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Old 03-05-2010, 05:33 PM
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How-To: Big 3 Upgrade (Extremely Pic-Heavy)

Update: The original pictures are no longer available. I've taken new pictures and edited them into Post 19 in the How-To section. These pictures are not as in-depth as the original ones, but I've tried to edit them in such a way as to make them understandable and easy to follow. The pictures missing are mostly from the process of creating the cables, which should be pretty straightforward if you follow the text.

Thanks for understanding and sorry for any inconvenience. I hope these new pictures help.

Matt





b]How to Upgrade the Big 3[/b]

Note: This information is all over the web. If you’ve done research on it then you will recall most of the things I mention here. This isn’t something that I invented--it’s what I’ve learned by researching.



What exactly is the “Big 3”?
When someone refers to the Big 3 they are referring to upgrading the three main electrical wires in the vehicle’s system:
1. Battery (+) to alternator power wire
2. Battery (-) to ground
3. Engine block to ground



Why should I do this upgrade?
Our vehicle’s stock electrical systems were designed for such---stock electrical. When you start adding things like audio equipment (amplifiers), aftermarket lights, etc, you are increasing the demand put on your electrical system. Upgrading the Big 3 decreases the resistance in the electrical system. Less resistance means better flowing current which means lower or even non-existent voltage drops.

Most of the time stock wiring is right around 8 awg (give or take). It’s simply not designed for the extra current draw required by aftermarket items. Let’s use a garden hose as an analogy to electrical wiring. If you have a long, thin garden hose, the flow of water through it will be much less than a short, thick hose. Compare a 100-ft, 5/8” diameter garden hose to a 1-ft long, 6” diameter section of water supply PVC pipe. The flow will be much greater through the shorter, thicker section (less pressure). The same goes for electrical systems. The larger and shorter your wiring, the less resistance to the flow of current.

Even if you do not have any issues with voltage drops, dimming headlights, or anything like that, the Big 3 is still highly recommended. Stock electrical systems can benefit from the Big 3. It’s probably the cheapest upgrade one can do for their electrical system. While it’s generally recommended to use 4 awg or larger wiring for upgrading the Big 3, I highly recommend using 1/0 from the start. It’s the best option and only costs slightly more. Better to do it right the first time.


How to upgrade the Big 3

Note: The following is the method I used and the materials I used. If you have a different tool or method feel free to use it---as long as it gets the job done safely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the12volt.com
Note: Realize that the "absolute ground" of the electrical system is not the battery negative terminal or the vehicle chassis, but is the case of the alternator itself. This is why perhaps the most important cable among the Big 3 is the engine ground strap, as this is what connects the alternator ground to the vehicle's chassis. Be certain the resistance between the alternator case (the engine block assuming the alternator is properly bolted to the engine) and the battery negative is minimized.




What you need

• Approximately 10 feet of flexible 1/0 high-strand wire (measure your vehicle’s existing wiring with a string to be sure, and overestimate)
• Six (6) 1/0 ring terminals
• In-line ANL fuse holder
• ANL fuse rated between 200 and 300 amps (I used 250A)
• Wire brush to clean contact points
• Extended battery posts for ring terminals
• Wire cutters large enough for 1/0
• Knife or wire strippers large enough for 1/0
• Crimpers large enough for 1/0
• Solder
• Propane torch or soldering gun
• Socket set for bolted connections
• Allen wrench set for connecting fuse
• Zip-ties




Gather/Order your materials

I bought my wire, ring terminals, and fuse from KnuKonceptz. They have highly flexible, high-strand count 1/0 at a great price. I highly recommend the flexible 1/0---it makes the process so much easier. All the other materials I had laying around or borrowed from work.




Let’s take a quick look at which wires we are upgrading

I tried to color coordinate these to make it easier to see.

