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Old 08-05-2013, 03:57 AM   #1
rasheedfan2005

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Lights Dimming? Read this now "the big 3"

so you've just bought a new stereo, you're trunk is rattling and you think you are pretty cool. You've got your cigarettes in your sleve and your hair slicked back, congratulations greased lightning. but oh no, you're lights are dimming so you ran to a forum to ask about capacitors, this tutorial will help break down how electricity works and explain why everyone in the industry who tries to sell you a $100 capacitor is an azz hole.

Why your lights are dimming:

Electricity isn't as complicated as some might think just imagine electrons as little cars, and your wire as a highway. the more lanes the highway has, the more cars can drive down it at once.

now when you installed your amplifier you ran a large wire from the battery to the amp, and you fused the wire appropriately at the battery right? and then you added a large ground, probably to a seat belt bolt because you are an idiot. let's draw a schematic:



now let's take a look at what is happening on the electrical highway here:



as we can see, a capacitor is not much of a solution, because you still have a choke point, just like the state of washington does coming into seattle.

Now that i'm an electrical engineer WTF is the big 3?

the "big 3" is simply adding wire to 3 locations

alternator to battery +
battery - to chassis ground
and engine block to chassis ground

Q "you say adding but you meant replace right?"
A no, electricity takes the path of least resistance, that means tom tom said "fvck I5 it's packed full of idiots, let's take the backroads." leaving the existing wire just means you have even less of a choke point, it also allows for you to run your new wires along the same path and zip tie them together so you dont have a bunch of big wires just waiting the be sheered off by a belt or something.

I did the big 3, but my lights still dim, now what?

before you buy 16 batteries and 14 caps, it's important to remember that the alternator is running your electronics while the car is on. the battery runs things when the car is off, and starts the vehicle. unless you are competing with the car off or your hiding from mom and dad while you screw your girl friend in the back seat, extra batteries are typically not needed. your alternator produces a higher voltage than your battery, otherwise it couldnt charge the battery.

In order to get the most out of your equipment, you'll want an alternator that can handle the load you've just added. high output alternators are out there, when shopping for one make sure to learn how many amps it produces at idle, as some manufacturers will advertise a high output alt, but it puts out less current than your stock one at low speeds. if you have questions you can always ask the forum if the one you've found looks good, or post what vehicle you have and ask if anyone knows of a reputable dealer.

step by step instructions to do the big 3

Parts and Tools:

As a minimum, you will need to purchase the following:

• Sufficient length of high-strand count high capacity power cable.
- The length required differs for every vehicle. You can measure the length of the existing cables and buy the same length, or contact your dealer or a mechanic and ask, or sometimes you can look it up in a manufacturer's wiring book, or guess. If you guess, make sure you over-estimate and buy too much.
- High strand count cable is more flexible and more reliable than low-strand count cable. Never use solid-core wire in a moving vehicle as it will eventually break.
- The gauge of wire you need depends on the total current draw of your audio system, and/or the current generating capacity of your alternator. Never use smaller cable that you used to power your amps; never use smaller cable than what already exists in your vehicle; never use smaller cable than the generating capacity of your alternator; never use smaller than 4 AWG (it's just not worth the time to use anything smaller); if in doubt, always use higher gauge cable than you think you need. If you look at the Power and Ground charts and your amplifier current draw corresponds to 2 AWG cable, use no smaller than 2 AWG cable, and use 1/0 if you can.

• 6 ring terminals or lugs of the appropriate size for the cable chosen. Two of these need to be large enough to fit over your battery posts, or appropriately sized to bolt onto your existing battery terminals.
• 1/2" or 5/8" shrink tubing (or some other form of permanent electrical insulation. Tape is NOT recommended.)
• Cable ties (plastic zip ties.)

• Wire cutters large enough to handle the cable you choose.
• Crimpers large enough to handle the connectors you choose.
• Soldering iron or gun.
• Solder.
• Scotch brite and/or a small wire brush.
• Heat gun.
• Safety razor blade (or other tool for stripping cable).
• Heat gun (if using shrink tubing).
• Wrenches for removing bolts in your vehicle.

Procedure:

important note before doing anything electrical on your vehicle, remove the negative (ground) from the battery.
1. Make sure your engine is completely cool before beginning. Identify the three cables being replaced. Make sure you can reach both ends of all cables. NOTE: the engine block to chassis cable may be between the engine and the transmission, or connected to the transmission and the fire wall, and is often an un-insulated flat braid cable.

