The Truth About The Big 3 Upgrade
Wow! There seems to be a ton of misinformation about this topic around. Ive seen and heard some pretty far-fetched stuff. Keep in mind that all of our Big 3 Upgrade Kits are a direct reflection of our findings in regards to measured performance and our thirty years of experience in upgrading vehicle charging systems, not something we read on the internet.
So, lets set the story straight.
When Your Audio System Need A Bigger Alternator
If the present volume of your factory audio system seems okay to you that means your alternator is doing well.
If you need to enhance the music volume higher than the current level, the factory alternator will face difficulty handling it. You have to go for a powerful amplifier and a powerful alternator both at a time.
So again, the question arises, why need a powerful amplifier? The fact is an amplifier is also like a battery that cannot deliver more power beyond crossing the limit is designed to be. Increasing the sound needs a powerful amplifier too.
Moreover, subwoofers also need a vast power to produce a Low-frequency noise. A car audio capacitor will never increase your alternators drainage energy level.
Adjusting the amplifier & the subwoofer actions in a smoother and firmer way, basically, you need a high output alternator.
Yes, it could be a high-priced system, but actually, you dont have any options except it. A high-output alternator will deliver enough power to the factory stereo system without disrupting any other functions of the vehicle.
Necessary High Amp Alternator Electrical System Modifications
Although the individual electronic components in your car wont be damaged by a big alternator, there are two things that might be: the alternator power lead and the ground strap or straps.
Since a high amp alternator will be putting out a lot more juice than the factory unit, and your power and ground cables were chosen with the OEM unit in mind, these cables might not be big enough.
When you install a high amp alternator, or when you have someone else install it, you should consider replacing both the ground straps and the power cable that runs from the alternator to the battery with heavier gauge cables.
Although it is possible to calculate roughly the right size based on the maximum amperage youll be dealing with, a good rule of thumb is to just go with the thickest gauge that will work in the application.
You cant really go too big in this case, and the thicker the cables, the better off youll be especially if you do go with that monster of a 300A alternator.
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Depending On The Current Your Vehicle And Install Require You May Need To Make Modifications To Your Engine And Create Space For A Small Power Plant Under Your Hood
If youre chasing numbers, prepare to play Tetris in your engine bay to make room for the alternators and the bracket that will be holding them. Championship rings dont come easy or cheap.
If youve read this far and are starting to rethink 150s, hair tricks, and broken windshields, you can still enjoy considerable bass with a single high output alternator in your car or truck.
As a general rule, you need about 100 amps of current for every 1000 watts of power generated. Add that to the base electrical requirements of your vehicle for the total amount of amp-hours you need for your system.
You can use this formula: watts/volts = amperes
Example: You plan to install a 2,000 watt amplifier. Your vehicles voltage is 13.5 volts. Divide 2,000 watts by 13.5 volts. The result is 148 amperes of current. If your stock alternator output is 85 amps, add 150 amps for a total of 235 amps needed to safely operate the amp.
How Do You Size An Alternator
Besides, how do I know my alternator size?
Look for a diagram under or near your fuse box cover. It will have individual amperage numbers already set by the manufacturer. Add up those numbers to find what amperage your alternator needs to feed the car’s electrical system. Verify this number with the part manufacturer, if necessary.
Similarly, what size alternator do I need for car audio? A 250 or 300 ampere aftermarket high output alternator should provide enough power for all your car’s systems and your high-powered stereo too.
Also asked, how do I know which alternator to buy?
How to Identify an Alternator by Number
Is a higher amp alternator better?
Not every vehicle requires a high amp, or high output alternator. A general high output alternator will provide more amperage, and in other words more power, but it will also increase the engine speed, proving itself capable of generating more power, but not being very useful in the long run.
Here’s how you determine if you have a smart alternator or not:
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What Happens If You Install A Powerful Amplifier With Your Factory Alternator
Most often, the factory alternators could not produce a big bass or a loud sound. It is not designed to provide stronger power at all.
However, when you intend to make louder the audio quality, the first attempt you have to go for is installing a more potent amplifier with your factory head unit. Finally, you need to go for adjusting a 10 to 15% more powerful alternator along with the amplifier.
Flickering Dash Lights, Dimming the Headlights, delivering a low bass from your sub, improper air conditioning, etc. can happen for this power compensation.
Thats why a powerful amp needs a powerful alternator to work smoothly in your cars system.