• Red - Power wire upgrade
• Yellow - Battery to ground (frame) upgrade
• Green - Engine block to ground (frame) upgrade (new wire)
• Blue – Not necessary, but part of what some people call the Big 4. It’s essentially upgrading the frame to chassis ground (I did it through the battery negative). The only reason I did this is because I had extra wire left over and it sure as heck doesn’t hurt. (There’s also a frame to chassis connection underneath the truck behind the front passenger tire.)


As you can see the power wire and frame to chassis upgrades are straightforward. The engine block and battery negative to ground (frame) go down and out of sight. They come down as seen in the second picture and connect here inside the passenger wheel well (very convenient). You should take your wire and lay it out over the existing wire to mark exactly where to cut it, as seen in the third picture.


Preparing the wires

Gather everything you see here: wire, ring terminals, cable cutters, cable strippers/knife, crimpers, propane torch, and solder.



I used cable cutters rated at 2/0, but this stuff is so flexible it cut it like butter.



Mark the approximate location of where you’re going to strip the wire at. To cut it, you can use strippers if you want, but I found it much easier to use a carpenter’s knife (razor blade). Just run around the wire slicing down to the wire. It was much easier than I thought it would be.



Attach your ring terminal and crimp it down using either pliers or a vise. I had a vise available, so I used it. Crimp one side of the terminal first, then the other side. After crimping alone you should be able to give the ring terminal a slight tug and it won’t budge. (Don’t pull it off, though…)

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.


After crimping gather your materials for soldering. You want to set the wire up so you don’t have to hold it while doing this (it gets HOT). I used the vise and lightly clamped the wire down (not so tight as to pinch it). You want to hold the torch so as it heats up the backside of the ring terminal. Then add your solder so it seeps down into the strands of wire inside the crimped section of the ring terminal. It should look something like the last picture when finished soldering. Rinse and repeat for the other wires.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.






Installation
The first thing you want to do whenever you work on your electrical system is disconnect the negative terminal. Here is where you want to add your post extenders if necessary (but don’t reconnect negative terminal). I picked up a cheap negative post to hold me over. I have another one on order at the moment, but I wanted to knock this out today.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.


The first one I added was the positive wire running from the (+) battery terminal to the alternator. I wanted to knock it out first since it required the most work (fusing). Go ahead and connect it to your positive terminal.

Click the image to open in full size.


As you can see it’s a little longer than I wanted it (better to have leeway than to be too short). No problem, though, because we will be adding a fuse and can cut it to length.

Click the image to open in full size.


So go ahead and cut the wire where you will be adding the fuse. Eyeball how much you want to strip off and use your knife to do so. Go ahead and do the other side after cutting the wire to your desired length. Then insert the fuse and connect it all together.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.


The second one I upgraded was the battery to chassis ground (again, Big 4, I did it with the leftover cable I had). Be sure to use your wire brush and scuff up the contact location. Do it enough to essentially remove all of the paint. You can see the chassis contact location in the background (slightly out of focus).

Click the image to open in full size.


The third one was the battery to frame ground. The first thing I did was remove the mounting bolt in order to scuff up the mounting surface. I have sprayed rubberized undercoating on this section of my truck in the past so that definitely needed removed.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.


I went ahead and ran it down through the engine bay and bolted it up to keep it from moving. Since the negative battery terminal is disconnected I left the other end of the cable disconnected as well.

Click the image to open in full size.


Here you can see the final upgrade, which is engine block to frame ground. There are many bolts you can use….just pick one and make sure the connection is clean. You can see this one in the lower left of the first picture. It was a tight fit to undo this bolt and connect the ring terminal, but I did that and then connected it to the frame ground location, as seen in the second pic.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.


Now reconnect your negative terminal and test everything. Here’s a final look at everything during testing (right before I finalized their locations and zip-tied them in place). You can see that I still used too much wire for some locations, but it’s better to have a little more than run short.

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.