2. Determine the lengths of cable needed to reach between the three locations being upgraded. Be sure you measure with a flexible tape (a tape measure used for sewing works great) and record the total length along the path you intend to install the cable. You do not want your cables to be pulled tight between any two locations as things move and vibrate as you drive. Be sure to include at least 1 inch extra for slack. NOTE: there is no reason to copy the existing wiring layout in your vehicle unless you want to. Also, be sure that the path you choose does not follow or lay across anything that gets hot, like exhaust parts, or anything that must move, like throttle linkage.

3. Cut your new cable to the three proper lengths. NOTE: some people like to use red cable for positive and black cable for negative. Doing this is completely up to you and is nice, but not necessary. You can use cable with any color insulation you like.

4. Strip each end of all cables to the proper length for the terminal lugs being used. NOTE: after full insertion into the lug, a small "band" of bare wire is usually seen between the back of the lug and the beginning of the cable insulation.

5. Begin at any one end and insert the stripped cable into the lug. Make sure it is fully inserted. Crimp the connector to hold the wire in place. NOTE: crimping large cable can be difficult. The intention here is not to make the crimp the sole means of holding the wire, but only to make sure the lug does not slip around during the soldering phase. I do NOT recommend using hammers or pliers or vices to crimp the connector as over-crimping can break the strands of the cable, reducing the current carrying capacity. Do not over-crimp.

6. You may need to use a vise or some other set of "helping hands" to hold the cable while you solder it. Heat your soldering iron and place it on the connector (on the lug side) barrel. (a torch can be used if you know what you're doing, dont burn the insulation) Hold a piece of solder against the tip of the iron and melt the solder into the strands of the cable. (i highly suggest coating the wire in a liquid or paste flux before soldering, it will help melt the solder into the wire quicker and avoid melting insulation from over heating) Use sufficient solder to fill the connector and completely cover all strands of the cable. NOTE: the lug will get hot and will burn you if you try to hold it. Also, if the insulation on the cable starts to melt, you are over-heating the cable and not paying attention to melting the solder into the cable. You do not need to try and melt the cable!

7. Repeat the above steps on each end of all three cables.

8. After the cables have completely cooled, cut a piece of shrink tubing long enough to cover the soldered barrel end of the lugs and reach about 1/2" onto the insulation of each cable end. Slide this over each lug and use a heat gun to recover the tubing in place.

9. Disconnect your battery, starting with the negative cable first then the positive cable. Discharge any caps you may have in the system. (and sell them)

10. Begin adding your new cables along side the existing ones. I usually begin with the alternator positive cable. Locate the output stud on your alternator and remove the nut. Slip the new cable onto the lug and replace the nut. There is no need to disturb the existing cabling. Route the new cable to the battery and position it to connect to the positive battery post (or connect it to the positive terminal on the OEM wiring) but do not connect the battery yet.

11. Secure the new cable in place by using cable ties every 6 to 8 inches. Secure the cable to cool non-moving parts!

12. Locate where the negative battery cable attaches to the vehicle chassis. Remove this bolt and the OEM battery cable, and clean the mounting area of the chassis using scotch brite and/or a wire brush. Make sure there is no dirt, rust, paint, undercoating, etc in this location. You want bright shiny metal. Connect both your new ground and the OEM ground back to the chassis. NOTE: Some people like to create a new ground location by drilling into the chassis and using a bolt with star lock washers for the new ground cable. Route this new cable back to the battery and position it to be attached, or connect it to the negative terminal. Do not reconnect the battery yet.

13. Secure the negative cable using cable ties every 6-8 inches. Again, don't tie it to anything that moves or that gets hot!

14. Disconnect the engine ground strap at both ends. Using the wire brush or scotch brite, clean both the engine block and the chassis as you did for the first ground strap.

15. Line up the lugs on both the OEM ground strap and your new ground cable, and use cable ties to secure them to each other. This is much easier to accomplish in your lap or on the floor than it is while lying under your car or hanging upside down in the engine compartment. Reinstall both cables at the same time using the factory bolts.

16. Double check to make sure all bolts are tight. Be careful not to over-tighten them as you don't want to strip anything! Also, on some factory alternators it is WAY too easy to twist off the positive output lug. If you break it off, well hell, you really wanted a high-output alternator anyway, right? It is also a good idea at this point to measure resistance of the new cables. Take an ohm reading between the battery end of the new ground cable and the engine block. It should read less than one ohm. Also check between the alternator bolt and the disconnected positive battery terminal, which should also be less than one ohm. If you read too high resistance, double check all connections and make sure you do not have something c**ked sideways or hanging loose.

NOTE: Realize that the "absolute ground" of the electrical system is not the battery negative terminal or the vehicle chassis, but is the case of the alternator itself. This is why perhaps the most important cable among the Big 3 is the engine ground strap, as this is what connects the alternator ground to the vehicle's chassis. Be certain the resistance between the alternator case (the engine block assuming the alternator is properly bolted to the engine) and the battery negative is minimized.

