Electronic Regulator Questions & Answers

Welcome to our Question & Answer page. You may find the answers to many queries on the individual product pages or in the data-sheets which may be viewed on-line or downloaded. Or you may find the answer to your question here:

How do your DVR regulators work?

The output voltage from a typical vehicle dynamo depends on the rotational speed of the armature, and the magnetic field strength through which it turns. The strength of the field is determined by the current flowing in the field winding(s). The regulator compares the output voltage with a precise reference voltage, and controls the average field current to maintain the correct charging voltage.

The conventional mechanical regulator achieves output control by means of an electromagnet bobbin coil which opens a set of electrical contacts to cut the supply to the field as the voltage rises above a set level. The output voltage drops a little, then the contacts close again, and voltage is again applied to the field, thus increasing the output in turn. This cycle happens hundreds of times per second so that the dynamo output runs at a steady level, as required to charge the battery and drive the lights and other electrical loads. The contacts in the cut-out bobbin close at a suitable voltage to connect the load side (and open when the dynamo voltage falls below the battery voltage) so as not to discharge the battery at low speeds or when stationary.

DRL's modern electronic regulators function in similar manner. The voltage to the field winding is switched on and off in a rapid cycle setting the average field current as required for the armature to supply the appropriate output voltage, as speed and load vary. But instead of a set of points, the rapid switching is accurately controlled with a transistor. The cut-out function is performed by a diode or transistor switch, which passes current when the dynamo output is greater than the battery voltage, and blocks unwanted current flow when the output is lower than the battery.

How much heat do your regulators generate?

There is no easy one line answer to this question. The power consumed in the regulator unit depends on the output current at any time (of course), and also on the speed of the dynamo to some extent (the field drive at lower speed is higher). For all DVR3 and 4 units, Positive or Negative Earth, the maximum heat generated at a 20 A load current is less than 2 Watts. Power dissipation in the standard leads will add a further Watt or so to this figure; the 4 mm sq leads on the 25 to 40 Amp units consume less than 1 Watt at 40 Amp load (shortened leads will somewhat reduce these figures). Temperature increase for the DVR3/4 case at 20 Amps in still air is about 15°C maximum (that is with no heat-sinking). For the 11 Amp unit the heat emitted is well under 2 Watts, i.e. practically negligible.

Even with low heat output the local temperature in the electronics will rise appreciably unless that heat is effectively transferred to the outside world. The aluminium cases we use simplifies conducting heat away. Relying on air convection cooling for a heat-sink inside an old style casing, is rather hit or miss.

For the DVR2 the maximum heat generated at 8 Amp load is about 4 Watts. This heat will increase the case temperature over surrounding still air and with no heat-sink by up to 40°C after an extended period. The maximum continuous safe temperature for the aluminium case is 85°C.

How is it that the DVR3 & 4 run so cool?

These regulators do not use a diode to perform the cut-out function, which is to prevent current flowing back into the dynamo from the battery at low or zero speed. Instead of the usual diode they use high current low resistance MOSFET transistors which only switch on and pass current when the dynamo voltage is greater than the battery voltage. This technique allows the power lost in the cut-out element to be reduced to some 25% of that lost in the cut-out diode used in many electronic regulators. This is a key part of what we mean by "cool and efficient". Low heat dissipation aids reliability and it also allows for very compact size in the regulator. Cool indeed!

Where are your regulators manufactured?

Proudly Designed & Manufactured in the UK. The cases are machined locally and the electronic circuit boards are assembled in Hampshire or Surrey. That said, component parts are from a variety of countries; there is not much semiconductor manufacture within the UK! For that matter the aluminium alloy for the housing will be imported as well. But the great majority of the added value in the products is to the benefit of UK PLC. Wherever manufacture takes place the key is to maintain good quality control, to which we attach high importance.

Does the charge/ignition warning light still function with these regulators?

Yes. It will still work normally, with one small caveat. If there is no load on the regulator (magneto ignition) and with the battery fully charged the regulator may periodically shut down the dynamo as no output is demanded to keep things topped up. In rare instances this leads to an occasional flicker of the warning light, which is of no real significance. Be aware that the indicator light is at best a crude indicator of charge function. The lamp goes out at a voltage well below that required to give any useful charging current to the battery.

The ammeter on my mag-dyno machine shows a decent initial charge which falls rapidly as things "warm up". What is happening?

Referring to the ubiquitous Lucas MO1 Magdyno the dynamo is driven by a fibre disk friction clutch. Other types are similar in this respect. Like any clutch this one may come to slip as it ages in normal operation. When stood for a period the friction returns to a maximum and may be enough to again drive the dynamo at charging speed. This shows as an unusual falling ammeter reading.

