherwise. Most turbo kits that are done properly with fuel and ignition management are well over $3000! Not to mention these kits usually run a T04E or T3/T4 turbo which have quite a bit of turbo lag. This is a street car. Always has been, always will be. I need something with little or no lag and good low end torque for street driving. Having little to no power below 3000 rpm and then having it all kick in at once does not do much when you are stuck in traffic. Kits that use these large turbochargers are more for track use, mainly drag racing, where turbo lag is not as much as an issue.
I looked at the Greddy turbo kit. Despite the fact that this kit is designed for the 92-95 Civics, I have been told by many that it will fit a 96-99 Civic EX with little to no modifications. This kit is very nice and has very little turbo lag and on the surface appears to be much cheaper than the Jackson Racing supercharger. However, again I found this to be false. The Greddy kit retails for around $2000 but can often be found for around $1700. On the surface, the Greddy kit appears to be several hundreds of dollars cheaper than the Jackson Racing supercharger, which has similar performance. However, this base price does not include a blow off valve or an intercooler. Once you add those two integral pieces to the kit to the total cost shoots up to about $2700. This also does not include all the necessary boost gauges, boost controller, and turbo timer necessary for a turbocharged vehicle. Don't get me wrong. I am not against turbochargers in any way. I am a big fan of turbos, however it doesn't suit my particular needs. Therefore, I decided to pass on turbocharging.
Additionally, I have yet to see a CARB approved turbo kit for the 96-99 Civics. I must be able to pass these annoying California smog tests. In California, smog stations are very strict when it comes to the visual inspection. Having a CARB approval is very important to me. The last thing I want to happen is fail a smog test and have a car that I can't get registered. This car is my only means of transportation to both school and work. I can't afford to fail a smog test and then be up a creek without a paddle.
"So why don't you go hybrid?" Granted a blown SOHC VTEC will have very similar performance to a B18C powered Civic but I chose not to go this route for a few reasons. First of all this would still leave me in the same predicament I am in now, no low-end torque. The B18C like nearly all Honda engines lack low end torque and does not really come alive until the VTEC engages at nearly 5000 rpm. This is my main reason for choosing the Jackson Racing supercharger. Also, achieving smog legality with a swap means a risky trip to the Ref. Perhaps if I had bought my car used with a lot of miles on it this might have been a more cost effective method. However this is not the case. I bought my car new and it has less than 30,000 miles on it. I felt it was almost a shame to ditch an engine with such low mileage for another, which may have more than twice as many miles on it. Finally, finding an OBDII compliant GS-R engine and ECU for a fair price would also be a hassle.
A little side note on engine swaps. The prices of professional engine swaps are getting out of control. Paying well over $4000 for an engine swap is crazy. Paying this kind of a price for a GS-R motor is not something I am willing to do. Not just because of the sheer cost but the fact that these engines are grossly overpriced. The B18C is an incredible engine. It is one of the best engines Honda has ever made to date; however, the demand for this motor has caused the price for this engine swap to skyrocket. If the price for this motor had not risen so dramatically this might be a more cost effective choice, however a complete swap would far exceed the cost of a supercharger. [editors note: the price of a B18C swap has always been high and remains high. Even '94 B18C complete swaps still manage to demand over $3000.]
This brings us to the supercharger. I have chosen the Jackson Racing supercharger. The kit includes a positive displacement Roots type Eaton M45 blower that delivers 6 psi, a revised intake manifold, and a bypass system that cuts off the blower when not in use. The kit is also CARB approved (EO#D-344-3). The blower on an otherwise stock engine makes more torque at 2500 rpm than the stock motor makes at peak and delivers 95% of it's peak torque by 3000 rpm. Full boost arrives at 3600 rpm. The supercharger does not require a turbo timer or an intercooler. This kit satisfies all of my needs for the street, excellent low-end torque and throttle response thus dramatically increasing street driveability and performance.
Installation and Dyno session: I chose to have the kit installed at Jackson Racing's facility in Westminster rather than doing it myself. The price for the installation including dyno runs is $525. This may seem high to some people but it is peace of mind knowing that qualified technicians who have done this installation countless times before are working on your car. I was very impressed with the service and quality of work done at Jackson Racing. Everyone at Jackson Racing is extraordinarily friendly and helpful. There were virtually no problems with the installation at all. The only problem was that my Neuspeed strut tower bar seemed to be interfering with the MAP sensor because the MAP sensor now sits higher than the stock position. However Jackson Racing quickly fixed this problem. Other than that, the installation went flawlessly. Jackson Racing also does routine maintenance on Hondas and Acuras as well. If you live near the area and need service on your Honda/Acura I highly recommend Jackson Racing.