How Much Alternator Is Too Much
The good news is that replacing a factory alternator with a high output alternator, in and of itself, isnt going to damage the rest of the electronics in your car, even if the new alternator is much, much bigger than the old one.
As an example that trends closer to the ridiculous than the likely, let’s say that you determine that your new sound system, plus the preexisting power requirements of your car, add up to well over 200A. For a safety net, you decide on a 300A alternator.
Even if you manage to find a high amp alternator thats capable of putting out a massive 300A while still somehow fitting in your engine compartment, that extra amperage will only be tapped if and when your equipment actually needs it. You can rest easy that the only downside to an alternator that’s too big is that it’s a waste of money, and it won’t damage your electrical system.
The main caveat is that if your sound system really does require that much amperage, there are a few modifications that you need to make before installing a high amp alternator that’s really that big, but theyre more to prevent power and ground cables from burning up than to protect the sort of delicate electronics that keep your car going.
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Alt Text: 5 Things You Should Know Before Using A High
So youre considering swapping out your stock alternator.
There are plenty of good reasons to make the leap to a high-output alternator, but youll need to do a little bit of homework first. Luckily, weve got smart friends to help us with our studies, so you can ace the topic. In conjunction with the alternator experts at Powermaster and MSD, weve compiled the five things you need to know before upgrading to a high-amp, or high-output alternator.
This starts with the most basic of questions:
How Big Of An Alternator Do I Need
So I’m gonna be running one Sundown 100.2 and one possibly two 1500D’s. I have an Optima Red under the hood, big 3, and 1/0 to a Kinetik near the amps. I don’t wanna buy something too big that I won’t be able to see the full potential, but I also don’t want something to small. It’s goning in a 4.3 01 Blazer if that matters.Thanks for the help.
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Consider A High Output Alternator
As earlier stated, the alternator is the ultimate source of power for your vehicle. It charges your battery/b batteries so that they are to go every time you start the engine. If your sound system draws more power than your alternator can supply, then the best solution should be upgrading your alternator to a higher output one. This may be an expensive solution, but it one of the most effective ways of ensuring high-audio performance without compromising other cars functions.
A good aftermarket alternator should offer between 250 and 300 ampere, which is more than enough current to run both your car system and your stereo too. The easiest way to determine the size of the alternator you need is by establishing the extra amount of power you need on top of the current supply. However, always consult your installer when deciding on the correct output size of your new alternator to make sure that it will meet the needs of your system.
There Are Two Primary Chemistries Used For Batteries: Lead
Within these categories, there are a multitude of variations, including AGM, sealed lead-acid, LTO, and many more.
These all have specific advantages in their uses.
Sealed Lead Acid Batteries are inexpensive.
SLA batteries have low rates of self-discharge and perform well in low and high temperature environments.
Traditional SLA starter batteries are also heavy and have a low weight to energy ratio.
Furthermore, they have a limited cycle life and are very slow to charge.
Absorbed Glass Mat batteries improve over traditional lead-acid designs with a glass mat separator to wick the electrolyte solution between plates.
The glass mat has enough charge for the battery to deliver its full capacity.
AGMs can be very heavy compared to contemporary options, like lithium.
They improve on SLA batteries in terms of available charge, charging time, and cost.
AGM batteries are maintenance free and reliable, but there is a dropoff in available voltage as they deplete.
Lithium batteries are more expensive than traditional SLA and AGM batteries.
There are a few reasons for this.
Lithium batteries have about 45% of the weight of AGM batteries.
Lithium batteries charge faster than AGM can. Lithium is also capable of delivering 95% of the capacity without a significant change in voltage until the cells are drained.
If you plan on running a full range amplifier, be mindful that your charging system does not exceed the recommended voltage of your amplifier.
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Third You Must Know The Peak Minimum And Average Power Requirements Of Your Stereo System
Without this data you simply cannot properly determine how much alternator capacity that you require.
Basically, your alternator should produce AT LEAST 120% of your total continuous power requirement — at the average engine speed of your vehicle while in use. If it does not, you will likely see your alternator fail prematurely.
For example, assuming that you drive at average engine speeds sufficient to produce full power from the alternator, if your audio system demands an average of 100 amps, and if your basic vehicle electrical load is, say, 64 amps , and you have installed a 200AH battery bank, you will need an alternator that can supply at least 300 amps.
However, in some cases, average engine speed may not be sufficient to generate full alternator power. In this case, an even larger alternator should be fitted to properly supply the electrical system. In a low engine speed situation like this, to supply your average electrical demand, it might be necessary to install a 400A alternator!
