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Old 30-06-2008, 01:34   #1
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Help please with alternator regulator

Hi group!

I'm just a week into a 5 week trip around Vancouver Island and my alternator isn't putting any juice back into batteries. I suspect the alternator regulator but I'd like any other diagnoses and/or advice.

My system is:
- unknown brand and size of alternator (I'll try to crawl in ot look at it tomorrow). But it has worked well for at least the past two years I've owned it
- house bank is four new 6 V, 390 Ah AGM batteries is serial/parallet to give a 12V bank with 780 Ah. They replaced an identical size and set up bank of wet cell Torjan's
- starter bank is single wet-cell battery, 1 yr old
- 330 W of solar panels
- all charging sources lead to the house bank
- Xantrex Echo-Charger uses house bank to charge starter batt
- Heart Incharge alternator regulator
- Xantrex Link 1000

The alternator is doing nothing, to solar is mostly able to keep up with demand but I'm about to head beyond "civilization" and need more charging options. To diagnose I disconnected the solar and then started the engine. The battery voltage (and positive terminal of the alternator) stayed at 12.V relative to ground for an hour. With further draws to run navigation system and fridge, that slowly fell.

I measured:
- battery at 12.5 V
- alternator postive terminal (wired strate to house bank) and 12.4 V
- alternator field at 12.2 V

Taking the cover off the alternator regualtor there are a few brittlle and "aged" plastic adjustment screws which I don't dare touch. On that basis I'm guessing that the controller is at fault.

Any thoughts?

My plan is to buy a new controller tomorrow and hope that fixes it. If it doesn't anything else I should try?

Thanks!

Craig
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Old 30-06-2008, 01:59   #2
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I would buy another alternator and try that, alternator's do go bad and need replacing. I have seen alternator's seize up completely and it sure would be nice to have that spare on board. Your alternator may have other issues perhaps your charge controller is at fault. I am sure others will chime in with more advise. You should be able to take a volt meter and test the alternator while running and see just how much it is putting out.
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Old 30-06-2008, 02:12   #3
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Buying a new alt is a bit drastic I would have thought :-)
First step you have done.
Second step is remove the Alt and have it checked over. Yes it could be the regulator or it could be brushes and brushes would be a good first on the list.
Now with a battery bank the size you have, if the Alt is really tired and it is going to cost to fix, a good size Alt would be worth the money if you can afford a new one. So if you have an Alt smaller than 100A, I would suggest you look at something new. Of course it depends on the size of your engine, but a 180 to 230A Alt would be good for 780Ah. 780Ahr?? mate! you must have the place lit up like Las Vagas. :-)
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Old 30-06-2008, 04:57   #4
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I agree with Alan. Remove the alternator and have it checked. I had my alternator checked two different times and both times the automotive shop said it was good. So I bought a voltage regulator. The shop doubted it was the voltage regulator(they checked that also) but I insisted on spending the $85. I was not the voltage regulator it was my combination inverter/battery charger. The batteries were so discharged, the battery charger/inverter would not charge the batteries. The charger was designed that way. When I charged the batteries with another automotive type battery charger, everything was fine. When I mentioned what I did to a marine mechanic, he said that was the nature of my inverter/battery charger.
John
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Old 30-06-2008, 06:46   #5
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Don't remove anything just yet! Its time for test #1:

It sounds like you have an external regulator--a separate box from the alternator.

This regulator box should have at least 4 wires leading to it. One wire (usually red) will go to a positive battery post, one wire (usually brown) will to to a circuit which gets +12V when the engine starts, one wire (usually black)will be a ground, and one wire (usually blue)will go to the field terminal on the alternator.

Take your trusty multimeter, and hook the black probe to a good ground. Now start the engine and test the voltage on each wire, preferrably at the regulator. You should get:

Red +12V, or whatever the batteries are at
Brown +11-12V (zero before the engine starts)
Black 0V
Blue +12V for dead batteries, dropping down to perhaps +5V for fully charged batteries.

If you don't get +12V on the red and brown and zero on the black, you have a wiring problem. If the first three are OK and you don't get at least 5 volts on the blue, you probably have a faulty regulator. However, they are tricky, and you should also run the following simple test on your alternator before you replace the regulator.

