The Bane of My Existance…VANQUISHED

To date, I have not had good luck with Evenstar’s 24 volt alternator. It’s pretty much been entirely my fault, and there is some back story. Suffice it to say that in spite of the original alternator and two new ones over the last three years I’ve not managed to have reliable 24V charging while motoring in all that time.

Let me back up a bit…especially for the non technical, non boating readers out there.

Evenstar is blessed with almost every flavor of electrical power used by modern man. In the Direct Current type we have 12 Volt batteries like you use in your car and a group of batteries in a 24 Volt configuration (more on that later). An the A/C side, Evenstar is a European boat and her native house power is 22o volt, but at 50 Hz, instead of the American 60 Hz (cycles / second) – this is what her generator produces and it is also what the primary larger inverter makes from the batteries. After a series of adapters, transformers and European appliances failed to work properly (the Euro blenders just made a smell and died, the American appliances flashed, made smells, then died) I figured we needed cheap and easy American power so long as the boat was located in the U.S. so I didn’t have to special order a new 220V blender every time I wanted to make a new pitcher of mudslides.

So for those without a scorecard and wiring diagram we have:

12 Volt – 2 big batteries in seperate “banks”(one “start” one “house”, 200 Amp-hours of capacity each)
24 Volt – 6 big batteries in one huge house bank, 600 Amp-hours capacity
220/50Hz AC Power – made by the generator when that’s running, or the Freedom Inverter off the 24V house bank; 6000 Watts of the generator or 2500 off the Inverter
110/60Hz AC Power – made from the cheap 1200 Watt inverter I bought

I’m not going to give a lecture on Ohm’s Law here, you can look that up if you forgot your high school physics. Suffice it to say there is a lot of battery power, but there are limits. Nor will I get into the multiple ways these batteries are charged…it involves 4 alternators, a generator, three battery chargers, two shore power connections, and ten solar panels used in various combinations. ‘Nuff said.

So, back to the story of vanquishing my biggest headache.

The 24V alternator (used for charging the house bank while the engine is on) that was on Evenstar when we bought her was woefully inadequate, the math showed it would take something like 8 hours of motoring to recharge the batteries assuming the alternator delivered power as rated, which normal alternators never do. So the decision was made when I replaced the batteries that it was also time to upgrade to a high output alternator so we could recharge in four hours run time or less. So this was done by the excellent people at Ferris Power Products (who I highly recommend for this sort of work by the way).

All worked well except for two things. The first being that I was not very good at tightening the alternator belts and the second being that I am frequently, for lack of a better word, a complete and utter moron.

You’d think after 100+ years of internal combustion engines that someone would have invented a better way to tighten belts. In my case this would be a way that does not involve hanging upside down in the dark with a wrench in one hand, a cutoff broom handle in another hand, and another wrench in my third hand. But it still goes back to the stupid way that alternator belts are tensioned – with a tensioning bar, a nut, and a big lever to force the alternator out frmo the engine. But they haven’t come up with something better yet, and I have the scars to show that I found every exposed hose clamp with a sharp edge near the alternator. But I never quite got the belts tightened right either.

But worse, some of you may remember the mentioning of a leaky raw water pump in some of my earlier posts. This thing needed replacing and I didn’t do it right away. In fact I left it long enough so that it sprayed the new alternator enough to fry it…electrical things don’t like salt water much. However I replaced it with another.

During this I still had not mastered tightening the belt, and when I replaced the alternator I must not have put the spacers on the bolt on correctly, or perhaps the spacers always weren’t right. Because I just couldn’t tighten the belt, and the spacer was the wrong size. So basically for the last two years battey charging when operating the boat under power has been sporadic at best, and I have spent many a grubby hour in a hot engine room wrestling with the alternator trying to get the belts to stay tight for more than ten seconds after I start the engine. And failing miserably.

Finally I figured this out (mostly when someone more qualified with me looked at the engine and noted “hmm, your spacers looks pretty baked”) that my spacers were pretty baked and the alternator was not firmly mounted making it impossible to get tension on the belts. So I took the alternator off and brought the spacer to a friend with a machine shop. In about ten minutes he made me two new ones which were a little bit (like .75mm and 1.5mm) longer and had a narrower hole that fit exactly on the bolt instead of being too big and rattling around on the bolt.

What a difference, just sliding the spacer in and pushing the bolt on to attach the alternator to the engnie it was tighter than it had ever been. Screwing it down? Nirvana…I was able to tension the belt in minutes more than I’d ever been able to before.

Of course, for my next trick I was going to replace the worn belt on the 12V alternator…until I realized I couldn’t do that without taking off the 24V belt I’d just finally gotten tensioned properly as well.

I really shouldn’t just listen to that loose belt squeal, I know that’s how I end up in these situations. But man is it tempting just to leave that 24V alternator alone for a while.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in alternator, bad smells, Batteries. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. tillerman says:

    Amazing! This post is the best thing I have read for years to convince me that I should be really glad that I sail a Laser.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *