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August 2014
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A Better Way To Crank A Harley  - by Bob Thomas

Starting a big V-Twin Harley Davidson motorcycle engine has never been an easy task. Over the years, many a hard-core enthusiast has spent time in a leg cast after attempting to kick start one of these temperamental engines. The first Prestolite electric starters, introduced in 1965, usually got the job done, but the limited battery size offered only a few starts on the best of days. The Hitachi starter that replaced the Prestolite for a few years in the mid 80s, was not much better. Then along came Denso.

The first Denso starters appeared on Harley Davidson motorcycles in 1989, and they were an immediate success. Those starters may have even contributed to the revival in popularity of the American-made motorcycle. While Denso gear-reduction starters worked extremely well in cranking the Harley engines, the 45-degree V-Twins were not very kind to the starters. Due partly to Harley Davidson’s unique ignition timing, engine kickback is still a part of Harley life, especially as the engines age. While legs were no longer being broken, the starters’ roller-clutch drives often suffered short lives.

When Denso introduced the silver body starter around 1994, the size and weight of that starter was reduced, to save weight on Toyota’s cars (see Figure 1). The size of the drive-clutch body and rollers was reduced as well. The roller drive clutches in Denso starters had always been very reliable on cars, trucks and heavy equipment. However, those same drive clutches often wore out on the Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the silver-body starter-drive clutches wore out even faster.

All of this is nothing new to those of you who have been rebuilding Harley starters all along. There are a number of engine issues related to age and maintenance that can exacerbate the problem. But now there is a permanent solution, and like the famous Harley motorcycle brand, it is manufactured in the USA. ...

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Apptrak User’s—Guide—Part Two  - by ERA Staff

Apptrak is a web-based information database tool created for electrical rebuilders by an electrical rebuilder— Whatcom Electric. Having the parts and cross-reference information that you need at your fingertips saves you time and eliminates trial-and-error guess work. Apptrak is designed to help you, the electrical rebuilder, operate more efficiently and produce a higher quality product by quickly providing the accurate data that you need when you need it.

Like any new website, program, cell phone application or computer operating system, you have to invest time to learn how to use it before you can reap the benefits that it offers. The more you use it, the more proficient you become. Eventually, using the Apptrak website becomes second nature.

This is the second part of the Apptrak User’s Guide. The first part of this guide was published in the July 2014 edition of The Exchange. It covered logging into Apptrak, matching applications to unit numbers, matching unit numbers to component-parts breakdowns and looking up current industry pricing on any unit. ...

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Bench-Testing Tip—Regulator-Rectifiers  - by Tim Nummerdor

I sell quite a few regulator-rectifiers for small engines, and sometimes a customer will ask me to check their old original part before they buy a new one. Being able to confirm the condition of their old regulator-rectifier seemed like it would be good for customer service and sales.

When testing these charging systems on the machine, I have observed that stator open circuit output voltage was always somewhere between 20 to 30 volts AC. So to test these, I would need an AC voltage source in that range. When I called the ERA’s Tech Help Line, it was suggested that a small battery charger transformer might work. I had several old chargers collecting dust. Testing one of them confirmed that I could get the desired output—23.7 volts AC (see Figure 1). Note in the photo that I tested the output between the transformer and the rectifier with my meter set to AC volts ...

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Tech Tip—Case/Letrika Alternator  - by Ken Plourde

The late model Iskra/Letrika alternator shown in Figure 1 (part number 11.204.061 or AAK3829) came into our shop recently. The application for this unit is a 2012 Case SR250 Skid Steer with a Cummins engine. The voltage regulator pins were not identified on either the regulator or on the unit label. It was impossible to bench test the alternator without this information. The regulator part number for this unit is 11.125.320. Because of the late model application, Lester had no information about this alternator or the regulator.

