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Selected Articles From
March 2015
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Vehicle History: A Vital Diagnostic Tool  - by Dan Marinucci

An accurate vehicle history may be the most valuable part of any battery drain diagnosis. Don’t overlook or undervalue vehicle history, because it’s often the key to a profitable job.

Suppose your business performs retail electrical service. Or perhaps it does on-vehicle electrical diagnosis as a subcontractor to other businesses, such as general repair shops, tire dealers and new-car dealers.

Next, suppose that you must diagnose a vehicle on which the battery dies repeatedly. That is, the battery discharges (“goes flat”) after the vehicle sits for some period of time. This time period could be anything from overnight to a week or more. Whenever a battery continues to go dead, it’s very tempting to leap to a variety of conclusions.

However, experience shows that gathering an accurate vehicle history may spell the difference between a straightforward, profitable job and an automotive nightmare. What’s more, my field experience has been that gleaning vehicle history is anything but a foregone conclusion. Too often, it seems, installer technicians and auto electricians don’t gather vehicle history until they’re mired in a sticky, unprofitable diagnosis. Some savvy shop managers have created customer questionnaires. Their rule is that they don’t touch a vehicle with a battery-drain issue until they’ve got some kind of vehicle history written down. The sooner they receive it, the better. The more detailed the history, the better. Mind you, it doesn’t matter if the car owner leaves the vehicle or someone from another shop leaves the vehicle—someone has to deliver the history ...

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Just The Facts: Avalanche diodes vs. Zener diodes  - by Bob Thomas

The terms, “avalanche diode” and “Zener diode” have been confused at times and even interchanged in error. Although they are similar in what they do, they are also very different in several ways. We will attempt to explain those differences along with where and why each diode is used in alternators today.

Like the standard diodes that rectify alternating current in many devices, including alternators and battery chargers, avalanche and Zener diodes allow current to flow in the forward direction while blocking current in the reverse direction. What differentiates them from the more common diode, is a phenomenon known as reverse voltage breakdown. At breakdown, current is allowed to flow in the reverse direction in both the Zener and the avalanche diode. So in that way, they are the same.

To understand the key difference between the two, you have to understand that all diodes, no matter what kind they are, have some reverse-bias leakage—a minimal amount of reverse current that is always present. This very small leakage is normal and measures no more than a few milliamperes or less. But, in the case of Zener and avalanche diodes, once breakdown voltage is reached, the diode goes full reverse-bias, allowing current to flow in the reverse direction.

Zener and avalanche diodes are manufactured in exactly the same way as standard diodes, by exposing the crystalline silicon to certain impurities during a process called doping. ...

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Tech Tip: Chrysler External Voltage Regulators  - by Bob Thomas

As pointed out in the article on page five, the mechanical B-circuit voltage regulators (see Figure 1) that were originally used with Chrysler’s first alternator from 1961 to 1969 are unable to handle field-current loads over 3 amps. Normal rotor field current draw for a Chrysler single-field alternator with a mechanical regulator is 2.3 to 2.7 amps. Checking and verifying rotor amperage draw is vital when rebuilding one of these alternators. Rotors that require higher amperage will damage mechanical regulators.

Note also, that electronic versions of the B-circuit regulator are able to handle higher field current. Electronic replacement regulators have been readily available in the aftermarket for many years now and can be easily identified by their lighter weight. Mechanical regulators are heavier, because of the relay which has an iron core. Mechanical regulators also require wire-wound resistors that are usually visible on the bottom the regulator (see Figure 2).

If a rotor from a later model year alternator is substituted, it is very likely that it will cause trouble with a mechanical regulator, and problems may not surface immediately. While many of those later rotors had the same physical dimensions, the coils in them have significantly lower resistance, and their field draw is higher than a mechanical regulator can withstand. Field draw on some later Chrysler alternators can be as high as 7 amps, nearly three times what would be normal draw for a mechanical regulator.

If you happen to encounter a Chrysler vehicle from the 1960s with a failed regulator, you should carefully examine and test both the rotor and the regulator. With the cover removed ...

