Charging System

The function of the automobile battery is to supply a sufficient amount of electricity to the automobile's electrical components such as the starter motor, headlights and wipers. However, The battery is limited in its capacity and is not capable of providing, On a continuing basis, All the power required by the automobile.

It is necessary, Therefore, For the battery to always be fully charged in order for it to supply the necessary amount of electricity at the required time to each of the electrical components. Consequently, The automobile requires a charging system to produce electricity and keep the battery charged.

The charging system produced electricity to both re-charge the battery and to supply the electrical components with the amount of electricity required while the automobiles engine is in operation.

Most automobiles are equipped with alternating current alternators as they are better than direct current dynamos in terms of electric power generating performance and durability.

Since the automobile requires direct current, The alternating current produced by the alternator is rectified (Converted to direct current) just before output.
Basic of Charging System
The charging system includes the alternator, voltage regulator which is often a part of the alternator itself), the battery, and the indicator gauge or warning light on the dash (See Alternator, Battery and Voltage Regulator). The charging system's job is to generate enough current to keep the battery fully charged, and to satisfy the demands of the ignition and electrical systems. The voltage regulator senses the demands on the electrical system, and controls alternator output so sufficient current is produced. A loose V-belt, or a defective alternator or voltage regulator can cause the dash warning light to glow red (or the amp gauge to show and steady discharge). If the problem isn't corrected, the battery will run down and eventually go dead.

The electrical system in an automobile is said to be a 12 volt system, but this is slightly misleading. The charging system in most cars will generally produce a voltage between 13.5 and 14.4 volts while the engine is running. It has to generate more voltage than the battery's rated voltage to overcome the internal resistance of the battery. This may seem strange, but the current needed to recharge the battery would not flow at all if the charging system's output voltage was the same as the battery voltage. A greater difference of potential (voltage) between the battery's voltage and the alternator's output voltage will provide a faster charging rate.

    As long as the engine is running, all of the power for the accessories is delivered by the alternator. The battery is actually a load on the charging system. The only time that the battery would supply power with the engine running is when the current capacity of the alternator is exceeded or when engine is at a very low idle.

A basic alternator has 2 main electrical components. The rotor and the stator. The rotor is the part of the alternator that is spun by the drive belt. There are a group of electrical field coils mounted on the rotor. The stator is the group of stationary coils that line the perimeter of the inside of the alternator case. When current (supplied by the voltage regulator - to be explained later) is flowing in the rotor's coils, they induce current flow in the stationary coils. The induced current (and voltage) is an AC current. To convert this to DC, the current is passed through a bridge rectifier.
Rotor and Stator Winding
Stator and Rotor in Action:

In the following diagram, you can see three crudely drawn sets of rotors and stators. In the leftmost diagram (marked 'A'), you can see the rotor's coil approaching the stator coil. As the rotor coil approaches the stator coil, it induces current flow in the stator coils. This causes an increase in output voltage. As it approaches the position where the coils' centers are aligned ('B'), there is no induced current. When the coils move away from each other ('C') the induced current flows in the opposite direction and the generated voltage is negative.

You should also realize that there are 3 different groups of stator coils in an alternator (not shown in diagrams). The rectification is much like the simple transformer shown above but in the place of a single transformer winding there are 3 windings. It also uses 6 diodes instead of 4.
Flowing Current In and Out of the Battery

3 Phase:
The following diagram shows the 3 different phases from the 3 groups of stator windings. The three phases of AC are shown in three different colors. The next set of lines shows the rectified waveforms overlapped. The bottom waveform (white line) is what the rectified voltage would actually look like if viewed on an oscilloscope. Connecting the battery to the alternator will smooth the white line even more.
Three Phase Stator Winding

The following is a generic schematic showing the stator windings and the bridge rectifier. You also see a diode trio. the diode trio takes part of the output and sends it to the voltage regulator. The output diodes are the rectifiers that rectify the AC and supply power to your electrical accessories.
For an alternator to produce electrical current, there needs to be some excitation current flowing in the rotor windings. Since the rotor is spinning, you can't just connect a couple of wires to it (cause they'd just be twisted off. To make the electrical connection, slip rings and brushes are used. The slip rings are fixed to the shaft of the rotor. The brushes are fixed to the stationary part of the alternator. The brushes, which are generally made of carbon, are spring loaded to keep constant pressure on the slip rings as the brushes wear down. The following diagram shows the general location of the rotor and the associated parts.
Functions of Brush and Slip Ring

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