Will a high amperage alternator damage your electrical system?
When upgrading your car audio system, it’s important to consider the extra power requirements that come with an enhanced audio system. Your factory alternator may or may not be sufficient. The question is often not whether you need a more powerful alternator, but how big it should be and how much is too much.
How many alternators is too much?
Photosmash / E+ / Getty Images
Photosmash / E+ / Getty Images
The good news is that replacing a factory alternator with a high-powered one won’t in itself damage the rest of your car’s electronics, even if the new alternator is much, much larger than the old one.
As an example that’s probably more prone to the absurd, let’s say you determined that the sum of your new audio system and your car’s pre-existing power requirements is over 200A. You decide on a 300A alternator for a safety net.
Even if you somehow find a high-amperage alternator that can produce 300A while fitting in the engine compartment, that extra amperage will only be used well when and when your gear really needs it. Rest assured the only downside to a very large alternator is that it’s a waste of money and won’t damage your electrical system.
The main caveat is that if your sound system is really demanding that many amps, there are a few changes you need to make before you actually install a high amp alternator. What It’s big, but it’s more to protect the power and ground wires from burning out than to protect the sensitive electronics that keep your car running.
High amperage alternator supply and demand
If you are worried about a high amperage alternator supplying a lot of power to your ECU or any other component in your electrical system, there is no need to do so.
The amperage rating on an alternator is basically just the amount of current the unit can output, not always the amount it delivers. So if all the electronics in your car are drawing only 60A together, your 300A alternator will only produce 60A.
The way current works is that any electrical component draws only the amps it needs to operate. So while a powerful amp can absorb 150A, you don’t have to worry about that same 150A getting into your fancy LED headlights and blowing them up.
Since amperage is a function of power divided by volts, it essentially works on the basis of supply and demand – the alternator only supplies the amps each component needs. The alternator produces enough amps to meet the needs of the combined electrical system at any given time, and then each component gets its fair share.
To determine how many amps a component will draw, you can divide its power by the system voltage. So basic 50 watt headlights will only draw 4A (50W / 13.5V), even if your big amp draws much more than that.
Do you really need a high amperage alternator?
Every electrical component in your car must draw a certain amount of amperage to operate. If you don’t make any changes or add additional electronics you should generally have no problems with the stock alternator.
The problem is that factory alternators typically run against ragged leads in terms of factory component requirements, so installing power-hungry aftermarket equipment can cause it not to have enough power to get around. This may manifest as flashing or dim headlights, or your engine may even stall.
In some cases, overloading an already anemic factory alternator can even lead to premature failure. And if you replace the broken alternator with one with the same specification, the same thing will probably happen again.
How many alternator amps do you need?
Most basic audio components don’t draw a lot of amps. For example, a standard headunit with a built-in amplifier can draw less than 10A. By comparison, typical headlights also draw about 10A, a demister draws up to 15A, and air conditioning typically draws over 20A.
In most cases, you can upgrade to a spare radio without worrying too much about installing a high-power alternator. However, there are cases where you will obviously accumulate more than the factory alternator can handle.
Once you start building a batch of aftermarket audio equipment, especially powerful amplifiers, things can quickly get out of hand. For example, installing a power amplifier that draws 70 or more amps in a car that comes with a basic stereo from the factory can cause major problems if the alternator is only capable of producing 60 A at startup.
Factory electrical systems have different tolerances, but if you plan to increase the requirements by more than 10 or 15 percent, a high-power alternator may be a good idea.
If you need a little extra juice, a car audio capacitor may be a better choice.
High amp alternator electrical system changes required
While the electronics in your car can’t be damaged by a large alternator, there are two things that can happen: the alternator power cord and the grounding strip or strips.
These wires may not be large enough as a high amperage alternator will produce much more power than the factory unit and your power and ground wires are chosen with the OEM unit in mind.
When you install a high amperage alternator, or if someone else does, you should consider replacing the ground straps and power cable from the alternator to the battery with heavier gauge wires.
Although it is possible to calculate about The right size for the maximum amperage you will be interested in, a good rule of thumb is to use the thickest meter that will work in the application.
you really can’t go also in this case the bigger and thicker the wires the better – especially if you go with that monstrous 300A alternator.
How to Choose an Alternator: Can High Output Alternators Cause Damage?
Will a high amp alternator damage your electrical system?
When you upgrade your car audio, it’s important to consider the extra power requirements that come along with a beefed-up sound system. Your factory alternator may be enough, or it might not cut it. The question usually isn’t if you need a stronger alternator, but how much bigger it needs to be, and how much is too much.