Fortunately, J & N Electric did have some information, including a list of available parts. Letrika provided the regulator pin configuration, which is Lester plug code 324, similar to what we find on many Denso industrial units (see Figure 2). “W” and “P” both mean phase connection. Denso uses “P” to designate phase connection, while Bosch and Letrika use “W”. This regulator is B-circuit, while Denso regulators using

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ERA Expo 2015—Exhibitor Registration Is Open  - by ERA Staff

Exhibitor Registration for the 2015 ERA Trade Show (scheduled for March 13–15 in Davenport, Iowa) is now open on the ERA website at: www. electricalrebuilders.org. Exhibitors will find a link to the all-new exhibitor registration form on the ERA homepage. The online form makes registration for the next show simple and easy to do from home or office. An online attendee registration form is also in the works. In an effort to help keep the cost of exhibiting down for next year, the ERA has put together a package for you exhibitors. It includes free electric to your booth if you need it, free Wi-Fi throughout the facility and free basic furnishings for your booth which include a draped six-foot table, two chairs and a waste basket. Of course, additional tables and chairs can always be ordered through the decorator as at previous shows. All of this has been done without increasing booth prices one penny.

Our special room pricing package at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center includes a $79 per night room charge and a free hot breakfast buffet every morning for all attendees who book rooms. To quote the hotel manager, “If anyone goes away from our breakfast buffet hungry, it’s their own fault.” The rooms, restaurant, exhibition and seminars will all be contained under one roof. The Clarion also has a heated indoor pool, open year round. The airport that services Davenport is the Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, located 13 miles from the hotel and serviced by Delta, United and American Airlines. The Clarion has free, on-demand shuttle service to and from the airport, with two vans operating. The hotel has their own direct phone line located in the airport’s baggage claim area. When you arrive, just call the Clarion. They will either dispatch a van or let you know that one is already on the way, and they will provide you with directions to their designated pick-up area. If you drive or rent a car, parking in the Clarion’s spacious lot is free to all show attendees. ...

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It’s What You Know  - by Bob Thomas

No matter what your vocation or profession, what you know about it will be closely linked to the degree of success you achieve. Specifically, the more you know about what you do, the more money you can make doing it. So, what do you know?

If you are like most of us in this profession, you have learned much of what you know from hands on experience. The ability to take alternators and starters apart and to put them back together again efficiently comes only from repetition. Knowing what to look for once they are apart and deciding what can be re-used and what cannot are skills that can be mastered only through experience.

Some people refer to this type of learning as “the hard way”, while others may call it “the school of hard knocks.” No matter what you call it, rebuilding alternators and starters has always been an apprentice-type trade. Formal courses on rebuilding have been few and far between, with only a handful of tech schools offering any classes on electrical rebuilding. Seminars, when they are available, have always been our primary method of keeping up to date in this trade.

For this reason, many of us (like myself) simply stumbled into this occupation. Personally, I was simply looking for something different to do. I had always enjoyed working on mechanical things, from bicycles to motorcycles to cars. I was also interested in the physical sciences, especially electricity. An opportunity presented itself when I least expected it, and I took it, even though I really knew nothing about alternators and starters beyond ...

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“Murphy’s Law” For Rebuilders  -  

  • Nothing is ever as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • If there is the possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will go wrong first.
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and you circumvent all of them, a fifth way will promptly develop.
  • If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.
  • The more storage space you have, the more junk you will have.
  • Lost objects are always found in the last place you look.
  • Anything that you store in a “safe place” will never be found again.
  • Any part that is dropped will always end up in the furthermost and least accessible spot in the room.
  • If someone says that they will do something “without fail,” they won’t.
  • A pat on the back is only a few inches from a kick in the ass.
  • The last person who has quit or was fired is always held responsible for everything that goes wrong until the next person quits or gets fired.
  • There is never enough time to do a job right, but there is always enough time to do it over.

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Pinion-to-Ring-Gear Alignment Problems—Trials and Tribulations  - by Bob Thomas and Wes Grueninger Sr.

In last month’s issue of The Exchange, we explained a gear’s root diameter and how it can impact proper pinion-to-ring-gear alignment. Now, we will address two specific applications where poor alignment has affected our industry and, hopefully, provide you with some information that will help you if you encounter one of them.

Ford Rangers—1983 to 1990
Most of these little trucks are no longer on the road, but as recently as last year, we did become involved with one that had a serious starter drive alignment issue. The problem typically shows up as a stripped pinion and/or ring gear as well as noisy cranking. Looking at the pinion, we could easily tell that the clearance was too great. Only the very tops of the teeth were touching the ring gear, and eventually they wore down so much that they would skip over the ring gear teeth altogether.