17. When you are sure you are done and anything in your system that you may have disconnected are re-connected, clean your battery posts and reconnect the positive battery terminal first, then the negative one.

18. Start your vehicle. Hopefully the engine starts. if not you're a moron. Examine the engine compartment and make sure none of your cables are getting hot or are vibrating or shaking around. If they are vibrating too much you may need to relocate them or use more cable ties. If you see smoke, immediately shut off the car and disconnect the battery. Seek help or off yourself because your IQ rivals an amoeba.

19. Assuming all looks good, take a voltage reading at your amplifier and ensure you read ~13.8-14.4 volts. This indicates a properly operating charging system.

20. Now'd be a good time to turn it on and make sure it sounds good

One final note, some people like to fuse between the alt and battery, this is perfectly acceptable, always fuse for the wire itself or at the least ~5% higher than max output of alt. If you are going to fuse this run you may as well do one at the battery and one at the alt to protect the maximum amount of wire in case of a short.

Last edited by rasheedfan2005; 08-05-2013 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:51 AM   #2
mikedw7767

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Beautiful.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:54 AM   #3
basicxj

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Thanks 'Sheed .
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:21 AM   #4
rasheedfan2005

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Examples. My flash messed up the pics a bit

I grounded to the motor mount, this isn't ideal for every vehicle, be sure to use your grey matter between your ears when finding a ground point. In my case I've had the motor out and was able to make sure my mount was a solid metal connection and I sanded the back side so there was no paint in the way. Obviously if your motor mount has a rubber gasket its not a good point.



I also grounded to the body because my truck is made of metal and is not a plastic pos like your car, note the shiney metal in the center. This took about 10 seconds with 60 grit sand paper, if you can't do that, you deserve dim lights.



Ground straps installed.



And here's a pro tip on how to make a wire loom with 2 zip ties. I like not crossing wires because it look clean as fvck.
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Old 08-07-2013, 08:18 PM   #5
rasheedfan2005

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good high output alternator sources

http://www.mechman.com/
http://www.ohiogen.com/
https://www.dcpowerinc.com/

capacitor information

http://caraudioforum.com/showthread.php?t=319539

everything you could ever want to know about dc power

http://bcae1.com/

Last edited by rasheedfan2005; 08-20-2013 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 10-20-2013, 07:20 PM   #6
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Bump for a great thread.
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Old 10-21-2013, 04:56 PM   #7
rasheedfan2005

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPL BRONCO II View Post
Bump for a great thread.
I'm glad I finally earned your approval. Btw if you guys know more alternator sources ill edit my list those were the ones I thought of off the top of my head, I was going to add irrigi alts but I read some horror stories about them.
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Old 04-19-2015, 01:26 AM   #8
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I love this thread
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Old 06-15-2015, 02:33 PM   #9
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Nice post love to read it, Thanks!
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Old 12-12-2015, 05:51 PM   #10
Mike H.

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Is the best place to ground the stereo and amp(s) to the chassis somewhere? or does the better grounds you're proposing make basic ground locations better? ( maybe To the body or floor board or even to the battery itself)

Last edited by Mike H.; 12-12-2015 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 12-20-2015, 01:51 PM   #11
rasheedfan2005

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike H. View Post
Is the best place to ground the stereo and amp(s) to the chassis somewhere? or does the better grounds you're proposing make basic ground locations better? ( maybe To the body or floor board or even to the battery itself)
chassis is always best.
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Old 01-07-2016, 12:39 AM   #12
Coryf

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should there be a fuse between the alternator and the battery positive terminal? if so, what size?
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Old 01-07-2016, 02:19 AM   #13
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No, you do not need to fuse the alternator to battery connection. There is nothing really to be protected in that circuit.
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Old 05-10-2016, 05:33 PM   #14
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ive also heard about adding a 4th wire to the big 3... which is one from the alt case to chassis ground. anyone know if this is truly beneficial? i will probably be doing it with mine this week, just in case, but wasnt sure if there was any truth behind the matter.
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:55 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loganbeckstrom View Post
ive also heard about adding a 4th wire to the big 3... which is one from the alt case to chassis ground. anyone know if this is truly beneficial? i will probably be doing it with mine this week, just in case, but wasnt sure if there was any truth behind the matter.
That would depend on how well the factory wiring scheme has grounded the alternator case- most do so through the metal bracket and mounting hardware that secures the alternator bracket to the engine block (which is grounded in the factory wiring scheme).
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