Does the DVR2 suit both Lucas E3L and E3LM dynamos?

Yes, it also works a treat with the lower power E3H and E3HM versions.

Will your DVR2 suit:
a. The Lucas MC45L dynamo fitted to my Sunbeam / Scott?
b. A Lucas C35SD dynamo on my Ariel Square Four?

Yes, in both cases.

Is the DVR2 suited to the Miller dynamo fitted to my Vincent / Velocette (etcetera)?

Yes, as long as the field winding is internally wired to earth for live side regulation and the original cut-out is removed or taken out of circuit.

View Miller with DVR2 data-sheet (Adobe Acrobat PDF format)

Is a DVR3 or DVR4 suitable for use with the 3-Brush dynamo on my pre-war car?

It will be after its straightforward modification from 3 brushes to 2.

Using DVR3 to control a modified 3 brush dynamo (Adobe Acrobat PDF format)

Whatever type your 3 brush dynamo is, ensure that any external charge controlling resistors or switches are removed from the Field circuit after converting it to 2 brush. This refers to Summer/Winter, High/Low, Headlight/Sidelight connections which were a simple method of controlling dynamo charge. If left in circuit these may override the DVR's control and lead to a damagingly high voltage output.

What is the maximum power output of the DVR2?

Maximum output is not really limited by the regulator. It will provide a continuous current of 10 Amps. 75W for 6V system and 100W for 12V system is safe for the regulator.

What voltage will I measure at the battery using the DVR2/3/4?

Nominally 7.2 V in a six volt set-up and 14.2 V for twelve volts. More is definitely not better here. For example 14.5 V as commonly stated as 'correct' will mean higher trickle charge leading to more topping up and shorter life for your battery.

What current limit for a DVR3 or 4 should I select?

The current limiting facility is an unusual but important inclusion in electronic regulators. It provides important protection for the dynamo. Without current limiting the dynamo will try to generate as much current as demanded by the electrical load. If this is higher than the manufacturers rating the armature may overheat and be destroyed by flinging its solder. So choose the current limit to suit the dynamo fitted, and not the required load for example.

Current limiting is not usually important for motorcycle systems with small batteries and without electric starters.

How do I polarise ('flash') a dynamo for NEGATIVE earth?

Your battery's NEGATIVE terminal should be connected to the chassis or frame.

Disconnect the D & F wires from the dynamo. Take a wire from the unearthed (POSITIVE) terminal on the battery and 'flash' it onto the F terminal of the dynamo. That is touch the 'live' wire onto the F terminal briefly, for a second will do it. A small blue spark will be seen. Your dynamo is now polarised NEGATIVE earth, simple as that.

(Swap POSITIVE and NEGATIVE in the above to polarise for POSITIVE earth)

The above method applies to dynamos with the field wired to earth, regulated on the live side, e.g. Lucas types.

For dynamos with Field to Live (negative earth, e.g. Bosch connect DF to Earth. Lift either brush in the dynamo from the commutator so that a large current cannot flow through the armature. Flash (briefly connect) battery Positive to D+/61 terminal.

Re-polarisation may be used to 'wake up' an old dynamo which has not been used for a long period or to confirm polarity in case of any doubt, as well as to deliberately reverse the polarity.

It is not a bad idea to attach a prominent reminder near to the battery when the vehicle's earth polarity has been swapped, to avoid future polarity sensitive connection problems.

How can I check the output from my dynamo?

Field to Earth Dynamo e.g. Lucas: Remove any wires from the Output and Field terminals (Lucas D and F) and connect a wire between them. Connect a 12 V bulb (e.g. 21 W indicator bulb) between the two linked terminals and 'ground' or the dynamo case. Spin up the dynamo and at modest revs the lamp should glow brightly, even with a 6V unit. Increase the speed slowly and do not continue this test for long. Even better use a voltmeter to monitor the voltage (the field coil acts as a load). The meter will also allows the polarity of the output to be confirmed. 6V or 12V should be seen on the meter at a speed equivalent to perhaps 30 mph on the road.

For a 'Field to Live' dynamo e.g. Bosch or a Dynastarter: Instead of the linking Output (61/D+) and Field (DF), link Field to ground. Connect the bulb or meter between Output and ground.

My dynamo checked out OK, but I get no output from my DVR2 (or 3). Why?