Before/after videos using Gryphon's voltage display

In both videos I did two things: rolled all four windows down at the same time and cranked the system up. In the first video it took me a minute to get the song playing (sorry) but I cranked it up about as loud as I'll ever listen to it. In the second video I cranked it way past what I would normally listen to and then dropped it back down to the loudest I'd ever listen to it. Sorry for the crappy sound but my D90 doesn't pick up bass well at all. Made it sound really choppy.

Note that in the first video, the voltage idles around 13.6. It drops to a minimum of 12.8 while rolling the windows down and back up. While fluctuating with the music it drops to a minimum of 12.8 as well.

[youtube]ZeIoUNrwxqA[/youtube]



Now in the second video note that the voltage idles around 14.1. It drops to a minimum of 13.5 while rolling the windows down and back up. While fluctuating with the music past my regular listening levels it drops to a minimum of 13.4. When I lower it back to regular listening levels it doesn't fluctuate at all except on the heaviest bass notes. All in all I consider that a success.

[youtube]hm-M72dw4uU[/youtube]




Suggestions/Notes

• Try to keep wires away from heat sources inside the engine
• Leave some slack in the new wires for the movements inside the engine bay
• Don’t bother disconnecting stock wiring if you don't want to—current takes the path of least resistance so it won’t hurt anything
• If you still have issues with voltage drops/dimming headlights/etc the next steps for you are to upgrade your battery and alternator (I'm saving up for this)
• This isn’t a difficult task to accomplish as long as you understand what you’re doing to your electrical system. After prep time (including gathering material, cutting wire, attaching ring terminals, etc) it should take an hour tops to install everything.

Hopefully this answers any questions you guys have about this. If not and you still have questions, please ask. Many of us here are willing to help you.
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Last edited by Bluejay; 07-21-2010 at 10:47 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-05-2010, 05:42 PM
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Nice right up! thanks for the info!
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  #3  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:08 PM
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Yea, excellent right up. Only thing I don't like is the connectors. They look weak. I use heavier lugs for that size cable.

FFI/RGM has some nice Big3 hardware -

http://rjminjectiontech.com/?p=7

http://rjminjectiontech.com/?p=22

Very nice! Thanks!
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Old 03-05-2010, 06:12 PM
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No problem, guys. jbrew, which connectors, the ring terminals?

Thanks for the links.
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Old 03-05-2010, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mblouir View Post
No problem, guys. jbrew, which connectors, the ring terminals?

Thanks for the links.
Right, just the brass rings, I have some of those in my box, but went with the copper lugs instead. Just made up a trailer harness using one for a ground. Hard to see in this pic, but you may be able to see enough it.

Click the image to open in full size.

I didn't do the Big 3 yet, but plan to.

You crimp and solder, that's great! That will stiffen them up some as well.

Yea, I'm waiting for weather connectors before I put this one in use, but they also have Nickle or Zinc Plated/coated lugs that are direct solder, no crimping.

But yea, you do nice work which made a difference. I plan to do the same.

Last edited by jbrew; 03-05-2010 at 06:47 PM.
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  #6  
Old 03-05-2010, 09:12 PM
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Cool step by step write up. I like the attention to detail and colored guidelines.

A couple things to add though:

1) Wires under the hood must have protection of some sort. Proper looming is critical for safety.

2) The fuse must be rated for what the wire is rated for, not just any amount between 200 and 300. If the wire is rated for a maximum of 250A, it would make zero sense to put a 300A fuse on it.


I strongly recommend the frame to chassy ground. The stock one is like 12awg. I was amazed at how small it was when I swapped to 1/0. While for some it may not be necessary, many people ground their large sound systems straight to the frame for a nice clean ground so this 4th wire is one that really should be upgraded anyways. So theoretically it should be called "the big 4 upgrade"

Comparison:

Click the image to open in full size.

Installed:

Click the image to open in full size.

Just posting the picture for those who want to direct replace this wire instead of running it to the battery post.

