maok

Third brush generator regulator

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Hi all,  has anyone order one of James Peterson's voltage regulators for 3rd brush generators recently?

I have sent him an email about 2 weeks ago but have had no response so far.

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Slightly aside to your question but could you explain the operation of a voltage regulator instead of a cut-out with a third brush generator. Or perhaps just the pro's and cons.

Thanks

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I'll take a stab at it. With a third brush and a cutout, only current is regulated. It will charge all it can all the time (though what it can do varies with engine speed) A car set up for night driving will overcharge horribly on a long drive in the daytime. It will overcharge anyway after the battery reaches full charge. When setting the system, there is a dance between how full the battery is and the owner's normal driving habits. This is true to some extent with any generator, but it is really a big deal with a third brush and a cutout.

 

A third brush system with a voltage regulator still has it's current regulated by the third brush, and so there is one specific engine speed it charges most at. The current is limited by the third brush (when charging a low battery, to keep the generator from burning up). When the system needs less current, after the battery is almost charged, the system will run at whatever voltage the regulator is set to. In fact, it will try to run at regulator voltage all the time, limited only by the available current. At this point it is behaving like an alternator, or a post-1940 generator system. The battery self-regulates to some extent because the voltage is held constant, just like any modern car. From a design standpoint, this means you can have a bigger generator without cooking the battery. In a retrofit, it should let you set the third brush to the maximum current that the windings can take. My 36 Pontiac has a system like this from the factory.

 

37 Buicks took this idea a step further. The trouble with using a third brush to limit current is that current falls off at both lower and higher engine speeds. There is only one speed it is really good. The 37 (maybe through 39) Buicks have the whole field regulated by the voltage regulator, but only half the field is connected to the third brush. This seems like kind of a kludge, and I cant help but wonder if there is some perfect storm of conditions that would cause the generator to burn up from too much current. On the good side, with a setup like this the current does not fall off at high RPM. This allowed Buick to spin the generator faster, and have a more constant current capacity, not affected much by engine speed.

 

The final step in the evolution is to get rid of the third brush entirely, but then you need a current regulator. Systems like this started appearing on a few cars in the mid 30s, Pontiac Police and LaSalle for example. There were probably others. Nearly everything had them in 1940 when sealed beams became standard. These systems do everything an alternator does, except charge really good at idle. Current output can be much higher since both current and voltage are well regulated.

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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 Also, I hooked up a volt meter in my car and the voltage at +20mph reads well over 16 volts, not sure how high it is actually reaching.

Not great for your battery life.

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1 hour ago, Bloo said:

I'll take a stab at it. . . 

 

Excellent description.

 

33 minutes ago, maok said:

 Also, I hooked up a volt meter in my car and the voltage at +20mph reads well over 16 volts, not sure how high it is actually reaching.

Not great for your battery life.

 

Yep.

 

The third brush is an adjustable brush that picks up power for the field coil. If it is adjusted towards the brush that feeds the output from the generator your maximum current will be higher. If it is adjusted away from the output brush your maximum current will be lower. The general theory is that the more current that is output from the generator the more the magnetic field in the generator is rotated. And as it rotates the field strength were the third brush is changes. The end result is a device that tries to be a constant current source (field current decreases as the generator output current increases). In order to keep the system voltage in range, the battery is used to level things out. Basically a horrible idea for regulating an electrical system but it was cheap to make.

 

Back in the day you had your generator adjusted based on the time of year and your driving style. The idea was to get the current about right so that your battery was just about charged when you turned the engine off. So winter with harder starting and running the lights more you had to increase the charge rate. In summer you reduced it. If you did lots of highway miles you reduced it more. If you only took occasional long trips you might turn your headlights on to keep from over charging your battery. If the connection to your battery was bad then you'd an over voltage situation which could burn out lights, etc. Needless to say your battery was almost always under charged and sulfating or over charged and boiling off electrolyte. They did a lot of "battery service" in that era. I am guessing the abuse the 3rd brush electrical system was doing to the battery was a contributing cause.

 

Back to the original poster's query: I have not had a contact with Mr. Peterson in quite some time but the regulator he made for me has been working perfectly for a lot of years now. I hope he is still around to be able to help others.

Edited by ply33
Typos and overvoltage (see edit history)

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I ordered and installed a James Petersen electronic regulator in my 1929 Cadillac. I did it about 9 months to a year ago.  Several emails about the diameter of my generator (I have the larger version) Sent a check and It arrived quickly (couple of weeks?) Installation was straight forward and it worked perfectly. Personally I think that it is a bargain and I am glad he is offering them. 

 

I did say it was about a year ago, but you also know that in the old car world that is about only 3-4 miles and 5-6 hours of running time, (lots more to fix) but it is functioning great as evidenced by my amp gauge.

Charges strong after starting then tapers off as it runs awhile. With the 3rd brush it was full charge continuously, but I also had not adjusted it. 

 

BTW- Mr Ply 33 it was your write up that prompted me to order it. You have good information on your pages. Thanks. 

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)

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Does James do a 12volt version of his regulator?

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Thank you Bloo and Ply33.  As I have gone to an alternator my car is not affected but I was interested in the original technical side.

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There is a regulator available here http://www.funprojects.com/products/5055r.aspx - looks like a T-Ford cutout, but its a solid state cutout and regulator, available in 6,8 and 12V, neg and pos earth. Designed for 3 brush generators. If I get into trouble with overcharging I plan to try one of these.

jp 26 Rover 9

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John Reagan's stuff is top notch.

