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Old 31-03-2011, 06:00   #1
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Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

I have an apparent problem where my alternator (Balmar 6 series) turns on and off while the engine is running.
This morning my battery voltage was at 12 volts, and I started the engine and ran it at 1500 rpm. I see 55amps going into the batteries according to the link monitor.
After running for a while, I notice that the alternator seems to turn on and off every couple of minutes. It is wired up to go through an Incharge, heart interface regulator.
If I watch the voltage, it will climb to around 13.2 before the alternator turns off and the amber light (which I believe is 'accept' on the regulator starts blinking. That happens for a couple of minutes and the voltage reading drops back down to 12.2 or so before the alternator kicks back in again.
It's a big waste of diesel trying to charge like this, if anyone has some troubleshooting suggestions I'd appreciate it.

I did wonder if my solar panel could be somehow interfering, so I pointed it away from the sun (I don't have a way to fully disconnect it.) That does not seem to make a difference.


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Old 31-03-2011, 06:37   #2
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

sgtPluck, you do not mention what type of voltage regulator you are using but I suspect that may be the problem. I don't have any experience with the Yanmar 6 series (and apologies, I don't recall if has internal regulation), but many of the smart regulators have temperature sensors, etc. which could can lead to the alternator shutting down sproadically.



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Old 31-03-2011, 06:51   #3
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

My external regulator is an incharge, Heart Interface, "3 stage alternator regulator" Model 84-2006-00.
My Balmar 6 series alternator can use internal or external regulation. I have it set up to use the external regulator.

The external regulator is pretty basic, there are settings to adjust voltage rates, but those should all be correct for my AGM batteries already.

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Old 31-03-2011, 06:54   #4
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

Sgt Pluck.
I have had a similar problem with my system. (W58 with dumb regulator) I too have solar panels and had no way to disconnect my different charging systems. My problem was while motoring my Tach would quit. At first I thought it was a loose belt since my tach signal comes from the alternator. I would turn off the engine, tighten the belt and restart and all was well for a while. What I discovered however is that the solar panels would make the alternator turn off. I learned that if I turned on extra loads, running lights, steaming lights etc. the tach would come back online. Just yesterday I wired in a A-B battery switch so I can now choose which charging system I use, 110vac battery charger, solar or engine. I haven't put it to a good test yet but have high hope it will work.
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Old 18-04-2011, 23:42   #5
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

I had a similar "problem" with a Balmar alternator and external regulator. I finally figured that I was running the engine too slowly..!!! The alternator's cooling relies on its own cooling fan which needs to spin at a fair speed (cant tell you how fast it needs to turn) during high alternator output. The alternator housing became very hot and its temperature sensor was linked to the regulator.
I simply increased the engine revs by a few hundred rpm during the first 10-15 minutes of running. Problem gone.
On the same subject, during prolonged engine running the alternator could be heard coming on and off load. This was also due to the regulator cutting in and out, as it was designed to do to at the latter end of the charge cycle.
All this could be observed through the Xantrex battery monitor.
The things one learns whilst sailing!!!!!!
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Old 19-04-2011, 04:11   #6
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

Doubt the problem is the Balmar alternator; in general, if it's capable of charging intermittently, then it can be made to charge continuously .

More likely an issue with your regulator. We see these problems all the time with mixed brand like Heart regulator and Balmar alternator. Not that your regulator is broken of faulty, but that it's not compatible.

I use a Balmar Maxcharge 612 regulator for my Balmar alternator, and have never had a problem.
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Old 19-04-2011, 04:20   #7
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, daniel.oshaughn.
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Old 19-04-2011, 04:55   #8
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

From your description, the regulator is the first suspect. It's easy enough to check. If you disconnect the field wire from the regulator and connect it to a 12 volt positive, the alternator should go to full output. It's unregulated at this point, so keep a close watch on the battery voltage and disconnect the field wire if it gets too high.. If it works and doesn't cut out, you've isolated the problem to the regulator or its wiring.
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Old 19-04-2011, 05:21   #9
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

I suspect it's your regulator not your alternator doing this. I suggest more research required here. As your battery approaches full-charge, this might be desired behaviour - the regulator is conditioning your battery.
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Old 15-08-2014, 12:44   #10
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

Im resurrecting this thread because Im having the same problem as the OP and not sure the original issue was ever resolved.

I recently unplugged from shore power with batteries full, motored about 5 hours, and dropped the anchor for the night. Had consistent alternator/tach performance the whole time. When I restarted the engine in the morning the 440 AH house battery bank was down about 40 AH. Motoring out of the anchorage the alternator was cutting in and out maybe every 30-60 seconds. During off times the battery monitor dropped from showing positive amps in to negative amps out. Turning on high amp draw items didnt help. It took about an hour of motoring to stabilize to where the tach was staying on solidly and the alternator putting out consistently. I have a 20 year old Balmar external regulator and Im considering trying the MC-614-H in its place but I hope Im not barking up the wrong tree?
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Old 15-08-2014, 13:39   #11
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

almost surely the regulator starting to go bad and "sticking" in one of its' time delays

When they go they pretty much just go. Last year mine decided to stick in the start up mode. BTW if it is an older Balmar ARS-4 the newer ARS-5 will plug right in and even use the old wire harness
stop blowing smoke up my rear, blow it at the sails instead
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Old 15-08-2014, 13:54   #12
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Re: Alternator Cutting Out Intermittently

I've worked on literally hundreds of alternators problems and I have never seen a case where an external regulator was incompatible with an alternator. Not to say that I just haven't seen them and they are out there but I am doubtful. An alternator may not operate right but it should be the same if it gets input to its field to turn off and on by a regulator. Alternators aren't really biased that I know of. In general, if an alternator can put out full juice then it should be able to do it with a properly functioning regulator.

If you can rule out the alternator as being the problem then it is either wiring or the regulator itself, as influenced by the batteries and other charging sources which can certainly make an impact. When testing an alternator you should turn off all other charge sources and make sure the battery has some juice drained off of it. A good regulator and good alternator should not produce a charge if the batteries are already topped off. One thing you should do is to make a note of voltages when you are checking any of this out as you may see different results at different battery voltages.

Always, always double check all the wiring - especially the itty bitty wires that go to the regulator. If you have battery and/or alternator temp sensors then disconnect them and see if it makes a difference too. They can be bad sometimes. And, check the big wires on the alternator. They vibrate and can come loose and give intermittent results (AND it could cause a fire which has happened. I replaced all the wiring in the engine room for a cruiser in Mexico once for that. He was lucky he had just left the anchorage and we could race out with dinks to bring him back in).

And someone mentioned that the speed of the engine could matter so try that. If you put on a lot of loads while checking and the alternator comes on that will bring down the battery voltage before the regulator starts the alternator, which it should do. On boats with microwaves, I would nuke a cup of water for 60 sec and then try the alternator. That normally pulls the batteries down enough to cause the regulator to turn on the alternator (but not with huge banks - you would need to bring them down by other means). All said I would suspect the regulator if the alternator works at all.

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