Visitor # 89964 since 02.NOV.2004
One of the first "real" trails I tackled in my 4Runner was the world famous Rubicon trail in 1998. After seeing two run-ending breakdowns easily repaired by means of on-trail welding, I decided that I needed to be able to do that. At the time, I didn't know how to weld, save for a two day introductory class back in college, I didn't own a welder but I knew I had to have one. A bit of research showed that there were several major on-board welding solutions available, Premier Power Welder (PPW), MobiWeld (MW), the Zena Mobile Welder and even DIY solutions such as Jay Kopycinski's RokToy welder. In my opinion, the PPW unit appeared to be the better setup for welding, the MW unit was better for auxiliary power use, although either one will do both. I had not heard anything about the Zena unit.
It is also possible to weld with multiple starting batteries connected in series. In fact this is how I saw the trail welding done on the aforementioned Rubicon trip. Prior to getting the PPW unit installed, I tried the welding with batteries. Several commercial battery-powered welding solutions are available, too:
With all these options, why did I end up choosing what I did? First off, I wanted to upgrade the stock 60A alternator. Secondly, I liked the redundancy of the of the external regulator/controller. Finally, I liked the convenience of simply flipping a switch to weld.
Anyway, a year or so ago, I ran across a good deal on the PPW 160A welder and bought it. After receiving the boxes from Premier Power, I unpacked the contents to find the alternator, control box, hand throttle, welding cables and wiring harness. The first this I determined was that I needed more room under the hood to get all that stuff installed!
I already had an air compressor taking up the only free space I had under the hood and I didn't want to relocate it. The only item that lived under the hood that could be reasonably moved someplace else was the battery. I had installed an Optima red-top battery a year before but had decided I wanted dual batteries for winching and redundancy, so...
Now I had a big hole on the passenger side of the engine compartment. The alternator is on the driver's side and I didn't want to run all those heavy cables from side to side if I could help it. I next eyed the factory air box, it sat opposite the battery tray with a silly long tube running across the engine bay to feed the throttle body on the passenger side, so...
All the above elapsed over about an 18-month period in real-time. While this was going on decided it would be a good idea to learn how to weld, so I enrolled in a local welding class to learn how to weld (I would highly encourage new welders to take a similar class). Anyway, this project seemed to always be on the back burner, but it took another run where a truck with an on-board welder was able to easily repair another vehicle, I decided I had to get this thing installed.
After the prliminary work (above) was finished, I finally had a large, empty space right next to the alternator and I was ready to press forward. The first problem is the PPW alternator doesn't exactly bolt right in. There are three mounting styles available, GM, Ford and Import or "saddle mount". The folks at Premier recommended that I order the saddle mount style , which apparently will fit the 22R alternator bracket with minor modifications, however, on my 22RE, this wasn't going to be as easy. One option was to find a 22R bracket at a junk yard.
You can see the PPW 160A alternator next to the stock 60A unit in the images below. Not only is the PPW unit about 1" in diameter larger, but its mounting points are opposite each other, while the stock unit is offset to one side. Looking at the dimensions of the GM and Ford alternator cases, they looked like they might fit a bit better, but I had the saddle-mount in-hand and was determined to have a go at it. To their credit, the folks at Premier were more than happy to swap out my alternator for another style, if needed.
Looking at a catalog from Wrangler NW Power Products, I saw a little sketch of their high output alternator mounting brackets for Toyotas. It looked like just the thing I needed, but they don't sell them separately, only as part of their alternator package. Well, the idea was enough for me, so I set about designing an adapter to allow the 160A PPW alternator to bolt into the stock mounting location without major modifications to the stock brackets. I still want the ability to re-install the stock alternator if needed. As noted above, several dimensions had to be addressed;
I designed an adapter to fit into the stock alternator mounting bracket attached to the engine block. It was designed to push the base of the PPW alternator down and to the side the required amount to align the v-groove on the alternator pulley with the water pump pulley. Since the stock alternator top mounting tab attached to the back side of the upper bracket and the new alternator attached to the front of the bracket, I had to trim about 1/4" off the PPW upper tab (I basically cut it in half down the molding flash line) and to facilitate easier access to the tensioning bolt, I drilled out the threaded hole in the upper tab and used a short carriage bolt to slide in the slot in the upper bracket. The square shoulder on the carriage bolt prevents it from turning while you tighten the nut.