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Leece-Neville 2500JB: Converting To External Sense For Use With Battery Isolator  - by Bob Thomas

When installing a second battery and battery isolator into a charging system, be aware that some alternators require special consideration. The diodes in the isolator allow voltage to flow from the alternator to the batteries but not in reverse. When the alternator is not operating, there will be no voltage on the B+ terminal. Most alternators being manufactured today, and many of those from the past, require voltage on the B+ before they can turn on. The Leece-Neville JB series is among them. External sensing from one of the batteries is required for these alternators to operate with an isolator.

Leece-Neville solved this problem years ago by way of what they named the Duvac Charging System. It basically just moved the voltage regulator’s red sense wire from the positive rectifier to an external sense terminal that was added to the a special brush holder. Most Duvac alternators also used an ignition terminal for excitation. Any JB Series alternator (see Figure 1) can be easily converted to operate with an isolator without disassembly by simply

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Tech Tip: Installing Delco External Shift Lever Springs  - by Bob Thomas

While Delco starters of the 1950s are not exactly fast movers, these cars now have true antique status, and nearly every rebuilding shop runs into one of them at least once or twice a year. I have seen my fair share of them, and I always seem to waste a lot of time getting the spring, shift lever, drive-end housing and spring bolt back together quickly.

Recently, I found myself reassembling and struggling with one of these starters yet again. I decided to find a better way, and here is how I suspect this one was assembled when it was put together on an assembly line in 1952. The entire process took only a few seconds once I discovered this efficient procedure (see Figures 1 through 5). ...

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Chrysler Charging Systems: 1961–1987  - by Wes Grueninger, Sr.

Chrysler was one of the first automakers to use alternators. They made the complete switch from generators to alternators in 1961. This first system used a single field-terminal alternator with an external mechanical B-circuit voltage regulator, and it remained unchanged until 1970. In 1970, Chrysler changed to a dual field terminal alternator with an external electronic A-circuit voltage regulator. This system was used until the mid- 1980s when the voltage regulator was moved inside the engine’s electronic control module.

There are two “oddball” variations that were used by Chrysler during that time span. The first was the 1969 Imperial, which had an alternator and voltage regulator that fit only that one year and model. The second was introduced in 1974 on cars that were fitted with the large case 100-amp Chrysler alternator. A special Field and Load relay was installed for those applications to remove the accessories’ electrical load and the alternator’s mechanical load from the engine while the starter was cranking.

This guide is divided into the subsections shown ...

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Metamorphosis: Things Change  - by Bob Thomas

For those readers who are disappointed to hear the news that broke on the front page, I sympathize with you. In fact, I am sure that I am more disappointed than anyone. I closed a business sooner than planned, to have more time to spend on The Exchange.

I had my rebuilding business for only a few years when I received my first copy of the Electrical Rebuilder’s Exchange in the mail. It was issue number three. There was already a slick-looking trade publication that catered to the automotive rebuilding trades, but it was focused mostly on industry news, new products and commercial advertising, with very little else to offer the independent electrical rebuilder. But the rough-at-the-edges, letterpress-printed Electrical Rebuilder’s Exchange was something completely different. It contained helpful information ... technical information ... valuable information worth saving. I still have that first issue that I received. The subscription form has been clipped out, because I mailed it back to Ralph Albares with a check.

By the time I felt qualified to write about the trade myself, Ralph had passed away, and his step-daughter Polly was running the business. The Electrical Rebuilder’s Exchange was more polished by then ...

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Plain Talk: New Beginnings  - by Rob Buksar

Back a few weeks ago, a long-time friend and customer stopped by the shop to drop something off. He had a lot to say from an incredibly different perspective than he formerly had. He talked about his shrinking customer base and diminished sales. He also talked about the incredible amount of additional work, distance, time and money that it’s taking just to keep pace. Growth didn’t seem to be in the cards any longer. It’s now become all about maintaining. When I expressed this very same thing to him a few years earlier about my own business, he couldn’t see it, because at that point, his business wasn’t affected. Now it is! He also said something else worth mentioning. He said that it’s become a real tough pill to swallow to be in the rebuilding business and not be able to compete in the market place! I said, “Welcome to my world,” and reminded him that when we had this same conversation a few years earlier, that he thought I was out of touch and maybe a little crazy. Now that we’re both walking in the same footsteps, I don’t look as out of touch or “crazy” as I might have earlier.