The actual cause of this damage had nothing to do with either the pinion or the ring gear. By the time the customer was referred to me, the ring gear had been changed twice, and the starter had been changed three times. At times like this, what you know can be very valuable.

What most general automotive technicians do not know is that the mounting bolts holding a Ford flange mounted starter in place do only that and nothing else. Some mechanics believe that the bolts also position the starter properly. This is not correct! For one thing, the mounting bolts on this Ranger (and most other Fords) are 3/8” standard thread, and the holes in the starter’s drive end housing (DEH) are 7/16” diameter. The same difference in size is also found on metric applications. On most Ford applications, there is a steel plate sandwiched between the engine block and the transmission housing (see Figure 1). This plate covers the bottom of the flywheel opening. But most importantly, there is a round opening in the plate which positions the starter correctly. Dowel pins, which ...

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Plain Talk: I’m For Rebuilding  - by Rob Buksar

I hope you’ve noticed that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find components to repair units with, especially the late model items. Furthermore, the cost of the available new units is so low in many cases, that it boggles the mind.

There isn’t a week that goes by without a longtime rebuilder telling me that he’s cut way back on rebuilding and is now just buying and repackaging new units. On a lot of levels this seems to make sense. I can connect the dots as well as the next guy. I see it. Yet, does this signal the end of the rebuilding industry?

When we stop rebuilding units, lots of things happen, because they have to! Remember, “Cause and Effect” is always in play. Let’s look at just a few effects: • You won’t need experienced rebuilders, or at least as many on your payroll. Of course, once you turn your rebuilder loose, it will be next to impossible to replace him if the need ever arises.

• It won’t be necessary to stock replacement parts. Of course, your supplier will no longer carry them either. Henceforth, your supplier’s supplier or manufacturer will either close his doors or be forced to find something entirely different to do. That’s already happened! • Your reputation as a rebuilder and an electrical expert will dissipate, and it should. Because, in a sense, rebuilding is similar to doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, etc.—it’s a practice. If you don’t use it you will lose it! Everything out ...

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Size Matters—Pulley Diameter, Belts And Horsepower  - by Bob Thomas

A common complaint that every rebuilder has heard at least once goes something like this: “My alternator quits charging at idle. The headlights and instruments lights get dim whenever the vehicle is stopped in traffic. It also shows low voltage on the gauge. But driving down the road, everything is normal.”

Of course we know that the alternator most likely is charging to some degree at idle, but the electrical loads of this vehicle are exceeding the alternator’s output at low speed. This complaint goes back to the days of generators. It is one of the reasons new car manufacturers today are installing 150 amp alternators as standard equipment on vehicles that really have only about 70 amps of possible continuous load. They want to be sure that they don’t hear similar complaints from customers whose vehicles are still under warranty.

By nature, rebuilders are always looking for the quickest, easiest and least expensive solution to a customer’s problem—which is usually not going to be an expensive higher amperage alternator with a steep output curve. What costs less than a small pulley (see Figures 1 and 2)?

A smaller pulley will spin an alternator faster and improve output based on engine speed, but is it really a wise solution? While a smaller pulley can help in some situations, it is definitely not a cure-all. In some cases, a smaller pulley can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Alternators convert the engine’s mechanical energy into electrical energy. The higher the electrical demand, the more mechanical energy that is required to make it. It is a simple law of physics ...

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Rebuilder’s Ride  - by Larry Hagemeister

We had been looking for an old car and recently found what we were searching for, a 1950 Dodge Coronet with Gyro-Matic transmission. What a great old Northwest car with 104k miles on it. It is pretty much all original, but it has been repainted, and the original flathead 6 has been rebuilt. The interior has been reupholstered, too. It is still 6-volt positive ground, and that’s the way it is going to stay.

The 64-year-old Prestolite generator was in beautiful shape—even the front bearing. I replaced the bearing and brushes anyway and thought I might as well check the regulator, too while I’m at it. I noticed that it had a rebuilt stamp marking on the top of it. As many old timers know, Alan Melton’s dad started Northwest Regulator in 1961, rebuilding generator voltage regulators, a lost art now. I emailed Alan a photo of it. He said the stamping looked just like the one his dad used to use. How cool is that? The regulator worked great—just a little adjustment and presto 7.2 volts! ...

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