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I have a 1960 chevrolet with a generator. I would like to convert to a one wire altenator. What is the wiring needed to connect this up.

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  • capttfrichar Mar 15, 2011

    I have a 60 Chevrolet with a generator and a voltage regulator. I want to convert to a one wire alternator. How do I wire it into the system.

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You need to replace original bulbs, sockets, fuse box, starter etc with 12v equivalents or better yet check w/ JC Whitney company (Chicago) they specialized in conversion kits.

Posted on Mar 15, 2011

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  • Master
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My experience is heavily tilted toward GM vehicles, so if your manual says different things for your car, trust it instead of me. I know Ford and Chrysler are fairly close to this, but some imported models use some really weird variations on these basic systems. The basic theory is the same, but some of the wiring is, um, a bit more funky that is described here. In particular, I believe both the Ford and Chrysler alternator systems were externally regulated until well into the '80s, and neither has the remote voltage sensing feature. There are unique issues to be aware of on each one, so I'd suggest that you go read up on them elsewhere before you attempt a non-GM swap. Or, just be like me and stick a GM alternator in it even if it's not a GM. :-)
Electricity and Magnets This stuff is basic to any kind of electrical charging system, so you should understand this first. The only test will be if you know enough to do what you want to do without messing anything up. :-)
When you put electricity (current) down a wire, the wire will have a magnetic field around it. Conversely, if you move a wire through a magnetic field, a small current (electricity) is created in the wire. The more wires you use and/or the greater the strength of the magnetic field, the greater the effect becomes. These two inverse principles are the basis for electric motors, generators, alternators, and even things like the solenoid inside of a relay. If you have one item (movement or electricity), you can convert it into the other. Also tied in here is the fact that magnets repel and attract each other - that's part of how you make an electric motor move. You can use more turns of wire (windings) to generate a stronger effect.
What about voltage vs. current? Well, current is a measure of how much stuff is flowing down a wire - kind of like the number of gallons of water that are flowing down a pipe every second. Voltage is a measure of pressure - like how many pounds per square inch (PSI) of air are in your tires. They measure different things, but they can be confusing since you can't "see" electricity.
What about AC vs. DC? These stand for Alternating Current and Direct Current. AC is the stuff used in your house. DC is the stuff used in your car and what you get out a battery. The difference is that in DC current always flows in the same direction - from positive to negative (or, if you're a real physics geek, from negative to positive) - while AC alternates the flow of current between the two directions at some rate. This rate is expressed a cycles per second, or Hz (pronounced "hurtz"). In the USA, the electricity in your house is changing directions at 60Hz - 60 times a second.
The final tid-bit of information is that when you spin wires and magnets near each other, you create AC in the wire. This is because the wire and magnets are continuously moving closer to and farther away from each other in a repeated cycle. As they move closer together, the current moves one way. As they more farther apart, the current goes the other way. If you've ever seen the typical "sine wave" graph of AC power, that exactly what I'm talking about here. This is important because you need some way to make that AC into DC to use it in your car. The process of charging AC into DC is called rectification. How you choose to do that is the key design difference between an alternator and a generator.

Posted on Mar 15, 2011

  • 2 more comments 
  • Tre Elkins Mar 15, 2011

    Generators

    First up is the generator, also known as a dynamo. I explain it first because it functions in a more basic way and is easier for many people to understand. These are the original electrical generation units used on automobiles - it was much later on that alternators were invented and car manufacturers switched over to them. To understand alternators, you should make sure you have a basic understanding of generators as many of the pieces and basic theory are the same.

    The generator is like an electric motor in reverse. Instead of applying electricity to it to make it spin, when you spin it, it makes electricity. It does this by spinning a series of windings of fine wire (called the armature) inside of a fixed magnetic field by connecting them to a belt and pulley arrangement on the engine. As the armature is spun by the rotation of the belt and pulley, it gets a current and voltage generated in those windings of wire. That current and voltage will be directly proportional to the speed that the armature spins and to the strength of the magnetic field. If you spin it faster, it makes more and if you make the magnetic field stronger it makes more current. The speed of the spinning is controlled by the speed of the engine - that's why you need to rev the engine up to help charge the battery faster. The magnetic field is controlled by an electro-magnet, so by changing the amount of current supplied to the electro-magnets that make up the field you control the strength of the magnetic field. This current is referred to as the "field" current and it is controlled by the regulator in response to the electrical needs of the automobile at any given time.

    The voltage of the generator is controlled by the number of windings in the armature. The current output varies widely from zero if the battery is perfectly charged and nothing is using any power up to the maximum rated output of the generator. The current output is controlled by the field current, but also by the speed at which the armature is spinning. This is important because a generator can only put out it's maximum rated current at or above some speed - at lower speeds the output drops off very quickly. This is why a generator-equipped car will not charge (or even maintain!) the battery at idle and this is one of the main reasons for the development of the alternator.

    The current generated in the armature is AC - not DC. To get it converted to DC so it can charge your batter and run your headlights, a device called a commutator is used to "rectify" this situation. It is on the armature and has a series of contacts along it's outer surface. Two spring-loaded brushes slide on the commutator - one brush is connected to ground and the other is connected to the main output of the generator. As the armature and commutator assembly rotates, the brushes come touch the different contacts on the commutator such that the polarity of the current moving in the armature is always connected to the correct brushes. The net effect of this is that the generator output is always DC even though the current inside the armature windings is always AC.

    A generator has to be "polarized" after the system is connected and before it is used. This is typically done by momentarily connecting the main output terminal of the generator to the battery with a jumper wire. This allows things to be set up so that the generator produces power of the correct polarity due to residual magnetism in the generator. For a simple visual image, imagine trying to jump start a car and reversing the jumper cables on one vehicle. It's not something you really want to do - unless of course you like sparking, arcing, and possibly burning out electrical components... This is important if you ever disconnect a generator or regulator - you must polarize it (follow the instructions in the manuals for your car!) before starting the engine.

    A generator will have three connections - the field, the armature, and ground, although the ground is sometimes an "implied" connection because everything is metal and is bolted together. The field terminal is the smaller of the two main connections and is typically labeled "F". The armature is the bigger of the two main connections and is typically labeled "A" - this connections carries the main power output of the generator. Consult your manual for the specifics. All three connections go directly to the regulator and there will be a separate output on the regulator for the battery. The OEM regulator is almost always a mechanical device, although some aftermarket replacement units could be solid-state. (I don't know of any myself, but it is theoretically possible to build one.) A typical generator wiring diagram from a 1958 Buick is below for reference - click on the image to see a larger view.



    (Diagram is scanned from a 1958 Buick service manual)
    Alternators

  • Tre Elkins Mar 15, 2011

    Alternators

    The more modern and more capable alternator is explained here. Every modern vehicle uses an alternator - and for good reasons. It is more complicated than a generator, but that added complexity brings a few very good features that you will most certainly want on your vehicle - mainly the fact that it will charge the battery at idle and can support the higher amperages needed to run all of the electrical equipment on a modern vehicle. Alternators tend to be more reliable than a generator and have fewer "hard to diagnose" problems as the system ages - particularly the internally regulated models. The internally regulated models are also very easy to service if something goes wrong - there is only one part to fail (the alternator itself) and replacing it is a simple 30 minute job. This all adds up to the performance and reliability that is expected in a modern vehicle.

    The key different between an alternator and a generator is what spins and what is fixed. On a generator windings of wire (the armature) spin inside a fixed magnetic field. On an alternator, a magnetic field is spun inside of windings of wire called a stator to generate the electricity. This allows the wires to be directly and easily connected to their outputs without the need for sliding contacts to carry the relatively high output current. The magnetic field is still generated via electro magnets mounted on a rotor, and the relatively small field current that powers them is supplied to the rotor by two small brushes that each ride on a separate and continuous slip rings. These smooth slip rings (unlike the comparatively rough contacts on a commutator in a generator) and the fact that the relatively heavy windings are fixed instead of rotating allows the alternator to be spun to much higher speeds. This allows it to reach it's maximum output sooner and to be spun fast enough at engine idle speeds to produce enough electricity to power most (if not all) of the needs of the car without relying on the battery.