Regulator bypass test--unplug or disconnect the field wire (usally blue, and the terminal on the alternaor is usually marked with an F) from the back of the alternator. Now connect a piece of wire to that terminal. Take another piece of wire and connect one end to a good +12V source, like the battery terminal. Connect one probe of your multimeter to ground and the other probe to the alternator output terminal. Now start the engine, and connect your two wires together, so that the field terminal gets 12 volts. You should see a (small) spark, and you should see an immediate increase in the multimeter voltage. If you don't see the voltage jump at least 0.5V, its now time to take the alternator out and to the shop.
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Old 30-06-2008, 06:49   #6
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Soirry, I missed the field voltage in your original post--if its 12.2V, you have an alternator problem, not a regulator problem. Check the belt tension, and if its tight, its time to work on the alternator.
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Old 30-06-2008, 07:07   #7
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Alternator should be putting out 13 to 13.5 volts.
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Old 01-07-2008, 01:08   #8
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Post Mortem

(I'll keep this short since my internet connection seems a bit flaky right now.)

Thanks for the help. It was the alternator. So I bought a new Balmar 600 series 100 Amp alternator and their Max charge regulator. Five hours later the alternaotr, controller, new bigger wire, fuses, etc was installed and looked good on my test run. Other than being a day behind schedule now (and several hundred dollars poorer) it was fairly painless process. I've also learned aton about alternators.

Thanks again. I've got to get to bed so I can get an early start.

Alan, you're right about the battery bank - BIG. That was the size the PO had used and I just swapped in replacements (albeit AGM vs wet cell). I've learned that he knew what he was doing and if in doubt I should follow his lead until I understand the system well enough to change it. Besides, if I'm staying put, I'd rather run the engine only once or twice a week to charge the batteries if I can help it. As a wise man told me once "more is good-er"

Craig
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:23   #9
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Have the old alternator repaired and keep it on board. If.......your alternator freezes up you cannot turn the fresh water pump, (ie you cannot cool the engine). You can get by with limited electric but you cannot get by with out the water pump turning.
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Old 01-07-2008, 22:13   #10
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Cadence..glad you got that worked out. Even if the old alt was working, you would have ruined your new AGM's without a 3 stage charger. So...fortunate that it broke when it did. I second the notion to rebuild and keep the old one for a spare.

Now a question. Your specs for the Trojans looked very fishy to me. The ONLY 6V AGM they have on their site has a 20hr rating of 200amphours. This means that 2 combined into a 12V bank would give you 200AH at 12 volts. Using 4 batteries in 2 12volt pairs would give you 400 amp hours rather than the 780 you report.
Exactly what batteries did you get from trojan (or any other mfr.) that are 6V's and 390ah's each? Not saying you're wrong...just have never seen a 6V rated that high and I can't find it on trojan's site. Could you be looking at the wrong specs or did I read you wrong? Could be quite important to know this for your charging and discharging regimen and setting your link1000 properly... is the reason I am asking!
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Old 02-07-2008, 03:47   #11
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Originally Posted by camaraderie View Post
... Your specs for the Trojans looked very fishy to me. The ONLY 6V AGM they have on their site has a 20hr rating of 200amphours...
... Exactly what batteries did you get from trojan (or any other mfr.) that are 6V's and 390ah's each? ...
Craig replaced wet Trojans with AGMs of unstated provenance.

Notwithstanding (like you), Im not aware of a 6V 390 A/H AGM battery.
Ie: Lifeline #GPL-6CT is only 300A/H
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:48   #12
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Craig replaced wet Trojans with AGMs of unstated provenance.

Notwithstanding (like you), Im not aware of a 6V 390 A/H AGM battery.
Ie: Lifeline #GPL-6CT is only 300A/H
Fullriver makes two L16-type 6V AGM batteries, one's rated 380Ah, and the other is 400Ah.
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Old 10-07-2008, 23:13   #13
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Battery sizes

I understand the questions about the batteries. They do have some unusual specs.

I used to have four Trojan L16P's. That's 6 V with a 20 hr rate of 390 Ahrs. Their new literature gives the similar L16H battery a bit better: http://www.trojanbattery.com/Product...eet-Marine.pdf

I replaced them with Discover EVL16A-A. It also has 390 Ahrs at 20 hr rate.
http://discover-energy.com/files/dat...s/EVL16A-A.pdf

With four of them I have 780 Ahrs of 12V.

My boat easily accomodated tall relatively skinny batteries like the L16's, but there was no way I could get in the short, wide and long 8D's. So I looked hard for a L16 AGM. It took me a LONG time to track down the Discover batteries. Hopefully this is a good tip for somebody else in that situation.

BTW, the new alternator didn't align perfectly (I was surprised to discover that the old one didn't either), but it's workable. I appreciate the feature in the Balmar regulator that lets me reduce the amps output by the alternator. I've set it to give me 50% of the normal amperage. It's good enough for now since I'm motoring a lot on this trip and I don't need to recharge quickly right now. And it also limits the work the belt has to do and hence the belt wear (and I have spares). I'll set it back for normal operation once I've had a custom bracket made.

Craig
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