An upgraded alternator is a great way to ensure your car audio system can handle the demands of playing at maximum volume for a long time.
If you are looking for better car audio performance, one of the most sought-after upgrades is to replace the factory alternator with a high output alternator, but how can you update the alternator? Let’s find out.
Upgrading an alternator for car audio means installing a high-output (high amperage) alternator. Upgrading a car alternator can be done by replacing the factory alternator with the stronger one or adding an additional alternator to the system. Upgrading alternators is the only way to ensure that you get enough current without compromising the vehicle’s or audio system’s performance.
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Tip: If you are not ready to make an alternator change, you can consider installing a BIG3 Kit that will slightly improve the current flow, especially between the amplifier, battery, and the car’s chassis.
BIG3 Kit will not produce extra current to the demanding system.
In this article, I will show you everything you need to know about upgrading your alternator, its benefits, and some tips on what to look for when replacing it.
How to Upgrade Alternator for Car Audio?
The main benefit of upgrading the alternator in your car is the ability to power more and larger aftermarket car audio equipment.
If you have some large amplifiers, subwoofers, and speakers, you will need a good alternator upgrade to avoid overloading your car’s electrical system.
Upgraded alternators can charge your vehicle’s battery faster, allowing you to watch DVDs on long trips or listen to your favorite music without draining your battery.
Installation of a high output alternator is something that professional car audio installers can do for you, but if you would like to save money on this service, you can install an upgraded alternator yourself.
Here are some things you will need to upgrade your alternator:
You will need to remove the old alternator before installing the new one, so you’ll need to have some tools handy.
A socket wrench set and ratcheting wrench set are ideal for this project.
You may also want a few screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and a breaker bar if you need additional leverage when removing stuck bolts.
To mane sure
Get a good and high output alternator. You should always ensure that any replacement alternator you buy is of good quality.
There are plenty of generic alternators available, but when it comes to the high output, the best ones are from Mechman (link to Amazon).
Your old belt will most likely be worn out by this time, so it is recommended to buy a new belt (link to Amazon) and replace it together with the alternator.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Installing a New Alternator
Installing a new car alternator is pretty straightforward. However, before you begin installing a new alternator, disconnect the battery.
Disconnect the negative battery cable from the battery to prevent any electric shock and loosen any bolts or clamps that hold down the battery.
Locate the belt tensioner carefully on the alternator belt drive pulley. A rubber boot may cover the pulley, so you may need to remove the boot to get access.
Loosen or remove the bolt or nut holding down the tensioner bracket with a wrench and slide the tensioner to unlock the position.
Remove belt with 15mm wrench.
Now you should be able to remove the alternator from the engine bay and unbolt the power distributor if your car has one installed.
Once you have removed your alternator, replace it with a new one by reversing all of these steps in reverse order. Next, put all your components back together. Finally, mount the belt, and test it with the tensioning tool at the end.
Connect your battery back and start your engine to see if everything is working perfectly.
What Are Some Challenges of Upgrading the Alternator?
Alternators can be pretty complicated, and there are many challenges when it comes to upgrading the alternator for a vehicle.
Here are some common challenges you may face when upgrading the car alternator:
Alternators Can Be Difficult to Change
The alternator is a sensitive piece of equipment, and it can be damaged easily. Therefore, most people may find it easier to take their car into a mechanic shop to have their alternators replaced.
The Cost of Upgrading an Alternator Can Be Very High.
An upgraded alternator can cost hundreds of dollars.
A Voltage Regulator Needs to Be Installed.
The voltage regulator needs to be fixed because if you don’t, this can cause damage to the car’s electrical equipment.
The voltage regulator is present to help sustain a constant charging level of electricity.
All Wires Must Have Solid Connections.
You have to make sure that all of the wires are correctly connected and that there are no loose connections anywhere in the system.
It is highly recommended that you find an expert mechanic for this job as it’s much safer than trying to do it yourself, especially if you’re a beginner and this is your first time handling such work.
Increased Fuel Consumption
The increased power output of an upgraded alternator can lead to slightly higher fuel consumption.
However, this usually balances out over time because you won’t have to replace your battery as often, and the electrical system’s overall performance improves.
What Does An Alternator Do?
The alternator is a device that charges the battery and provides power to the car’s electrical system.
It powers the headlights, tail lights, windscreen wiper, car stereo, speakers, amplifier, subwoofer, air conditioner, power windows, power locks, etc.
Most importantly, the alternator enables you to start the engine without a jump-start.
The alternator is responsible for converting mechanical energy into electrical energy by using the force of a rotating shaft in the steps below:
- The engine turns the alternator’s shaft, causing it to spin inside its housing. As the alternator spins, it creates a magnetic field that induces an electric current in its windings.
- A rectifier converts the alternating current output into direct current to charge the battery and power the car’s electrical components.
The principal components in an alternator include field coils, armature coils, diodes, and brushes.
The field coils are wound around a metal core that acts as a magnet. The armature coils are positioned on top of the field coils and are mounted inside a metal can or housing.