Click on the image above to see a VRML model of the bracket I designed. The short end fits into the stock lower bracket using the factory 10mm bolt. The slight offset spacer provides the necessary set-back to align the PPW pulley with the water pump pulley. The PPW saddle mount tabs fit over the longer tube and a 7/16 x 5" bolt attaches the alternator to this end of the adapter. The sides are made out of 3/16 x 1.5" steel and small diameter steel tubing makes up the bolt sleeves. I TIG welded the adapter together for added strength and to prevent it twisting under load.
The PPW alternator has a slightly larger diameter pulley than stock and that coupled with its large case diameter, means it can't be tipped in as close to the block as the stock alternator to allow the v-belt to be installed. This was painfully apparent as I tried to stretch a nice new (35") belt onto the pulleys. While it could probably be installed, the alternator case would end up touching the large coolant hose that exits the water pump housing on the front of the block. Over time I felt this might wear the hose and cause a nasty coolant leak onto my expensive new alternator.
The solution to both problems was to go to a longer v-belt. I found a 1/2" wide x 36" long belt and it solved the belt-too-tight problem, but created another...
The tensioner bracket is too short to properly tension this longer belt. The belt is just starting to pull tight when the bolt in the alternator hits the end of the slot on the bracket (to the far right in the above-left picture). To the right is a picture of the stock tensioner bracket, the slot is just long enough for the stock 35" belt.
I extended the slotted end by making a vertical cut right where the bent section ends, and welding in pieces of 3/16" steel to elongate the slot an inch or so. You must elongate the slot and not the arm, since the pivot point remains the same. So now the longer belt can be installed and tightened enough to run properly. With the extra outward tilt of the alternator case, there is now a comfortable gap between the hose on the water pump housing and the alternator case. Its is still a tight fit, but there seems to be sufficient clearance at the motor mount, frame, power steering lines, etc. to keep things from hitting. And I had accomplished my goal of making no irreversible modifications to the stock alternator mounting. To check, I re-installed the stock unit and it fit right back in place.
End of step one, the alternator is installed. Unfortunately, the PPW alternator is an externally-regulated unit (that's how the PPW folks do all the magic with the higher power output). You have two choices at this point, one is to install the supplied external regulator, connect it to your battery, ground and a switched 12V circuit and you are ready to go with a 160A high power alternator. However, in order to weld, generate 115VDC power or charge batteries, you'll need to find a place for the PPW welder control box.
For service parts on the PPW alternators, contact Ace Alternator - (877) 365-5489.
So after about a year or two of use, I found my alternator belt was loose again and it started to squeal. I tried tightening it a few times, but found it would not hold. What I noticed was that the v-belt have worn along the inner part of the "V" while the backing was still in good shape. Further investigation revealed that there was a raised step on the side of the crank pulley, as seen below-left:
The other 2 pulleys were "normal" but for some reason the stock alternator pulley has been narrowed by about 1/8" with this step. I checked a spare 22R pulley I had and found it was the same. I chucked the pulley up in my 9x20 lathe (it just barely fit) and shaved off the step (picture above-right). Once re-installed, the new v-belt seemed to sit much deeper in the pulley groove, so hopefully it'll last longer.
The control box is fairly large, advertised as 4"W x 4"H x 9" L, with the heavy wiring harness and need to access switches, etc., it needs more room that that. Originally, I figured I could push some things around to make it fit, but with the unit in hand, this proved to be a false hope. So the previously mentioned modifications to relocate my battery and move the air intake to the space formerly occupied by the battery had left me a nice open spot behind the driver's side headlight. As everyone's under-hood layout will vary, I'll leave the final location of your welder control box up to you. Folks without power steering or factory cruise control should have a much easier installation.
