Frequently Asked Questions
Q - How large a cable do I need for a given project?
A - Cable size is a function of current and length. All cables, no matter how large, have a given amount of resistance per foot. Resistance is the opposition to the flow of electrons (current). The net result is voltage drop over the length of the cable. Minimizing voltage drop is the key to designing and construction reliable circuits and optimizing their performance. A handy reference chart for choosing the correct gauge of wire based on these parameters can be found on page 100 of Automotive Wiring and Electrical Systems.
Q - What is the difference between CCA and standard copper cable?
A - Many companies are now marketing CCA (Copper Clad Aluminum) cable as a lightweight, less expensive alternative to copper. It is true, CCA does in fact weigh less than standard copper but there is no such thing as a free lunch - it also has higher resistance per foot than comparably sized copper. Third party testing has proven CCA passes 30 to 40% LESS power than traditional copper of the same size! Skimping on copper is not where you want to save money (or weight) in your projects.
Q - I use an electric fan. My vehicle runs hot and I've tried nearly everything to no avail. What can I do so that I can drive it on the street without fear of it overheating?
A - This may be the most common question we're asked. When it comes to keeping a high performance engine running cool, the electrical system plays a major role. Aside from audio power amplifiers, electric cooling fans are the most current hungry accessory in a vehicle and they require a continuous supply of current. A quality 13" fan typically requires 20-25 Amps of current while running and DOUBLE that when it's first turned on (hence the dimming dash lights). For this reason, we recommend a minimum of 10 AWG wiring for electric fans and a high quality 40 amp relay per fan. Consider for a second the demand that a pair of 22 amp fans places on the charging system when you're idling at a traffic light, as they require nearly 45 amps between them - this is significant! In addition to using the correct gauge of cable to the fans themselves, it's critical that the idle output capability of the alternator is satisfactory, the gauge of the alternator's charge lead is suitable, and that you have a low resistance return path between the fans and the charging system. Optimizing each of the above will help your vehicle to run cool on the street. This process is outlined in its entirety in Automotive Electrical Performance Projects.
Q - Is there an easy way to tell if my alternator is correctly sized for my vehicle?
A - Yes, assuming you have access to a volt meter. Set the meter to read DC Voltage and connect it to the battery (you should measure between 12.6 and 12.8 VDC). Have a helper start the engine and allow it to reach operating temperature. Then, have your helper turn on all of the accessories - A/C or heater, headlights (brights), electric water pump, electric fan(s), etc. If you measure below 13.4 VDC, the alternator does not make enough current at idle to support the accessories and keep a surface charge on the battery. This process is outlined fully in Chapters 2 and 6 of Automotive Electrical Performance Projects.
Q - How big of an alternator do I really need?
A - Bigger than you think! Select an alternator based on its performance and reliability first, cosmetics second. Chrome won't get you home - certainly not when it comes to alternators. You should choose your alternator based on a criteria that most of the mainstream alternator manufacturers don't talk much about - output at idle. Look at it like this - you really need your alternator the most when you're idling at a traffic light. For alternators, idle is defined as 800 engine RPM and it should be pullied to spin at 3X crankshaft speed for correct operation. It is not uncommon to require 100 to 125 amps (or even more) at idle if you're running electric fans, an electric fuel pump, EFI, etc. Running too small of an alternator is the #1 mistake made by enthusiasts. This process is outlined fully in Chapter 6 of Automotive Electrical Performance Projects.
Q - Is a 1-wire alternator better than a 3-wire?
A - No. A 1-wire alternator is simpler to wire, but a 3-wire isn't really all that difficult at all. 1-wire alternators self-excite and it typically takes about 1200 engine RPM for the regulator to be excited. If you get stuck at a traffic light for any length of time, a 1-wire alternator will typically also un-excite when RPM is below that threshold (for even a short time at idle) causing your alternator to go into hibernation until you get underway and re-excite the regulator. A 3-wire alternator excites the moment the key is in the Ignition / Run position. In addition, 3-wire alternators have a sense lead that can be interfaced at a power junction, like an under hood fuse panel or hot spot, so that the regulator can adjust the output voltage in unison with the demands of the vehicle accessories.
Q - Do you sell Big Three Upgrade kits?
A - Yes. The "Big Three" or "Big 3" is car audio slang for upgrading the charge lead from the alternator to the battery, upgrading the ground from the engine to the battery, and upgrading the ground from the battery to vehicle chassis. The idea is to improve the performance of your charging system with respect to your audio system as well as pave the way for the installation of a high output alternator. Our kits are the best that money can buy - CLICK to view them.
Q - Which is better, crimping or soldering?
A - Both are good methods for making connections in vehicles. Either way, it's imperative that you use the correct tool for the job and use it correctly. Poor connections are the number one problem that most enthusiasts face when tackling electrical projects. For this reason, every pre-assembled kit that we sell requires no specialized electrical tools as all of the terminations are done in house. Should you elect to do this part yourself, we cannot recommend strongly enough that you invest in quality tools. In addition, our Master Electrical Terminal Kit includes over 800 pieces so that you can get the job done right.
Q - I don't own the correct crimping tool for the job. Can you terminate plugs, eyelets, or terminals on cable that I purchase for a specific application?
A - Absolutely. We happily provide this service for a nominal fee. We also sell a small selection of crimping tools - CLICK to view them.
Q - Will you build a harness to suit my needs?
A - Yes. We do not build vehicle wiring harnesses, but we build application specific harnesses all the time. For example, a harness for a pair of electric fans or a harness for high powered headlights on a UTV. There are no refunds on custom harnesses.
Q - Can I use your products in my boat?
A - In nearly all cases, yes. Our 1/0, 2, 4, and 8 AWG cable, as well as each of our eyelets, is tinned to prevent corrosion and oxidation and therefore approved for marine use. Solid terminations are vital in marine applications, so we recommend that they are protected from the elements with adhesive lined heat shrink tubing.
Q - I can get relays for a couple bucks a piece. What's the difference between those and yours?
A - Excellent question. The Tyco 30 Amp relays we sell are identical in design to the Bosch branded 30 Amp relays that we have used for over twenty years! [Tyco acquired the Bosch relay business.] In that time, we have used thousands of them and have never seen a single failure when the relay is installed correctly. The Tyco 40 Amp relays are built equally as well. We're proud to offer both. Contrast this to the cheap relays that we've removed hundreds of and replaced with better units to solve problems.
We offer all of the parts required to complete any project - large or small!