Do You Really Need A High Amp Alternator
Every electrical component in your car needs to draw some amount of amperage to function. If you don’t make any modifications or add any additional electronics, then you’ll typically be just fine with the stock alternator.
The issue is that factory alternators typically run right up against the ragged edge in terms of factory component requirements, so installing any power-hungry aftermarket equipment can lead to a lack of enough power to go around. That can manifest as flickering or dim headlights, or your engine may even die.
In some circumstances, overloading an already anemic factory alternator can even lead to early failure. And if you just replace the broken down alternator with another one that has the same specifications, the same thing will probably just happen again.
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What Are The Parts Of An Alternator And Their Functions
High output alternators are designed to achieve high output functions, therefore, they are designed with heavy-duty diodes in order to produce and handle large currents and heat. The different part of a high output alternator would be its diodes, wires for producing electric current and heat resistant parts in order to increase their durability. In addition, some high output alternators also contain chrome-plated compartments in order to increase their resistance to harsh conditions.
An alternator needs to have a wiring harness to handle the alternator output and different amp alternators to generate high electric output.
Do I Need A Second Battery For Car Audio
Who needs a second battery?Whether you need a second battery for car audio is determined by your application and by how much power your amplifiers are using.
Is this a daily driver for work commutes, grocery runs, and nights out on the town?
Is this a nasty, ground-pounding, Sound Pressure Level record-shattering beast?
Last week, we covered High Output Alternators, following the Big Three Wiring Upgrade.
If youre following along, youve done the Big Three Wiring Upgrade and added a High Output Alternator.
Are your headlights still dimming?If headlight dimming still happens when the system plays heavy bass notes, your amplifiers are drawing more power than your charging system can create.
Headlight dimming is a cause for concern. Underpowering your amplifier can lead to overheating, clipping, and the red light of despair known as the protection light.
Your stock electrical charging system was designed and built for the stock features of your car.The stock battery was made to start the engine.
The stock alternator was designed to charge your batt and power the stock electrical components in your car.
Adding high draw amplifiers to the mix increases the load that your electrical system requires to operate.
Your alternator provides amperage to your system.
When your system is trying to use more power than what is available, your gear will go into protect mode or worse.Adding a high output alt reduces the strain on your charging system.
10 X / = Running time in hours.
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Power Distribution For Large Audio Amplifiers
If your audio system current draw exceeds the output current rating of the alternator, then your dashboard, or headlights, may dim especially when loud bass notes hit. Not a good thing. Also, this power choke can affect the performance of your sound system leading to amplifier overheating and even shutdown, which is not a good result. You can calculate the amperage draw of your system using Ohm’s law. In this case you can use the formula I = P / E .
Adding a battery is the quick solution to this problem, but may not be the best solution. For example, a 2000W RMS amplifier will potentially draw up to 240 amps of current depending on the design and efficiency of the amplifier. Even though the normal operation of the amp will probably run less than that on average, even half of that, 120 amps, is more than most vehicle electrical systems supply to run the entire vehicle.
Let’s look at a specific example. If you have a mono block and a 4-channel amplifier that each are rated at and outputting 500-watts RMS power, you have a total of 1000-watts. Your alternator is rated at 14.4 volts, so the resulting calculation for current would be I = 1000/14.4. The result is 69.44 amps.
Electrical Systems On Motorcycles And Powersports Vehicles
Upgrading audio systems on motorcycles is challenging. It would be best if you chose the most efficient speakers and amplifiers possible. Why? The stock charging system is often only capable of delivering 30 amps of current. Upgraded stators may be able to bump this to over 50 amps, but that still isnt very much when you have an ignition system to run. Would you have 30 to 35 amps of current leftover for a stereo? Maybe. Even if you have picked the 86% efficient amp we talked about at the beginning of this article, you can only produce about 400 watts to the speakers. If you chose that 68% efficient amp, that number drops to a little over 300 watts as the rest of the energy is wasted as heat.
Harley-Davidson offers several high-output charging system upgrades for its motorcycles. This 29900028A kit works with many 2011 through 2016 Touring Bikes, Trikes and CVO models.
Lastly, dont expect the battery to help much. In a typical motorcycle size, as youd find on a Street Glide, they are rated for 32 amp-hours and have a cold-cranking amp capacity of 500 amps. Compare that to the battery in a full-size sedan at 100 amp-hours and almost 1,000 cold-cranking amps.
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