Charge It



Up­grade your GM charg­ing sys­tem with a Pow­er­mas­ter one-wire al­ter­na­tor

The charg­ing sys­tem of your

Chevy is a vi­tal piece of the re­li­a­bil­ity puz­zle, and if you’re re­ly­ing on a crusty orig­i­nal al­ter­na­tor you might be on bor­rowed time. The fact of the mat­ter is an orig­i­nal al­ter­na­tor from a ’60s Chevy isn’t ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing a car with mod­ern fea­tures such as an elec­tric fuel pump, EFI, air con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric fans, and a stereo sys­tem. Not every high-per­for­mance project car has all of these mod­ern fea­tures, but it’s im­por­tant to know that an orig­i­nal charg­ing sys­tem can­not keep up when all of those ac­ces­sories are run­ning. That’s where Pow­er­mas­ter Per­for­mance comes into play with their lineup of high-out­put al­ter­na­tors, many of which are avail­able with one-wire hookups.

We’re wrench­ing on an early Chevy, which is still sport­ing a mostly orig­i­nal 283ci small-block Chevy en­gine. It’s a simple car, but we do plan to add a few ac­ces­sories to the tried-and-true ’60s GM for­mula. Air con­di­tion­ing is one of the big­gest items on our to-do list, and the folks at Vin­tage Air sug­gested we up­grade to a high-out­put al­ter­na­tor. We went with a Pow­er­mas­ter 12si-style unit, of­fer­ing 150 amps and a simple onewire con­nec­tion. We or­dered it with a V-belt pul­ley and in­cluded a new charge wire in our order.

The in­stal­la­tion was ex­tremely simple and we had the new al­ter­na­tor in place af­ter about an hour in the shop. Reg­u­lar hand tools are all that’s nec­es­sary for the in­stall, un­less you also plan to in­stall a volt­age sen­sor for use with the orig­i­nal bat­tery (gen­er­a­tor) warn­ing light or a volt gauge. At that point you might need to crimp a few wires to com­plete the in­stall, but it’s still a very simple process. For now, we’re tak­ing the easy route and we’ll test func­tion­al­ity with a volt­meter be­fore we take off down the road. The folks at Pow­er­mas­ter say to never test al­ter­na­tor func­tion­al­ity by re­mov­ing a bat­tery ca­ble while the car is run­ning.

Ours checked out fine with the volt­meter so we’re back on the road with con­fi­dence that our charg­ing sys­tem is up to the task.

01. As al­ways, any time you’re deal­ing with the elec­tri­cal sys­tem on your clas­sic Chevy, dis­con­nect the bat­tery. This is also a great time to buy new ca­bles and ter­mi­nals, as this is cheap in­sur­ance against wiring grem­lins down the road.

02. We start by re­mov­ing the orig­i­nal al­ter­na­tor from our Chevy project car. This car sur­vived more than 50 years with the orig­i­nal charg­ing sys­tem, but it’s time for an up­grade. We use a 1⁄2-inch wrench to loosen the top re­tain­ing bolt.

03. the With al­ter­na­tor the top to­ward bolt loos­ened, the en­gine we and can re­move ro­tate the belt. Once again, we’re us­ing this op­por­tu­nity to elim­i­nate a po­ten­tial problem down the road by stick­ing the belt in our spare parts bin and re­plac­ing it with a new one.

04. Some ap­pli­ca­tions vary, but our Chevy fea­tures a 3⁄8-inch bolt that passes through the bracket and the al­ter­na­tor. We use a 9⁄16inch socket and a wrench on the back­side to loosen and re­move the bolt.

05. Once the al­ter­na­tor is re­moved we can dis­con­nect the orig­i­nal wiring, in­clud­ing this brit­tle plas­tic plug.

06. The al­ter­na­tor charge wire is at­tached to clips that tuck be­neath the up­per ra­di­a­tor sup­port chan­nel. We snake the new wire into place and feed it into the en­gine bay.

07. We re­moved some of the tape from the fac­tory wiring harness in order to re­move the old wires that run to the volt­age reg­u­la­tor.

08. We was care­fully The orig­i­nally orig­i­nal traced volt­age wired the wires, reg­u­la­tor into the as horn this is re­moved. reg­u­la­tor re­lay, which acted as a power dis­tri­bu­tion point. Without adding an af­ter­mar­ket volt­age sen­sor, the bat­tery warn­ing light will no longer be func­tional af­ter re­mov­ing the volt­age reg­u­la­tor. A volt sen­sor can be added to the new al­ter­na­tor for volt gauge or warn­ing light func­tion­al­ity.

09. There are tons of choices for af­ter­mar­ket al­ter­na­tors, and we went with a Pow­er­mas­ter 12si-style unit, of­fer­ing 150 amps and a simple one-wire hookup. We or­dered it with a V-belt pul­ley and Pow­er­mas­ter charge wire.

10. The new Pow­er­mas­ter al­ter­na­tor bolts to the stock mounts with ease. We reused our orig­i­nal long bolt that passes through the bot­tom bolt­hole and bracket and then tight­ened it us­ing a 9⁄16-inch socket and 9⁄16-inch wrench on the back­side.

11. the A Pow­er­mas­ter new top bolt unit. is pro­vided Af­ter we with got a new belt in­stalled we pulled the al­ter­na­tor tight and then se­cured the bolt with a 1⁄2-inch wrench.

12. Now would be a good time to re­place the bat­tery ter­mi­nals. Our Chevy has a few ac­ces­sories, in­clud­ing a Vin­tage Air A/C sys­tem, so our ter­mi­nals are pretty full af­ter we ran the Pow­er­mas­ter charge wire from the al­ter­na­tor to the pos­i­tive post on the bat­tery. An­other op­tion is to run the al­ter­na­tor charge wire to the starter.

13. ter­mi­nal. We also It’s re­placed im­por­tant the to ground re­mem­ber ca­ble that and any ve­hi­cle that is run­ning an af­ter­mar­ket fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tem or LS en­gine swap needs an ex­cel­lent sys­tem of grounds to tie the en­gine to the chas­sis and the chas­sis to the body.

14. With the belt in­stalled and ev­ery­thing tight, we can in­stall the charge wire on the back of the Pow­er­mas­ter al­ter­na­tor. The one-wire hookup is very simple, and you’ll be ready to hit the road with ad­di­tional charg­ing power for ac­ces­sories like air con­di­tion­ing, fuel in­jec­tion, elec­tric fans, and more.

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