The output test above is a simple GO/NO-GO check but other factors also come into play. The bulb check does not confirm correct polarity; use a meter for this. Also the speed at which the dynamo gives 'a good output' is not monitored. Low output for the rotational speed will delay or even prevent the start-up of an electronic regulator. This can be due to low magnetic efficiency in the dynamo. Some 12 V converted dynamos may give problems as specifications vary and some are poorly done. New dynamo brushes may need to bed in, may be made of poor quality material, or the lead attachment can sometimes be suspect. These are all deviations from standard performance of the dynamo. Manufacturers will normally state a certain power or voltage output with a given load resistance at a specified speed. Or of course there could be a simple problem in the wiring harness, connectors, ammeter or wherever.

Do you advise changing a 6 V set-up to 12 V?

Many 6 Volt dynamos on both motorcycles and cars work perfectly well at 12 V with no changes. The benefits of going to 12 V include better lighting and easy parts availability. The downside is that charge balance will take place at typically 30 % higher speed; no problem for cruising but could be around town. More power will be available at 12 V as a result of lower heating in the armature (half the current for given power). The DVR2 allows swapping to 12 V and back to 6 V by a very simple wiring change.

Is it worth rewinding a 6 V dynamo for 12 V operation?

6 V dynamos may be rewound for 12 V with more turns of thinner wire to provide higher voltage. The benefit is a lower cut-in speed but this will be offset by lower power output than a 6 V machine run at 12 V (at least 50% more power available). Reliability may suffer and the initial cut-in may be delayed where the residual magnetism is low. The DVR2 gives much more output at lower speeds than some (puzzlingly) popular regulator units in any event; at least one competitor regulator will actually discharge the battery at low speed. So it is worth trying the lower cost & hassle DVR2 upgrade first.

Will I benefit from fitting a larger capacity battery on my bike?

No, not really helpful. Unless you have say a 12V 60W headlight on and often sit in a lot of slow traffic. A discharged large capacity battery loads the dynamo more and for longer. If a large battery is fitted (as in the case with an retrofitted electric start) a current limited regulator may better protect the dynamo and prevent nuisance fuse blowing, if the battery becomes discharged.

Will I benefit from fitting a voltmeter or voltage monitoring device?

Spend your cash on an ammeter that works well instead. They do not all flicker wildly all the time if the charge regulation is good. A voltmeter will sometimes show a misleading high reading despite the battery being shot. Ammeter current gives a clear indication of the charge at a given time and is a better option in a dynamo system.

Will the dynamo start up with a completely flat battery?

Yes, the DVR2 will start with a very low battery, down to a few volts in fact. If fully discharged it will wake up with battery disconnected (magneto ignition assumed!), then reconnect the battery. Regulation will not be as good as in normal use, but a useful get you home measure after dark.

Do you offer any 24 Volt regulators?

Sorry we don't sell any 24 Volt regulators. We have no plans to despite being asked from time to time. It would mean a complete redesign of our circuitry, frankly for relatively few extra sales.

Do the regulators include temperature compensation?

No. Some original relay types included a bi-metal strip to reduce charging voltage as its temperature increased. The intention was to reduce risk of overcharging the battery when warm. But the voltage change then responds to regulator temperature, not the battery as required to make the scheme work. Varying the electronic regulator's output voltage with temperature would be quite straightforward but sensing battery temperature would add unreasonable complexity. Our regulators control voltage far more accurately in any case, and the risk of battery boiling is avoided.

Wouldn't I be better off installing a modern (expensive) alternator alternative?

A matter of taste and depth of pockets perhaps. But the Lucas dynamo (for example) in reality is a rugged & reliable unit, and requires minimal maintenance. Coupled with a DRL electronic regulator adequate charging is possible at all times for normal electrical loads.

Certain modern motorcycle A.C. generating replacements have a history of reliability issues, can be noisy, and cruising speed output may be little if any better than with the original d.c. generator.

And should I splash out on an up to the minute technology lithium battery?

We certainly do not recommended fitting a lithium chemistry battery. If not correctly maintained there is a serious risk of fire/explosion with some types. The Lithium Phosphate ones are sometimes billed as a direct lead-acid replacement, but these do not offer so much advantage in terms of capacity for size and self discharge rate.

There are many variants of lead acid battery, and some offer practical advantages over old tech wet ones. Gel or AGM batteries are all good with our regulators, and some offer such low self discharge rates that you will not get a low battery, even if you don't use your P & J for an entire winter's lay-up.

In addition click Lucas dynamos and charging system (Matchless-clueless) for an excellent practical guide for fettling classic motorcycle electrics. Written with bikes in mind but much is relevant to cars and other dynamo systems as well. (Why reinvent the wheel?)

A good clear description of fitting a DVR2, in this instance to a Velocette Venom, may be viewed at Newenglandzen: step by step fitting of DVR2.

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