How Much Alternator Is Too Much?
photosmash / E+ / Getty Images
The good news is that replacing a factory alternator with a high output alternator, in and of itself, isn’t going to damage the rest of the electronics in your car, even if the new alternator is much, much bigger than the old one.
As an example that trends closer to the ridiculous than the likely, let’s say that you determine that your new sound system, plus the preexisting power requirements of your car, add up to well over 200A. For a safety net, you decide on a 300A alternator.
Even if you manage to find a high amp alternator that’s capable of putting out a massive 300A while still somehow fitting in your engine compartment, that extra amperage will only be tapped if and when your equipment actually needs it. You can rest easy that the only downside to an alternator that’s too big is that it’s a waste of money, and it won’t damage your electrical system.
The main caveat is that if your sound system really does require that much amperage, there are a few modifications that you need to make before installing a high amp alternator that’s really that big, but they’re more to prevent power and ground cables from burning up than to protect the sort of delicate electronics that keep your car going.
High Amp Alternator Supply and Demand
If you’re worried about a high amp alternator providing too much power to your ECU, or any other component in your electrical system, you don’t need to.
The amperage rating on an alternator is basically just the amount of current that the unit is capable of putting out, not the amount it always puts out. So if all of the electronics in your car, put together, only draw 60A, then your beastly 300A alternator will only produce 60A.
The way that current works is that any given electrical component will only draw as much amperage as it needs to operate. So while a powerful amplifier might suck up 150A, you don’t need to worry about that same 150A surging into your fancy LED headlights and blowing them out.
Since amperage is a function of wattage divided by volts, it essentially works based on supply and demand — the alternator only supplies as much amperage as each component demands. The alternator generates enough amperage to meet the needs of the combined electrical system at any given time, and then each component draws its share.
In order to determine how much amperage a component is going to draw, you can divide its wattage by the voltage of the system. So basic 50-watt headlamps are only going to pull maybe 4A (50W / 13.5V), even if your big amp is drawing many times more than that.
Do You Really Need a High Amp Alternator?
Every electrical component in your car needs to draw some amount of amperage to function. If you don’t make any modifications or add any additional electronics, then you’ll typically be just fine with the stock alternator.
The issue is that factory alternators typically run right up against the ragged edge in terms of factory component requirements, so installing any power-hungry aftermarket equipment can lead to a lack of enough power to go around. That can manifest as flickering or dim headlights, or your engine may even die.
In some circumstances, overloading an already anemic factory alternator can even lead to early failure. And if you just replace the broken down alternator with another one that has the same specifications, the same thing will probably just happen again.
How Much Alternator Amperage Do You Need?
Most basic audio components don’t draw too much amperage. For instance, a standard head unit with a built-in amp might draw less than 10A. In comparison, typical headlights are also about a 10A draw, a defroster can pull up to 15A, and air conditioning typically draws more than 20A.
In a lot of cases, you can upgrade to an aftermarket radio without worrying too much about installing a high output alternator. However, there are cases where you’ll clearly end up piling on more than the factory alternator can handle.
When you start installing a bunch of aftermarket audio equipment, especially powerful amps, things can quickly get out of hand. For instance, installing a power amp that draws 70 or more amps in a car that shipped from the factory with a basic stereo, could cause huge problems if the alternator is only capable of putting out 60A to begin with.
Factory electrical systems have differing tolerances, but if you’re planning on upping the requirements by more than 10 or 15 percent, then a high output alternator may be a good idea.
If you just need a little extra juice, a car audio capacitor may be a better choice.
Necessary High Amp Alternator Electrical System Modifications
Although the individual electronic components in your car won’t be damaged by a big alternator, there are two things that might be: the alternator power lead and the ground strap or straps.
Since a high amp alternator will be putting out a lot more juice than the factory unit, and your power and ground cables were chosen with the OEM unit in mind, these cables might not be big enough.
When you install a high amp alternator, or when you have someone else install it, you should consider replacing both the ground straps and the power cable that runs from the alternator to the battery with heavier gauge cables.
Although it is possible to calculate roughly the right size based on the maximum amperage you’ll be dealing with, a good rule of thumb is to just go with the thickest gauge that will work in the application.
You can’t really go too big in this case, and the thicker the cables, the better off you’ll be — especially if you do go with that monster of a 300A alternator.
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- #Choose #Alternator #High #Output #Alternators #Damage