Some advice on switching to an alternator

July 1, 2012 | By Richard Prince


Due to the installation of new air conditioning in a 1956 Mercedes, I would like to convert the car from a generator to an alternator. What will be the simplest alternator I can use, a single wire unit? What other adjustments do I have to make if I install an alternator in place of the generator?


A one-wire alternator will be the simplest alternator you can use for your ’56 Mercedes but conventional three-wire alternators do have a few advantages compared with one-wire units, including the fact that three-wire alternators are less expensive and easier to replace if you experience a failure on the road, and they easily enable the use of remote voltage sensing, which helps your car’s electrical components operate more efficiently.

Another alternative you may wish to consider is installation of an OEM-style generator that’s been converted internally to function as an alternator.

These are available from Gener-Nator in Florence, Oregon ( This conversion costs quite a bit more than a conventional alternator conversion but it does help to preserve the original appearance of your car.

If you install an alternator that is externally regulated then you’ll also have to install an external regulator.

Otherwise, there is nothing special you need to do when converting from a generator to an alternator other than the actual installation.