Dim headlights - Impala Tech
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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Dim headlights

I've got a 64' Belair 6 cyl. , the headlight are fairly dim.A common problem with old cars.If I update to a 100 amp alternator will that help?I'm not looking for a long drawn out explaination about wiring & relays ect.Just a simple yes or no.I done a search & didn't really find an answer.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 08:21 AM
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No. If the car is sufficiently charging the battery now, adding a bigger alternater does nothing.

Bigger wires, clean contacts, or relays are a different story...

1969 Imapala convertible build thread here:
https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...ghlight=impala
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 08:44 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justjohn View Post
No. If the car is sufficiently charging the battery now, adding a bigger alternater does nothing.

Bigger wires, clean contacts, or relays are a different story...
Thanks...that's what I was looking to hear.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justjohn View Post
No. If the car is sufficiently charging the battery now, adding a bigger alternater does nothing.

Bigger wires, clean contacts, or relays are a different story...
Before getting my Impala, I had about 30 years' experience with 6-volt cars. That taught me the value of good grounds and clean connections. Probably applies just as well to 12 volt systems. A couple of hours with a brass brush (ground lead DISCONNECTED at battery) can pay big dividends.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 11:39 AM
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Yes it does. Especially with a six cylinder car.

Look on your alternator body for the numbers stamped into the body. Unless your car had A/C it should say 36A. Trouble is in 1964 transistors didn't exist, so your voltage regulator is mechanical. It senses voltage using a Wheatstone bridge relying upon different gage wire coils rather than the more common carbon powder ceramic resistors (which are heat sensitive), and four silver coated mechanical points. The points burn and pit from arcing, and the fine wire resister often either shorts out or opens up causing voltage issues in charging and dim lights.

The 10 AD alternator in your car isn't powering your car, the battery is. The alternator is used as a battery charger and a filter. So if you have an old battery with high internal resistance you will have low voltage in your system with the alternator trying to bring up the voltage pumping amperage through a high ohm load which drops your voltage which gives dim lights. Add to this the fact that the alternator requires 3,700 RPM input (which is equivalent to 1,600 RPM at the crank to out put any amperage at all and then it is only one third of the full rated amount; as the alternator spins at 230% of crank speed). At 4,000 RPM it is only outputting 85% to 90% of it's rated power as GM measured it at the armature and not the battery terminal. The induced voltage is directly proportional to the rate of speed of the conductor that it is cutting through the magnetic lines of force generated by the armature wiring.

The 12 CS (one wire style) reverses two things. Instead of relying upon the battery to power the car the alternator provides the main power with the battery used mostly for starting the vehicle and powering your electric fuel pump, stereo, and the fans after the car is turned off if the car is still too hot. The CS style alternator outputs half of it's full rated power at 1,200 RPM (with the smallest one you can buy being rated at 61 Amps, so you have already 100% of your old alternator's power). The other thing is it is fully transistorized so instead of relying upon the battery to meet the electrical load the alternator with it's internal regulator can react fast enough to do that (the old mechanical points style would respond too slowly to meet demand). It also sheds heat faster to run cooler due to it's reversed air path flow (newer CS-121 or CS-130 style alternators have an internal fan), which is why the older SI style alternators (found on 1971-'85 vehicles) where not as reliable.

Basically from the days of generators there have been the 10AD (what you have now with an external voltage regulator used from 1963-'70), the 10SI (used from 1971-'85), followed by the improved 12SI (distinguished by it's plastic fan and a big hole in the rear too cool the diodes and rectifying bridge from 1983-'86), then the "one wire" CS-121/CS-130 series (used from 1986-'96), and finally the internal fan CS-130D and the CS144D series used from 1986 to date for the CS-144D (the CS-130D was discontinued in 1996). Basically the bigger the number the bigger the alternator's rated power out put (though all interchange and are about the same size). From 1985 and up GM used a serpentine belt to power the alternator as getting more power out reqwuired more power going in. You can use a dual V-groove pulley to make up for this lack of contact patch off of a Cadillac or Buick that had a larger amp rated alternator than a Chevy did, and change to a dual groove crank and water pump pulley that was used by A/C equipped cars.

Cleaning terminals will help as corrosion creates resisstance and as we all know electricity is as simple as PIE (Ohm's law).

Big Dave
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Dave View Post
Yes it does. Especially with a six cylinder car.

Look on your alternator body for the numbers stamped into the body. Unless your car had A/C it should say 36A. Trouble is in 1964 transistors didn't exist, so your voltage regulator is mechanical. It senses voltage using a Wheatstone bridge relying upon different gage wire coils rather than the more common carbon powder ceramic resistors (which are heat sensitive), and four silver coated mechanical points. The points burn and pit from arcing, and the fine wire resister often either shorts out or opens up causing voltage issues in charging and dim lights.

The 10 AD alternator in your car isn't powering your car, the battery is. The alternator is used as a battery charger and a filter. So if you have an old battery with high internal resistance you will have low voltage in your system with the alternator trying to bring up the voltage pumping amperage through a high ohm load which drops your voltage which gives dim lights. Add to this the fact that the alternator requires 3,700 RPM input (which is equivalent to 1,600 RPM at the crank to out put any amperage at all and then it is only one third of the full rated amount; as the alternator spins at 230% of crank speed). At 4,000 RPM it is only outputting 85% to 90% of it's rated power as GM measured it at the armature and not the battery terminal. The induced voltage is directly proportional to the rate of speed of the conductor that it is cutting through the magnetic lines of force generated by the armature wiring.