To dispel a bunch of misinformation and wrong conclusions, this is a really good time to mention this. When we lose a supplier or a rebuilder, large or small, too many still feel that the customers they formerly had are now available for other businesses to pick up

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The Last Exchange  -  

This issue of The Exchange will be the last one that you will read as a tabloid-sized newspaper. For over three decades, this familiar and popular newspaper has been mailed to electrical rebuilding businesses all across the U.S. Since the beginning, it has been funded primarily by advertising. Some paid subscriptions have provided marginal support, but advertising is what made The Exchange possible.

When the ERA was founded in 2002, a portion of members’ dues were set aside for subscriptions to offset the increasing cost of printing and mailing the publication to all electrical rebuilders. That income boost alone enabled the newspaper to thrive for nearly a decade.

When the ERA officially acquired the The Exchange newspaper in 2013, a business plan was put in place that included both advertising and ERA funding. That plan was successful for nearly two years. However, advertising continues to decline for all publications nationwide, especially those using a newspaper format. Income dropped as expenses increased. It became obvious that a change was required to save the publication.

On January 27, the Executive Board of the ERA reviewed the income vs. cost statistics presented by the publication’s production manager, Wes Grueninger and editor Bob Thomas. The same information was provided to the Board of Directors at their monthly teleconference meeting on February 4. As difficult as it was for the board members to accept, the ERA could no longer continue to print and mail free issues to those who had failed to financially support it. “Sadly, we simply had no other option,” ERA President Henry Henke admitted. “This publication has served the electrical rebuilding industry since 1983. The ERA’s intention was always to continue ...

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You Don’t Want To Miss This  - by ERA Staff

Editor’s Note: Last month, we published a detailed description of the John Deere Harvester Works Tour that was scheduled for attendees of the ERA Expo 2015 in Davenport, Iowa on March 13. Just days after that issue was mailed, John Deere canceled the tour of their harvester plant but offered another tour in place of it. We deeply regret this and apologize.

The good news is that there will still be a tour with bus transportation, which includes the John Deere Pavilion and the John Deere Seeding Group facility, where planters are assembled. The seeding group tour is a walking tour. As mentioned last month, no cameras, videos or cell phones are permitted inside any of the factories. Plant tours are also restricted for anyone under 13 years of age.

Visitors to the Pavilion are invited to take cameras inside, and there are no age restrictions. The Pavilion has visiting hours all weekend, and admission and parking are free. As we go to press, the ERA tour is booked to capacity with a waiting list. However, those who have their own transportation can still visit the Pavilion on their own.

Another nearby attraction that we failed to mention before is the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, located just 14 miles from the Clarion Hotel on I-80 west of Davenport. The truck collection was started by Iowa 80 Truckstop founder, Bill Moon, who had a passion for trucks, especially old ones. There are now over 100 antique trucks in the collection with 60 of them on display in the museum. A visit to their website provides just a sample of what you can see. They also have 304 original petroleum signs and 24 vintage fuel pumps. Right next door is the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, the largest truck stop in the world. There, visitors have a choice of places to eat lunch, including the famed Iowa 80 Kitchen.

Of course, the main reason for the Expo is not tours or entertainment. It is the exposition itself and the seminars. You will find a full schedule on page 10, listing the hours that the show floor will be open on both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. You will also find the list of seminars. Rebuilders can register for the exposition at the door for a nominal charge. Seminar registration is extra and is also available on site.

Not only has the tour sold out early, but the booths have all been filled, too. A complete list of exhibitors can be found underneath the schedule on page ten. Do not forget about the reception on Friday afternoon—a free Pizza Buffet sponsored by the ERA and exhibitors. ERA Expo 2015 is far more than just another trade show. You do not want to miss it.

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