Otherwise, nice job man.
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Last edited by mSaLL150; 03-05-2010 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 03-05-2010, 09:31 PM
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Here's a better shot of lugs you can get, this one is about right in the middle of what's offered or what I've found. Not the battery connectors, I've found better than those, but the lug on the left is what I referring to. The larger type have two solder pockets and come with solder pellets that insert into the sleeve/ then heat and plug in your cable or cables.



Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 03-05-2010, 10:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mSaLL150 View Post
Cool step by step write up. I like the attention to detail and colored guidelines.

A couple things to add though:

1) Wires under the hood must have protection of some sort. Proper looming is critical for safety.

2) The fuse must be rated for what the wire is rated for, not just any amount between 200 and 300. If the wire is rated for a maximum of 250A, it would make zero sense to put a 300A fuse on it.

Just posting the picture for those who want to direct replace this wire instead of running it to the battery post.

Otherwise, nice job man.
Thanks for the compliment, man. Yeah something I forgot to add is that I will be adding wire loom to everything to clean it up. I was just too tired after work today to worry about cleaning it up. I wanted to go ahead and get this up. Good catch, though.

For the fuse, essentially it's to prevent any overloading of the wire, right? While I agree 100% about putting a 300A fuse on a 250A cable is pointless, I went the other way. KnuKonceptz claims that their flex cable is capable of loads over 300A. The reason I went with 250A is because I don't expect the load to go that high, and if it does I would rather the fuse blow there rather than reaching the limits that the cable can handle. I guess better safe than sorry was my thinking. I've also seen people say it's not necessary to fuse it since power is flowing both ways in that cable, but here it's definitely better to be safe than sorry.

And thanks for posting the pic of the frame to chassis ground. I remembered seeing you mention it in a previous thread I found in a search. I agree that doing it that way is a much better way to achieve the frame to chassis upgrade since it doesn't have to go through the battery. The only reason I did it this way is because I was lazy today and didn't feel like crawling around. Are you sure that stock one is 12 ga? It's so thin...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbrew View Post
Here's a better shot of lugs you can get, this one is about right in the middle of what's offered or what I've found. Not the battery connectors, I've found better than those, but the lug on the left is what I referring to. The larger type have two solder pockets and come with solder pellets that insert into the sleeve/ then heat and plug in your cable or cables.
Neat. If you look I actually have two of those for my engine block to ground upgrade. I ordered 6 ring terminals to start and the two that are different are the only kind I could find locally. Good post.
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Last edited by mblouir; 03-05-2010 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:36 AM
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Yea mSaLL150's post is going to have me hunting down the Engine Frame ground tommorow lol. How's it going SaL, - long time.

I don't recall seeing one of those on the truck off hand. I know there's a heavy one back by the bed and cab seam. I have to give it a better look.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:44 AM
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It's right behind the passenger tire. If you crawl underneath you can see it. It sort of disappears under the plastic section of the wheel well if you try to follow it from a crouching position.
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Old 03-06-2010, 01:17 AM
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nice write up i will be doing this one soon
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Old 03-06-2010, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mblouir View Post
It's right behind the passenger tire. If you crawl underneath you can see it. It sort of disappears under the plastic section of the wheel well if you try to follow it from a crouching position.
Yea I have a small strap behind the passenger side tire that runs from the frame rail to the cab.

Oh you know what, I know where it is, - I also have a small cable attached the frame rail beside the passenger side tire that splits. From the frame rail it goes to the engine block by the starter. The other side goes right to the battery. That must be it. I'll look again tho.

Like this -

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 03-06-2010, 03:19 AM
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Way cool write up. I am adding this to the list of things to do on my truck.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:09 PM
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Im feeling lazy today.... Can i pay someone to do this for me?
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Old 03-06-2010, 02:02 PM
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Nice write up.The starter /transmission bolt has that other ground that wraps all the way around. I did that one on mine as well. It is good practice not to change locations of factory grounds.
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Old 03-06-2010, 02:02 PM


 
 
 
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