Monday, April 30, 2012

Fact or Fiction

The Claim:
Voltage stabilizers can increase power and torque.

The website quotes:

This month, we put four of the market's most popular voltage stabilizers to the test. Not to be confused with grounding systems that supplement a car's OE battery and chassis grounds, voltage stabilizers-sometimes called "condensers" attach directly to a car's battery at the positive and negative terminals, and purport to regulate the flow of electricity running from a car's battery to its electrical components, smoothing idle, improving output from headlights and audio equipment, increasing battery life, and improving combustion efficiency for increased power/torque and decrease emissions.

The first thing to remember is that a car's battery acts like a big voltage stabilizer already. Electricity generated from the alternator is sent to the battery and electrical devices as needed. During periods of low electrical draw (headlights, audio, A/C off, for example), excess electricity generated by the alternator charges the battery rather than passing through the system. But when the demand of a car's electrical system outweighs what the alternator can generate (during low idle, and/or high electrical draw, for example), electricity is discharged from the battery in the amounts needed to pick up the slack. The problem is that a traditional lead-acid battery can't switch from charge to discharge rapidly enough to quell small scale voltage fluctuations or electrical "noise" that can adversely affect a car's electrical components. The more advanced (expensive) batteries and electrical systems of newer cars can do near perfect job of stabilizing rouge current, but in any event say the makers of voltage stabilizer kits there's a lot to be gained by adding an aftermarket system of capacitors to the mix.

Our testing commenced with us strapping Elliot "Mr. Super Lap" Moran's new (for him) KA24DE powered '95 240SX to the rollers of City of Industry, CA based SP engineering's Dynojet dyno, and performing several Third gear full throttle pulls, first as a baseline with no voltage system installed, then again with each of the four contenders in place.

Raizin Pivot
First up was the Raizin Pivot, whose Japanese based manufacturer boasts the confidence to construct the product with transparent casing. Its design is simple: four capacitors to charge and discharge rogue electrical current faster than a car battery, some small gauge positive and negative wiring, two replaceable fuses, and an LED to signify correct installation.

Buddy Club's Racing Spec Condenser
Next up was Buddy Club's Racing Spec Condenser. From what we could see through the window in its casing, it's constructed much like the Raizin, but with larger capacitors and the addition of supplemental grounding straps.

Sun Auto's Hyper Voltage System (Hot InaZma)
Our third and final Japanese contender was Sun Auto's venerable Hyper Voltage System, one of the first such kits on the market. It featured stainless covered copper wiring larger than any of the systems, and a fully sealed module great for keeping contaminants out, but not so great for serviceability or seeing how it works. Still, it returned the best peak numbers of the bunch.

Mystery Stabilizer
Our "mystery stabilizer" (so named because it was donated for testing with no labeling of any sort), was the last to go under the microscope. Its aluminum heat sink body is common to several brands, as is its Home Depot-esque black and red wiring. We won't speculate which brand we think it to be.

The Verdict:

Each stabilizers brought slight increase to power and torque throughout the rev range, and with the exception of the Raizin that lost a fraction of a horse up top, each system bumped up peak power and torque. But the amount by which power and torque increased 0.5 and 1.5 lb ft of torque, on average is low enough to be considered standard variance in back to back testing a 15 year old car with an impressive history of check engine lights. Still, based on the all around performance of the Sun Auto unit and the low end performance of the Buddy Club piece, and the fact that Elliot swears the Sun Auto unit actually makes his scratched, yellow headlights brighter, we have to concede that these things might be of some benefit after all.

Text courtesy by Luke Munnell
Photography courtesy by Luke Munnel, Scott Tsuneishi
Courtesy from

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