4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

WE WERE step­ping off on a sixweek run through the mulga, the desert and the Gulf coun­try when, on day one, we struck a prob­lem. Trav­el­ling along the Sturt High­way on the Hay Plain, the en­tire in­stru­ment panel sim­ply turned off. Hap­pily, we had full con­trol, but it was still off-putting. So we stopped for some road­side di­ag­no­sis, where we couldn’t see any blown fuses or other ob­vi­ous causes. So we gen­tly cruised into Bal­ranald, set­tled into the town’s car­a­van park, and went in search of a me­chanic.

It didn’t take long for the guys at Bal­ranald Diesel Ser­vice to iden­tify that the Denso 85amp OEM alternator was short­ing and had blown the fusible link. With no suit­able spares on hand, parts were ordered from Swan Hill and Mil­dura. It was pretty ob­vi­ous we were go­ing to be look­ing at a lay­over of more than 24 hours or more, so we headed to the Sham­rock Ho­tel around the cor­ner to reac­quaint our­selves with Sch­nitty Night.

Over beers and din­ner we chat­ted about whether we may have put the alternator un­der un­due pres­sure, or whether it had sim­ply reached the end of its nat­u­ral life. Af­ter all, an alternator typ­i­cally lasts around seven years or 100,000km. For the pre­vi­ous nine years it had hap­pily fed our Redarc BCDC 1240 that served our twin Op­tima D27F Yel­low Top 66amp/h bat­ter­ies. Since 2013, we’d also con­nected the unit to our Echo 4x4 Ka­vango camper, which car­ries twin Ul­ti­mate Xtreme 12V 120amp/h deep-cy­cle AGM bat­ter­ies.

In ad­di­tion to these four bat­ter­ies, the other ob­vi­ous ac­ces­sories feed­ing off the sys­tem were two fridges (a 40-litre Engel in the back tray and an 80-litre ARB in the camper). So while the 85amp OEM alternator seemed small, she’d been do­ing a de­cent job … un­til now. When


the only re­place­ment avail­able within a 200km ra­dius was an af­ter­mar­ket 85amp alternator, we didn’t have much choice but to slot her in and get back on the road.

But when the alternator packed-up a sec­ond time af­ter just six months (25,000km), we were ready to ask some hard ques­tions. We’d hit the Hume High­way for a quick dash up the east coast to catch up with mates for Aus­tralia Day, when just two hours from home the charg­ing sys­tem warn­ing light came on. A quick call to the lo­cal blokes at Ber­rima Diesel con­firmed that they were closed and booked out the fol­low­ing day, but they sug­gested we were okay to push on to Mit­tagong Auto Electrics, 15 min­utes down the road. As we trav­elled, how­ever, it was clear we were deal­ing with an­other alternator prob­lem. The Redarc du­al­volt­age gauge was track­ing the bat­tery’s charge and it was di­min­ish­ing be­fore our eyes. So we turned every­thing off and switched on the sec­ond bat­tery to link it with the crank bat­tery. It was 5.30pm, two days be­fore a pub­lic hol­i­day, and the prospect of get­ting to Forster any time soon was in real jeop­ardy.

Our spir­its im­proved as we pulled into the electrician’s fore­court and saw the lights on in the work­shop. Things were look­ing up. The guys agreed to check us out the fol­low­ing day and they let us set-up overnight in the carpark.

A quick look around the ve­hi­cle showed only too clearly how much we were ex­pect­ing of our alternator. Ev­ery 12V port had some­thing plugged into it, ei­ther charg­ing or run­ning. This in­cluded phones, cam­eras and a third fridge: a Waeco CDF–11. On top of that, the Engel was set to freeze mode to store meat and ice blocks. Any won­der, then, that the alternator had been over­loaded with the flow of high cur­rents caus­ing the sta­tor to wind and heat up. Too ex­cited to get out the door, it seemed we’d blown it – lit­er­ally. It was clear the af­ter­mar­ket 85amp alternator wasn’t com­pa­ra­ble to the OEM and un­able to cut the mus­tard un­der this sort of sus­tained pres­sure.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing our con­cerns were con­firmed, but luck was on our side. Of the two mod­els of al­ter­na­tors that can be fit­ted to a 2008 KUN26 Hilux like ours, the Repco store across the road stocked just one. But was it com­pat­i­ble with our needs? It was much big­ger than the 85amp fac­tory-fit­ted model that was un­der the bon­net when the rig rolled out of the show­room in 2008, and big­ger than the one that was fit­ted at Bal­ranald six months ago.

En­ter the OEX DXA552 130amp. This is a light com­mer­cial alternator with a fur­ther 45amp ca­pac­ity over our pre­vi­ously in­stalled units. The blokes at Repco knew the OEX DXA552 would be suit­able for the Toy­ota Hilux and Prado, but there’s a trick: dif­fer­ent alternator mod­els are made for Hiluxes man­u­fac­tured in Ja­pan com­pared to those made in Thai­land. They may look the same, but plug in the wrong one and your warn­ing light will come on al­most


im­me­di­ately. So there was a bit of ‘keep your fin­gers crossed’ in­volved here.

The Bal­ranald 85amp alternator cost around $350, and the more pow­er­ful OEX here at Mit­tagong was about to set us back $488. As for war­ranty, we’d need to keep an eye on things. For the new OEX alternator we’ve been promised a three-year/90,000km war­ranty for road use. How­ever, take our 4WD off-road (of course we will) or use it com­mer­cially and the war­ranty drops to 12 months/30,000km/1500 hours.

Once in­stalled we were back on the road and we reached our mates by late af­ter­noon, with plenty of time left for camp­ing and fish­ing. It wasn’t un­til we got home again that we had a chance to spend some proper time re­view­ing the alternator. For one, we’ve found that OEX also has a 160amp ver­sion that could have been fit­ted. As for the man­u­fac­turer it­self, OEX has been around for 20-odd years and boasts the largest range of light com­mer­cial units in the Aus­tralian and New Zealand mar­kets, as well as a host of mod­els to suit ma­rine, agri­cul­tural, heavy-duty, light in­dus­trial and pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles. So this mob is no light­weight in the af­ter­mar­ket alternator stakes.

The units are made overseas, but OEX tests each at its in-house test­ing fa­cil­ity in Bris­bane be­fore they’re re­leased. So, with a de­cent rep­u­ta­tion be­hind the brand, and with no sign of un­wanted warn­ing lights in the 2000km since in­stal­la­tion, we’re back on track.

Re­mov­ing the air fil­ter as­sem­bly al­lows rel­a­tively easy ac­cess to the alternator.

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