The 12 CS (one wire style) reverses two things. Instead of relying upon the battery to power the car the alternator provides the main power with the battery used mostly for starting the vehicle and powering your electric fuel pump, stereo, and the fans after the car is turned off if the car is still too hot. The CS style alternator outputs half of it's full rated power at 1,200 RPM (with the smallest one you can buy being rated at 61 Amps, so you have already 100% of your old alternator's power). The other thing is it is fully transistorized so instead of relying upon the battery to meet the electrical load the alternator with it's internal regulator can react fast enough to do that (the old mechanical points style would respond too slowly to meet demand). It also sheds heat faster to run cooler due to it's reversed air path flow (newer CS-121 or CS-130 style alternators have an internal fan), which is why the older SI style alternators (found on 1971-'85 vehicles) where not as reliable.

Basically from the days of generators there have been the 10AD (what you have now with an external voltage regulator used from 1963-'70), the 10SI (used from 1971-'85), followed by the improved 12SI (distinguished by it's plastic fan and a big hole in the rear too cool the diodes and rectifying bridge from 1983-'86), then the "one wire" CS-121/CS-130 series (used from 1986-'96), and finally the internal fan CS-130D and the CS144D series used from 1986 to date for the CS-144D (the CS-130D was discontinued in 1996). Basically the bigger the number the bigger the alternator's rated power out put (though all interchange and are about the same size). From 1985 and up GM used a serpentine belt to power the alternator as getting more power out reqwuired more power going in. You can use a dual V-groove pulley to make up for this lack of contact patch off of a Cadillac or Buick that had a larger amp rated alternator than a Chevy did, and change to a dual groove crank and water pump pulley that was used by A/C equipped cars.

Cleaning terminals will help as corrosion creates resisstance and as we all know electricity is as simple as PIE (Ohm's law).



Big Dave
I keep hearing the 12CS one wire style will help alot,true?
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 01:41 PM
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Gizzy, both options help like Dave says, but sticking with the older/original design alternator and separate voltage regulator means less amps hitting your headlights.

Several of us have made the upgrade to the newer 1-wire alternator. It's easy and it helps because the headlights see more amps at the lower RPM's.

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2012, 01:47 PM
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I still think he should clean his contacts.

1969 Imapala convertible build thread here:
https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...ghlight=impala
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-28-2012, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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I think I'm going to use a combination of all posts.I'm going to convert to a 70 amp single wire alternator from Ecklers... and clean all contacts I can.I forgot to mention that I'm going to pull the 6 cyl this winter & replace it with a 64' 283 bored .030 over.Am I on the right track now guys? LMK

Last edited by Gizzy; 07-28-2012 at 01:15 AM.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-28-2012, 08:22 AM
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Yes except for the displacement. If you are going to install a small block; install a 406 cubic inch displacement small block. It looks just like a 283 from the outside with a few tweaks to install the oil fill tube and old style valve covers (the ones without the PCV valve in them) used up until 1968.

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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-28-2012, 09:23 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry Big Dave but I already have the machine work done on the 283,power pak heads redone with hardened seats,comp cams bump stick,etc.Gotta go with this for now.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-28-2012, 10:05 AM
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What brand headlights? If you still have the original hard to find T3 headlamps, they will be a lot dimmer than later model replacement headlamps.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-29-2012, 09:40 AM Thread Starter
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I don't think that's it,I have newer style lights
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-29-2012, 11:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Dave View Post
...in 1964 transistors didn't exist, so your voltage regulator is mechanical.

Big Dave
Not exactly correct, transistors did exist in 64, just not on the alternator/voltage regulator. In fact Chevy proudly advertised the transistors in the radio in '64. Still new-fangled technology back then and high current applications were still expensive.


If you are concerned about original appearance, you can get a high output stock alternator and solid state voltage regulator that look just like the originals.

http://www.qualitypowerauto.com/catalog.php?item=7



http://www.qualitypowerauto.com/catalog.php?item=140




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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-29-2012, 01:13 PM
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Well actually the first transistorized radio was used on a F-104 Star Fighter installed in December of 1959, but there were armed air police guarding the planes that would shoot you if you even tried to look at it back then as it was a state secret.

The Japanese took the scientific papers published by the Bell Labs scientist who perfected the solid state transistor and made their own cheap radios in 1961 to bring crystal sets to the masses.

Once the genie was out of the bottle everybody started to use transistors which was a new technology in 1964 and were not very really reliable for the longest time as they are limited in the amount of power they can pass and they are still to this day very heat sensitive (as Intel will tell you).

Big Dave
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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2012, 01:13 PM Thread Starter
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I've been taking the suggestions I've been getting here & I'm gaining on my dim light problems.Cleaning the connectors inside the plastic is pretty hard to get to.I was wondering if anybody ever used that CLR solution & brushed it on so as not to flood the sockets? I just thought that might clean the brass.Let me know if you guys have any thoughts or ideas.
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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2012, 01:36 PM
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I use a Dremel tool with a soft brass brush to polish and a stiff stainless steel wire cup to clean. I only clean the blades because that is the easiest to get to. I don't know of an easy or effective way to clean the interior edges of the conector in the socket other than an acid bath which I wouldn't recommend.

Big Dave
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post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2012, 04:10 PM
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Use a small screwdriver or blade to scratch any corrosion or scale off of your contacts. Then for the lights make sure you use dielectric grease before you put it all back together.
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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-03-2012, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 05snopro440 View Post
Use a small screwdriver or blade to scratch any corrosion or scale off of your contacts. Then for the lights make sure you use dielectric grease before you put it all back together.
I found that the file on a fingernail clipper will go in the socket without doing any harm to the socket or clips.Just a little FYI.
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