Now let's get down to business. When the car did a baseline dyno run both Jackson Racing and myself were somewhat disappointed with the amount of power the car made in near stock form. However, it wasn't that far off from other civics they have dynoed so little attention was paid to this fact. After the supercharger was installed the car was dynoed again. The car showed improvement but nowhere near what I was expecting. Jackson Racing seemed very puzzled by this as well. We started to contemplate why the low results. We decided to remove the S&B air filter and do another dyno run with just a straight intake pipe. What a difference! The car picked up 10HP to the WHEELS! Needless to say I felt better. I still was expecting higher numbers but the numbers were about on target with other civics. Apparently, the design of my S&B filter is very poor. As most people know a straight pipe doesn't flow as well as a K&N. However even after this fact both Jackson Racing and myself still expected another 4-7 wheel horsepower. Another aspect that needs to be looked into is to see whether or not my DC Sports header is costing me any horsepower. I will have my car dynoed in the future with my stock manifold vs. the DC header to see. I don't expect to see any losses with the DC header but I will have to dyno the car to find out.
Before: Before installing the supercharger the performance of my car with the bolt-ons was adequate. The engine did not come up on the cam until about 2700 rpm. If you are caught below that point in the powerband, you could be beaten by a school bus. The amount of torque overall was barely adequate which common in most small displacement four cylinder engines. During full throttle acceleration power continued to rise through VTEC range and then leveled off until reaching redline at 6900 rpm. With the stock setup it seems like I was constantly waiting for the rpms to rise. Passing power is scarce at low rpms in third gear and virtually non existent in higher gears.
After: After installing the supercharger the performance of my car is like night and day. The car is an absolute blast to drive. The driveability has increased dramatically. There is even passing power in fifth gear. There is enough low-end grunt to start off in second gear, although first gear is much more satisfying. There is ample torque in the powerband where the car used to be on the borderline of bogging. During daily driving I don't have to work the engine hard in order to achieve the performance I want. Now I just roll on the throttle and away I go. The exhaust note does seem to be a little bit louder though. The performance is somewhat disappointing when the A/C is on, however it still has far more power than stock. Many people seem to be wondering about how the bypass system works. It does not require wide open throttle to break the bypass valve. Just mash the pedal and you're off. In addition, my gas mileage seems virtually unaffected. My mileage on the street seems to have decreased by about 1-2 mpg, however my mileage on the highway has increased greatly. I recently filled my tank up and drove to Pomona and back again which is about 120 miles. I filled my tank up when I returned and discovered that I got 40 mpg! I have never gotten mileage that high in my car ever. I am impressed.
Recently while running my car at wide open throttle, I noticed some detonation. My timing has been turned back to 8 BTDC. Since I can't retard the timing much more without sacrificing even more horsepower, I have ordered the Jackson Racing fuel pump in order to help combat this problem. My stock fuel pump obviously isn't supplying enough fuel at WOT and higher rpm's. This could very well be the reason why I came up a little short on the dyno. I will have it installed and dynoed again and hopefully will pick up some horsepower that I feel I should have had to begin with.
Here is a review of my setup before installing the supercharger on my 1997 Honda Civic EX coupe 5 speed:
My setup after the supercharger remained the same except for the addition of the supercharger, a new K&N air filter, and ignition has been retarded to 8 BTDC. All dyno runs were made on Jackson Racing's Dynojet 248E Dynamometer.
I originally planned to include before and after 0-60 & ¼ mile times in this review. However, this attempt has proven to be futile. I do not have access to a nearby dragstrip and finding a safe and level place on the street to do these tests is not only difficult to find, but also very dangerous, not to mention illegal. My stock tires simply are not up for the task. Most runs result in gobs of wheel spin. However the few ¼ mile runs I did make I noticed I picked up about 6 mph in the trap speed. Currently I finish the ¼ mile at about 90 mph. This is 2 mph short of Jackson Racing's claim but my heavy curb weight is probably preventing me from reaching these trap speeds.
Final thoughts: To sum it up the Jackson Racing supercharger works very well. The driveability of my car has increased dramatically. It is just incredible. This car is very limited due to the very heavy curb weight (thanks to my stereo) and worn poor quality stock tires. The main problem I've found is traction. I can't wait to see the improvements when I get some good quality tires. With the ample low end torque that is now available, I can only imagine how well this car would do during autocrossing. With some sticky tires, this will be a killer setup on the road course. I have installed and dynoed my car after installing the JR fuel pump. The new pump flows more than enough fuel so I advanced my timing a few degrees. I am now at about 11 BTDC with no detonation. I picked up a few horsepower on the dyno and several ft/lbs. of torque. My last dyno run recorded 137 hp and 120 ft/lbs. of torque to the wheels. If any of you are looking for a forced induction kit that has lots of low end torque, no lag, and love listening the sound of a blower whining, I highly recommend the Jackson Racing supercharger. However if you are looking for an all out drag racing kit this may not be for you. But if you want to dramatically increase the driveability and true street performance of your car, this kit will more than get the job done.
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