The armature coils produce current when they rotate inside the magnetic field produced by the field coils.
Alternator’s conversion process uses diodes and semiconductor devices that allow current to flow only in one direction.
The brushes connect to one end of the armature coils. They press against a series of springy steel contacts connected to the battery’s positive terminal, which completes the circuit between them and drives electrons along wires that lead from the alternator to other parts of the vehicle’s electrical system.
Why Upgrade Alternator?
When it comes to car audio, many different components can affect the quality of the sound you get.
One of the most important parts is the alternator, which supplies the electrical power needed to run your stereo’s amplifiers and subwoofers.
If your alternator isn’t up to par, you’ll suffer from several issues that will hurt the quality of your music.
Here are a few signs that you might need to upgrade your alternator:
The Inability to Handle High Output Amplifiers
If you have a high-powered aftermarket amplifier in your vehicle, its electrical current draw can put additional stress on your factory alternator.
Over time, this stress could overheat the alternator, damaging it and causing it to fail.
Poor Sound Quality
Poor alternator performance can also cause a noticeable drop in audio quality, especially for those systems with installed external amplifiers.
The reduced performance might be accompanied by static or other sounds that make listening unpleasant.
Dim Headlights and Interior Lights
As an alternator becomes weaker, less electricity is available to charge your car’s battery and power your lights and dashboard display.
You might start experiencing dimmer lights or flickering dashboard lights as a result.
Your Car Makes a Whining Sound When You Start It.
This indicates that the belt that drives the alternator is slipping, which means the alternator does not produce enough power.
The Battery Is Slowly Draining Power
If your battery is slowly draining power even when you aren’t using accessories such as headlights or audio equipment, it could be because of a problem with your alternator.
Clicking Noise From Behind the Dashboard
You hear clicking noises coming from behind your dashboard whenever you start your engine.
What Are the Benefits of Upgrading a Car Alternator?
Upgrading your alternator allows you to raise the overall performance of your vehicle.
One of the most important reasons to upgrade your alternator is to ensure that you have adequate power to run your car sound system.
If you are serious about sound systems, you will want to ensure that you have enough power to operate all the components you want.
If your alternator isn’t powerful enough, it can cause equipment failure and possibly leave you stranded on the side of the road.
There are many benefits associated with upgrading your alternator.
Below are some of the main benefits of upgrading your alternator:
The most obvious reason for upgrading your alternator is to increase its power output so that it can provide more current for powering larger amplifiers and more speakers.
Additional energy will not hurt the system and help prevent equipment failure, allowing you to crank up the volume.
An upgraded alternator will provide more power than an OEM unit.
In addition, high output alternators allow you to run a larger amplifier without stressing the system, which leads to better sound quality.
Another benefit associated with upgrading your alternator is saving money.
This means fewer problems overall with your vehicle’s engine and other components.
Longer Battery Life
If you upgrade your alternator and keep using the same battery, it will last longer than before.
You don’t want your car battery dying every few months because of the high electrical load.
What Size Alternator Do You Need for a Car Audio System?
To figure out how much capacity or amperage the alternator must deliver, determine how much extra power the audio system demands on top of the current system.
The best way to check the needed amperage is to look at the amplifier’s fuses, and the current range can be from 10 to hundreds of amps, depending on the amplifier type.
For example, if you installed a 2,000-watt amp, assuming a nominal voltage of 13.5V, you’d add 150 amps of demand to the electrical system.
This current needs to be added to the electrical requirement for your car, and this can vary based on the car type.
For example, a small-size car can need just about 60 amps from the alternator to operate, while a larger truck might need 260 amps or more.
When it comes to upgrading your alternator for better car audio, the most important thing is to make sure that you have enough power to run your system without straining other components in your vehicle.
This means choosing an alternator with adequate capacity and amperage requirements for your car’s audio system.
In general, you can use the rule of thumb that an alternator should be able to provide at least double the power needed by your audio equipment.
The table below shows how much current is needed by different amplifier types (for multi-channel amplifiers, this is a total RMS power from all channels.)
|Amperage (amp)||RMS Power (Watt)|
What Are High Output Alternators?
Alternators are divided into two types: low-output and high-output alternators.
High output alternators are a type of alternator in which an additional winding has been placed onto the rotor to increase the current output.
This extra winding is often called the “high” winding and is typically connected in parallel with the existing windings.
The high output alternator can provide increased voltage and current for accessories such as headlights, power windows, or stereo systems when required.
These are important for keeping all of your electrical components working at optimal levels, especially when multiple electrical devices are running simultaneously.
Upgrading your stock alternator is a great way to ensure your car audio system can handle the demands of playing at maximum volume for long periods.
However, upgrading an alternator can be a challenging and costly task, especially when you plan to use a dual or more alternator system.
It is crucial to make an upgrade to maintain optimal performance for your car audio system.
Be sure to consult with an expert mechanic beforehand to ensure that the job is done properly and safely.