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The Big 3 Upgrade - What's the Real Benefit?


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Wow! There seems to be a ton of mis-information about this topic abound. I've seen and heard some pretty far fetched stuff. Let's set the story straight.

What the Big 3 Upgrade Does

1. Optimizes the performance of the alternator.

2. Provides a low resistance path between the charging system and the audio system - but only when done correctly.

What the Big 3 Upgrade Doesn't Do

1. Increase the output voltage capability of the alternator.

2. Increase the output current capability of the alternator.

3. Offset the fact that your audio system requires substantially more current than the stock alternator can provide.

No before you go saying, "It did in my car, so you're wrong," let me explain.

When your vehicle was built originally, the manufacturer did not envision you dropping in a 3,000 watt audio system. Therefore, the alternator, wiring, and return path of the charging system was designed to be adequate for the stock on-board electronics and electrical accessories. Your alternator is likely a bit larger than what all electronics and electrical accessories truly require because it has been designed to operate all of them simultaneously under worse case conditions - like at idle and in 110 degree weather.

Now, you drop in said 3,000 watt audio system, which requires substantial additional current when you're doing hair tricks with the new Psyph album. Let's say that you leave the stock charging system as is - stock. You will experience substantial voltage drop at the B+ and B- terminals of your power amps when you crank it up. This is typically accompanied by a voltmeter that looks more like a VU meter, dimming lights, etc. Leave it and you'll be that guy with a dead battery, blown gear, and even a damaged alternator. Do you really want to be on a first name basis with the customer service department of your brands of choice, the local auto parts store, the local alternator shop . . . or all three?

By doing the Big 3 Upgrade, you're able to do two very important things:

1. Maximize the performance of what you already have.

2. Pave the way for the installation of a larger alternator.

Let's talk about # 1. Obviously upping the charge lead with larger cable really doesn't require an explanation, so let's discuss the return path. Before we proceed, pop your hood and look at the wiring on the battery negative terminal. Got your hood open? Why the hell not? Waiting . . . I mean you're reading this on your smart phone anyway so get out there and open the hood!

OK - most domestic vehicles will have two cables connected to the battery negative, one large and one small, and most imports will have one large cable. For a domestic, the large black cable is the return path for the starter and the alternator - that's right, both. Alternator mounts to bracket . . . bracket mounts to cylinder head . . . cylinder head mounts to block . . . big black cable bolts to block . . . cable connects block to battery negative. Now, look at the small cable from the battery negative to the inner fender. That's the return path for all of the electrical accessories and electronics - NOT the large cable. If you own an import, you will notice that the negative cable typically connects to the inner fender near the base of the battery AND then on to the engine block - so you guys actually have a leg up on the domestic guys in the return path department but you also typically get hosed with a smaller alternator.

Now, think for a second about where your amps are grounded. Now, think about the return path between the amps and the alternator - what exactly does that look like? Simple - amp to chassis . . . chassis to battery negative . . . battery negative to engine block . . . engine block to cylinder head . . . cylinder head to alternator bracket . . . alternator bracket to alternator. Hey, aren't there gaskets between the cylinder head and block? Are those stock cables big enough? Hmmm . . .

SURELY, we can improve on that! All day long . . .

This is exactly the idea behind OUR Big 3 Upgrade Kits as they provide an extremely low resistance return path between the alternator, battery negative and your audio system. If you own a unit-body vehicle, our kit will greatly improve the return path utilizing the vehicle chassis. If you own a body on frame vehicle, our kit adds a new return path - one capable of supporting very high current. That would be the frame. Yes, you will now ground your amplifiers to the frame (per the instructions in the kit). In addition, we'll improve the return path between the charging system and chassis with the included cable. In either case, we are also improving the return path to all of your stock electronics and electrical accessories - like current hungry electric fans and fuel pumps and it is not uncommon to see improvements in performance of say your headlights, etc.

Now, how important do you think the connections between these added cables and the chassis / frame are? Yep, they're equally important - that's why we include Grade 5 bolts, lock washers, flat washers, and zinc plated internal / external star washers. The terminations? Yep, they're equally important as well - that's why we don't beat our lugs on with a hammer. When you bolt our ground cables to your chassis or frame, you are making a connection that will last the lifetime of your vehicle. With our kits, you do it once, do it the correct way the first go, and forget about it. Cross this OFF your to do list and you won't ever need to fix it, update it, improve it, etc.

So . . . between the upgraded charge lead and the upgraded return path, we have maximized what you have. That's right, maximized. Your 140 Amp alternator will not suddenly be able to put out bursts of 150 Amps. But . . . and here is the big one . . . you will typically see an increase in the average voltage available at idle and when cruising around and voltage is that which causes current to flow - more voltage = more available current. This is due to the fact that our kits will reduce the resistance of your stock charging system layout to a point of insignificance. Any power that was prior wasted into heating the stock charge lead, heating the stock accessory ground lead, etc. is now available to be put to work. In addition, voltage drops between the myriad of connections between the original return path of your amplifiers and the alternator, voltage drop across the stock charge lead, etc. have been eliminated. In essence, this is FREE power! [Well, it'll cost you the price of the Big 3 Upgrade Kit and a few hours of your time to install it.] In addition, your audio system now has a direct connection and return path to the point of the highest voltage potential - the alternator. Guys, it all adds up. Our Super Thick tin plated copper lugs, full spec tinned OFC, proper terminations, and Grade 5 hardware will maximize what you'll gain.

And . . . you're all set to upgrade the alternator when your budget permits. Big 3 Upgrade or not, you still can't pull 200 Amps out of a 140 Amp alternator so you still gotta' use your head and exercise a bit of common sense.

And guess what - upgrading the cable between the battery negative and engine block has absolutely no bearing on improving the return path of your charging system for your audio system, but your starter will thank you.

  • Like (+1 Rep) 14

Tony Candela - SMD Sales & Marketing
Email me at [email protected] to learn about becoming an SMD Partner!

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Excellent Write Up !!!

Kenwood / HELIX / Linear Power (For The Love Of Music) / Brutal Sounds / OverKill Electric Co 

Questions About Sound Quality ?? Try Here ... Sound Quality, What does it REALLY mean ?? 

SMD SOTM Winner "White Lightning" 1997 GMT400 Chevy Silverado   

"The Green Dickle" 1994 GMT400 Chevy "Phantom Dually"   

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Man, they're sugar coating it. This isn't a good write up or whatnot. This... is muy excellente! I mean took the time to sit down and write down all the technical aspects. Debunked rumors (not sure how some could ever think a 140 amp alt can put out more), explained why you do what you do for the big 3, etc. So good, great, nice? Sugar coating. There's a lot of noobies out there, including myself. Sometimes we want to know why, rather than "just do it". Good job.

Sheena = pedobear

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