16 April 2018

Whether or not the alternator gets swapped out, it looks like its wiring needs revisiting. The alternator connects through the fuse box to the battery. The catch is, I added a battery cut-off switch upstream of the fuse box and bad things can happen if the switch is opened with the engine running. At best, the engine quits as it should, though I now think it won’t. Since the alternator feeds in downstream of the switch, it would likely self-power the system and the engine would keep running. At worst, not only would the engine keep running, but with no voltage reference, the alternator could generate voltage spikes high enough to damage the ECU. I’m too chicken to try it and find out.

The alternator feed-in point needs to be moved directly to the battery. As a related issue, the wire connecting the alternator to the battery is way too small (I blame the Painless Wiring kit but should have known better). It’s 10-gauge but needs to be much larger; the PowerMaster site claims that a 7-ft wire running 125 amps requires at least #6, if not #4. Yes, 125A is extreme, but having everything on in stop-and-go traffic with a flat battery could get there, albeit briefly. Wire size doesn’t seem like it could be the sole cause of the voltage drop, but it can’t be entirely ruled out either. Copper has a positive temperature coefficient, meaning the hotter it is, the more resistance it has, which causes voltage drops with current (this is why a hot starter won’t crank an engine). Still, air temperature rising only 20C wouldn’t be enough to account for the problem… only there’s more to it. The alternator wire runs down the center tunnel, sharing space with the coolant pipes. There’s a fair chance that it’s seeing around 60C or so, increasing resistance by around 16%. That still doesn’t fully explain the situation because the wire temperature in the center tunnel likely doesn’t vary much. Guess I just have to try it to  see; right now I still think there’s still a good chance the problem is an overly-sensitive voltage regulator in the alternator. Regardless, the alternator wire needs to be upgraded no matter what alternator is used, so this is a cheap experiment before spending money on other things.