Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 1, 2005

Horse Sense:
You can save your stereo settings and prevent grief with your alarm system by using, or making, a 9-volt battery adapter to plug into your cigar lighter/power point. The battery voltage will be enough to keep things alive while your battery is disconnected for electrical repairs or upgrades. The adapters are available at many parts stores, or visit your local electronics supply store to build your own from a lighter plug and a 9-volt battery plug connected together.

You've seen them heading your direction in the oncoming traffic. Or maybe you hear them first and then you see them, their headlights blinking to the bass line of their supersized woofers. If you've ever wondered why headlights flicker like that, it's because of the serious draw the stereo system puts on the stock charging system.

Lest you think it's only the headlights, rest assured that the voltage drop you are "seeing" is also happening to that car's ignition system, fuel pumps, computer controls, and anything else that is connected to the battery. While a "cap" (a capacitor used to store voltage) can be installed by the owner to help the audio system and prevent major draw on the car's electrical system, it won't help any other system on the charging circuit. Increasing your alternator's output amperage, especially at idle, is the smart way to keep your car's charging system healthy, whether it's for a thumping stereo or two huge fuel pumps and a capacitive-discharge ignition.

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In the early years of car audio, it was common for car owners to design custom brackets-fabricating and welding a monstrous mount for some huge diesel-truck alternator. These days we are fortunate to have people like Rick Harmon and his company PA-Performance looking out for us. In the past few years, Rick has designed efficient, high-output alternators that fit within a stock alter-nator housing, allowing a direct bolt-in swap. Now it's easier than ever to have a high-output charging system.

We had PA-Performance ship us its latest creation-a 200-amp unit for 4.6 Mustangs-so we could bolt it onto our 3g GT project and really crank the 2,000-watt stereo, without having to worry about taking power away from the fuel pump or ignition system.

Optimum Performance
With our 3g GT going on three years old, the factory Ford battery was beginning to give us problems. Due to the extended storage the project car sometimes sees, as well as displaying the audio system at various shows, the stock battery was ready for the recycler. Always looking for a better option than stock on anything we replace, we called Optima Batteries and had the company ship us one of its Yellow Top deep-cycle starter batteries. The Yellow Top is designed for multiple discharge and recharge use without damage or any sort of "memory" effect.

This is not a "gel cell" battery. Instead, the Yellow Top features spiral-cell technology. A special material is wound into a coil-like tube and impregnated with the conductive liquid. This liquid absorbs into the material, making the battery spill-proof (you can even mount the battery upside down!). Six of these cells (it looks like a six-pack) together make up the battery. While in the past it was often difficult to get an Optima battery to work with most Ford battery trays, that problem has been solved with the company's new battery adapter kits. So now our 3g GT has a better battery for how we use the vehicle, and the Yellow Top even matches the paint. How cool is that?

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