Keeping a racecar running properly takes more than just a good engine tune-up — you need to have the right amount of power being supplied to key systems. Having a quality alternator is certainly important to generating power, but you have to make sure that alternator is wired correctly to get the most out of it.
Before you even decide on what alternator you want to use, the correct wiring needs to be in place to maximize what it can do. The current requirements will help in the selection process of your charge wire. The more items you have that need to be powered, the larger the wire you will need. If your wire is too small it will generate heat and resistance that will rob your electronics of the ability to perform properly. You also need to use a quality multi-strand wire so you can move the right amount of current, and it must be the right gauge of wire for your application.
The power wire is just one part of the wiring of an alternator — you also have to make sure your ground wire is properly addressed. With racecars using so many different electronics, having a common path for the ground is important. If the circuit hasn’t been completed correctly there could be performance issues that occur from occasional electrical interference. Not only will this cause performance issues, but it could also damage expensive and sensitive electronics that are being used.
Powermaster’s Chris Donaldson offers some advice on how to install and wire an alternator correctly as it applies to the XS line of products.
“The charge wire needs to exceed the demands for current. Racers need to consider the distance from the alternator post to the battery positive terminal and ensure that the proper gauge wires and length are used. It’s also recommended to ground the housing of the alternator directly to the engine block or common chassis ground. High output alternators require a tight belt, and unlike the old days, you don’t need to worry about wearing out the bearings or seals of the water pump or alternator itself. We recommend putting a socket on the alternator pulley and if you can turn the pulley with a long ratchet wrench, the belt should be tightened more.”
Wiring any alternator like the XS unit from Powermaster properly also allows you as a racer to get the most out of the product. The XS alternators are available in various Denso, GM, and Ford housing-style sizes. Besides size options, the XS alternators give you the ability to turn the voltage up or down depending on if you use a 12-, 14-, or 16-volt system.
“If a racer currently has a 12-volt system but plans to upgrade to a 16-volt system in the next season or two, they’re ahead of the game and will save money since they can easily dial-up the output to support a 16-volt system. Each XS alternator has an advanced internal regulator with an adjustable potentiometer to allow the racer to adjust the voltage point between 13.5 – 18.5-volt output,” Donaldson explains.
If you’re looking for a new alternator or how to wire a system, check out the Powermaster website here.