I have his 6 volt cutout/regulator on my '27 T.......perfect.

I'm considering one for the '32 Confederate as well.

 

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4 hours ago, jp928 said:

There is a regulator available here http://www.funprojects.com/products/5055r.aspx - looks like a T-Ford cutout, but its a solid state cutout and regulator, available in 6,8 and 12V, neg and pos earth. Designed for 3 brush generators. If I get into trouble with overcharging I plan to try one of these.

jp 26 Rover 9

 

Thanks. That maybe a good option.

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I’ve read where John will take any cutout and install his regulator into the cutout body unlike the Peterson regulator that is attached to the generator band and requires removal of the third brush. The Peterson regulator also has a design of working at two slightly different  amperes ratings depending on if you are using a stock cutout or a diode one. I currently have a Peterson unit in my 31’ Chevy that I personally installed and it works perfectly. When I first start the car and start driving it, the amps are higher to charge the battery back up from what was used to initially start the car. Within a few minutes you’ll see the gauge drop down to just a trickle during day time driving. At night, it’s charging again just a little above but that’s with all lights on.

 

Even with the great results of the Peterson regulator, I thought I’d try to have John put one of his units in my spare cutout for my 32’ Olds so I could leave my generator 100% stock. I have sent about 4-5 emails to the listed email address for fun projects with absolutely not one reply! Not a very good way to do business in my opinion as there should be someone monitoring the website and emails as the company still appears to be in business. Has anyone had luck getting in touch with Funprojects? If I don’t soon, I’ll be going with the Peterson unit as James gets back to me pretty quickly. 

 

On your generator putting out high voltage readings on your meter: did you have you generator hooked up to a load such as it would be normally in the car, from cutout to the car, amp guage, electrical system? If not, your generator will show crazy voltage, ask me how I know!

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Yes, the high voltage is when the car is running. 

 

I haven't inquired about the Funprojects  regulators as yet, a bit disappointing that they also do not reply in a timely manner either.

 

@chistech Thanks for the feedback on James Petersen's regulator. How does the regulator perform at idling and very low speed?

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It is my understanding that John Regan sold Fun Projects and may not be answering emails from his old address. Maybe if you sent an email from the Fun Project's web site...

Just a thought...

 

Frank

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I used the funprojects email, not Johns. I did find a ph and the voicemail stated than you’ve reached the Regans but I didn’t want to leave a message on what seemed like a home phone.

1 hour ago, maok said:

Yes, the high voltage is when the car is running. 

 

I haven't inquired about the Funprojects  regulators as yet, a bit disappointing that they also do not reply in a timely manner either.

 

@chistech Thanks for the feedback on James Petersen's regulator. How does the regulator perform at idling and very low speed?

At idle it basically shows no charge because there’s no real generator output at idle anyway. Pick up the rpms some and it’s starts charging. Mine is still hooked up with a standard cutout but most recommend using a diode which can be installed inside a cutout body. 

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James did reply this morning to my email, unfortunately he does not do a 12 volt version.

 

So the Fun Projects version is the only one available for 12 volts.

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Moe, 

    Do  you have contact information for James or his business.  I would like to compare what he has for my 6 volt system to see what works best.   Thank you.   Hugh

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On 8/20/2018 at 12:18 AM, Hubert_25-25 said:

Moe, 

    Do  you have contact information for James or his business.  I would like to compare what he has for my 6 volt system to see what works best.   Thank you.   Hugh

Hugh, I got his details from www.ply33.com where there is a great write up how to do the conversion.

 

James Peterson 
P.O. Box 884 
Bend, Oregon 97709 
email: jpetersonbend@yahoo.com

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1 hour ago, maok said:

Hugh, I got his details from www.ply33.com where there is a great write up how to do the conversion.

 

James Peterson 
P.O. Box 884 
Bend, Oregon 97709 
email: jpetersonbend@yahoo.com

 

Something wrong with the link, the display is correct but when you click on it the wrong site is attempted.

 

Correct link to the top of the site is https://www.ply33.com and the actual page about the voltage regulator is at https://www.ply33.com/Repair/voltreg

 

FWIW, it has been over 17 years since I wrote that page and the voltage regulator is still working perfectly.

 

Glad my website could be of use.

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Doh!!!

 

That is weird, I simply copied and pasted it. I should have checked the link. Sorry.

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I asked an older gentleman mechanic (he was in his 90s) about the generator question.  He said no problem, they just ran the lights on during the day, no overcharging issues.  Maybe daytime running lights were invented a long time ago?

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I have had the Peterson regulator in both my cars for years with no problems. I kept the original cut-out and 3rd brush for max current regulation. I don't like to fully tax my generator in the event the battery goes flat. I was surprised by observing the ammeter just how fast a good battery recovers after starting the engine. By the time I reach the end of my street, the ammeter is already approaching zero.

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8 hours ago, rsb said:

I have had the Peterson regulator in both my cars for years with no problems. I kept the original cut-out and 3rd brush for max current regulation. I don't like to fully tax my generator in the event the battery goes flat. I was surprised by observing the ammeter just how fast a good battery recovers after starting the engine. By the time I reach the end of my street, the ammeter is already approaching zero.

That is exactly my set up and what I’m seeing but it probably takes 3-5 minutes of driving. Very happy with my Peterson regulator.

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