In the above-left image, you can see why the control box is so big, its packed full of heavy gauge cable, switches, capacitors, meters, connectors, etc. I doubt it could be made any smaller. In the above-right image, you can see that I mounted the control box behind the headlight, in the location of the stock air filter box. This is a nice location, its right next to the alternator and I was able to run the ground cable along the top of the radiator (you can see the black cable curving up and to the right in the above picture). The power cables ran over to my dual battery solenoid on the firewall (but could have gone in front with the ground for a normal setup). Finally, I found a wire labeled "IG" in the stock alternator connector that provides the 12V ignition-switched circuit to activate the PPW control box. I wrapped electrical tape around all the rest of the stock alternator connections and tucked them safely out of the way. You can see the wiring diagram in the diagram below:
I hooked up the rest of the wires, double-checked everything and fired up the engine. Success, battery voltage jumped to 13.8 volts or so, all the indicator lights are on, I'm running off the new alternator, whew!
But wait, there's more. While the PPW alternator can pump out about 50A at idle and 160A when you crank it up, you can't use any of the extra features without installing a hand throttle.
The welder kit comes with a very nice vernier hand throttle. I've seen other setups with the hand throttle mounted under the hood to make it easier to use with the welding control box. I felt that the hand throttle would be a handy addition in the cab and I could see the meter on the control box while operating the throttle. I found a nice location to mount it next to the parking brake handle (see image; above-left). It is out of the way but still within easy reach. In the center picture, you can see the nice quick disconnect feature that allows the throttle cable to be detached from the handle if needed. This makes accessing wiring under the dash very easy. Under the hood, I found that clamping the cable housing to my relocated air box allowed the inner core to attach to a bracket connected to the throttle linkage (see image; above-right). The linkage is free to slide up the inner wire for normal use. Another alternative is to use a length of chain to pull the throttle open.
Anyway, my setup seems to work fine. The hand throttle is a handy addition for winching, wheeling, but makes a poor substitute for a cruise control. It operates by turning the knob to pull the throttle in or let it out. A handy safety feature is if the red button is pressed it will pop back to the fully-off setting.
Finally, all the parts are in place, now time to test the operation of the extra features of the unit...
To weld, you need to do the following:
I tested the unit with some 1/8" 6011 rod and some 3/32" 7018 rod. Both worked well, the high-frequency component in the waveform helped produce excellent penetration and bead formation. The Premier welder internally produces a 3-phase alternating current (AC), like most alternators. The AC is then rectified to direct current (DC) for welding, but the AC ripple is not filtered out. Depending on engine speed, this ripple can be several kilo-hertz (kHz). This high frequency AC component helps the arc clean impurities from the weld pool and also makes striking and maintaining an arc quite easy. It also is responsible for the whistling noise heard during welding. I burned 2-3 rods in rapid succession and did notice the alternator case was fairly warm to the touch.
An important note that while welding (or running power tools) the alternator is disconnected from the vehicles electrical system. As such, the engine and accesories are running soley off the battery, so you have a practical limit to your welding time. Also, it is recommended that you run the engine at idle in normal charging mode for a few minutes after extended use to recharge the main battery before shutting the engine off.
You may find some good welding information on this section of the web site...
Another nice feature of the PPW unit is the ability to produce 115V DC for powering various accessories. To test this, I grabbed an old 3/8" Craftsman drill which has a simple on/off switch and a universal motor (i.e. it has brushes). To set up for 115V operation, do the following:
There are many types of accessories that normally operate on 115V AC that will works just as well on 115V DC. Anything that is purely resistive will work, such as heaters, incandescent lights, coffee pots, etc. Many motor-driven devices will also work. They must have a universal motor (one that can run AC or DC), they can't have any solid-state electronics,, like variable speed, etc.
[Last updated: 06.January.2015]