Figure 2-28. - Typical diode.
Since the engine speed varies in a vehicle, the frequency also varies with the change of speed. Likewise, increasing the number of pairs of magnetic north and south poles will increase the frequency by the number pair of poles. A four-pole generator can generate twice the frequency per revolution of a two- pole rotor.
A voltage regulator controls alternator output by changing the amount of current flow through the rotor windings. Any change in rotor winding current changes the strength of the magnetic field acting on the stator windings. In this way, the voltage regulator can maintain a preset charging voltage. The three basic types of voltage regulators are as follows:
Contact point voltage regulator, mounted away from the alternator in the engine compartment
Electronic voltage regulator, mounted away from the alternator in the engine compartment
Electronic voltage regulator, mounted on the back or inside the alternator
The contact point voltage regulator uses a coil, set of points, and resistors that limits system voltage. The electronic or solid-state regulators have replaced this older type. For operation, refer to the "Regulation of Generator Output" section of this chapter.
The electronic voltage regulators use an electronic circuit to control rotor field strength and alternator output. It is a sealed unit and is not repairable. The electronic circuit must be sealed to prevent damage from moisture, excessive heat, and vibration. A rubberlike gel surrounds the circuit for protection.
An integral voltage regulator is mounted inside or on the rear of the alternator. This is the most common type used on modern vehicles. It is small, efficient, dependable, and composed of integrated circuits.
An electronic voltage regulator performs the same operation as a contact point regulator, except that it uses transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors to regulate voltage in the system. To increase alternator output, the electronic voltage regulator allows more current into the rotor windings, thereby strengthen the magnetic field around the rotor. More current is then induced into the stator windings and out of the alternator.
To reduce alternator output, the electronic regulator increases the resistance between the battery and the rotor windings. The magnetic field decreases and less current is induced into the stator windings.
Alternator speed and load determines whether the regulator increases or decreases charging output. If the load is high or rotor speed is low (engine at idle), the regulator senses a drop in system voltage. The regulator then increases the rotors magnetic field current until a preset output voltage is obtained. If the load drops or rotor speed increases, the opposite occurs.
Alternator testing and service call for special precautions since the alternator output terminal is connected to the battery at all times. Use care to avoid reversing polarity when performing battery service of any kind. A surge of current in the opposite direction could bum the alternator diodes.
Do not purposely or accidentally "short" or "ground" the system when disconnecting wires or connecting test leads to terminals of the alternator or regulator. For example, grounding of the field terminal at either alternator or regulator will damage the regulator. Grounding of the alternator output terminal will damage the alternator and possibly other portions of the charging system.Continue Reading