    There are typically three separate windings of wire in the stator that are all set to so that the AC current that is generated is slightly out of phase in each one. The peaks and valleys of the rising and falling current do not happen at the same time, rather they are staggered a bit. This increases and smoothes the electrical output of the alternator much the same way that a 8 cylinder car runs more smoothly than a 4 cylinder one does - there are more power pulses happening in each revolution allowing more total power and better smoothness.

    The process of rectifying the AC current into DC current is handled inside the alternator by something more complex than a commutator - diodes. A diode is a "solid state" device that allows current to flow in one direction only - "solid state" means it does this without any mechanical or moving parts. It relies on the different electrical properties of the materials it is made of to act as a one-way valve for current. By arranging diodes so that current from each of the three stator wires is only allowed to pass in one direction, and by connecting the three outputs together, you get a reasonably smooth and stable DC output without any moving parts. (This arrangement is typically manufactured as a single part and is referred to as the diode pack or diode trio.) This lack of moving parts makes the alternator not only very reliable - but also comparatively inexpensive to build and repair. That diode trio costs well something trivial like $1 to produce in large quantities.

    Alternators do not need to be polarized after installation. You mount them to the engine, plug them in, and go. This is an advantage for not only manufacturing the car but for servicing it as well.

    On externally regulated models, there are typically four connections on the alternator - the large output terminal (BAT), the ground terminal (GRD) which may be "implied" though the metal mountings of the alternator, the field connection (F), and terminal #2 on the regulator is a separate connection to one of the three poles on the stator (R). Unlike on a generator, the BAT terminal is directly connected to the battery and the rest of the cars wiring system, while only the F, R, and GRD connections will connect to the regulator. Also, terminal #3 on the regulator (if present) is connected to the main junction block for the wiring system and serves as a "remote voltage sensing" wire. Terminal #4 on the regulator will be connected via small wires to the charge indicator light on the dashboard of the car and the charge resistance wire. The regulator itself can be a mechanical or solid state device. A typical externally regulated alternator wiring diagram from a 1963 Buick is below for reference - click on the image to see a larger view.


    (Diagram is scanned from a 1970 Buick service manual)



    On internally regulated models, there are also four connections on the alternator, but there is no separate regulator in the system - it is inside the alternator and constructed of solid-state components. The connections here are the large output terminal (BAT), the ground terminal (GRD) which may be "implied" though the metal mountings of the alternator, and two connections typically labeled simply 1 and 2. Terminal #1 on an internally regulated alternator is the same as terminal #4 on the regulator of an externally regulated system - it connects to a small wire that is goes to the charge indicator light on the dashboard of the car and the charge resistance wire. Terminal #2 on an internally regulated alternator matches terminal #3 on an external regulator - it is connected to the main junction block for the wiring system and serves as a "remote voltage sensing wire". If you are comparing to the externally regulated wiring, then you will note that the F and 2/R wiring connections are done inside the alternator. A typical internally regulated alternator wiring diagram from a 1973 Buick is below for reference - click on the image to see a larger view.


    (Diagram is scanned from a 1973 Buick service manual)

  • Tre Elkins Mar 15, 2011

    Simply run a charge wire from the battery
    terminal on the alternator to the positive terminal on the battery. The
    one-wire regulator is a self-exciting regulator, meaning that it has
    sensing circuitry for alternator rotation. As the alternator starts to
    spin, this circuitry connects the internal voltage regulator to the
    battery and turns the alternator on. When the alternator comes to a
    complete stop, this same circuitry turns
    the alternator off.

  • Tre Elkins Mar 15, 2011

    if there is anything else i can do for you just let me know, also please dont forget to rate and click the green accept button..... thanks

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