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Alright, I decided to take care of the Big 3 Upgrade on the truck this evening, but it was a bit of a "hunt and peck" since the examples, pictures and write-ups seem to be scattered or non-existent for second-gen Frontiers. This is also the reason I decided to throw up a crude write-up, just in case someone else was looking to take care of this...as well as some very basic...very simplistic testing. First thing's first...where we're starting:



DISCLAIMERS
  1. You are messing with your electrical system, if you mess up, get electrocuted, fry your system...it's on you, this is just a guide to what I did in hopes that it may help you find, locate and get you in the right direction.
  2. My steps may not exactly match what you need/want to do. I took this time to add new battery post clamps which is a step you may not take. I also fused the positive wire...which is up for debate as to whether it is "necessary" or not. I would rather be safe, and for various other reasons...I fused it.
  3. I'm a tinkerer...so my way may not be the right way or the professional way...but it works for my purposes.
  4. This is an upgrade, not a replacement. Remember that. Unless you are absolutely certain that you can replace a wire with another wire...don't. Leave the existing wiring in place and just add in the upgraded connection. For example, the negative battery terminal to the chassis ground has a sensor in place that the alternator needs for how many amps it should be putting out. DO NOT replace this cable.
The first thing I did (after some minor testing) was to take out the battery just to avoid any unintentional fried wires. While I had the battery out I also dismantled the battery clamps to prepare for my new ones.



I wanted to get the "hard to reach" crap out of the way first, so I jacked up the truck, pulled the front passenger tire so I could remove the inner wheel cover. This is held in with a handful of screws and plastic tabs.



This has been covered thousands of times...but just in case you need a refresher on the tabs...use a flat screwdriver under the inner portion, pop it out slightly, and then use the screwdriver to pull out the entire clip.



Once the inner cover is off you'll have a much easier time accessing the wire you need from the alternator. It's tucked under the bright red cover:



Just pop the cover off and you'll see the nut you need to remove to access the mounting bolt.



You'll need a little wiggle room to put everything together, so on the large bundle of wires, pry up the tab to release them from the plastic holder. As for the plug on the alternator, just press in the tab and pull...this should give you just enough room to work.



Remove the nut and existing wire. Take note of the tabs on the existing wire, these fit into corresponding slots on the alternator, so you'll need to make sure you reinstall this wire correctly.



When you put the new wire on the post, to ensure everything sits nice and flush and that you'll be able to use the rubber cover again, make sure you install the wire as shown:



With the wire in place, reinstall the original wire on top of it and tighten the nut. If you have some extensions and swivels...now would be a good time to get them out. This was by far the most pain-in-the-*** part of the entire procedure.



Once tightened, reinstall the rubber cover and route the wire out of the way...away from any areas with excessive heat or where rubbing may occur. I used the existing wire bundle to tie to. I was going to use a protective sleeve here...but didn't, for a few reasons...I was going to fuse it anyway, the route I took to mount it is fairly secure...and most importantly...I did not have any split loom big enough for the wire. Most likely my OCD will kick in and I will get some and cover the wire.



Once that was done, the rest of the work takes place from above, so I went ahead and put the wheel well cover and tire back on, pulled the truck off the jack stand, and turned my attention to under the hood (plus, lowering the truck made it easier to work in the engine compartment. Where you decide to upgrade/add the engine-to-chassis ground is up to you, but I decided to simply replace the dental floss the is tucked under the air filter...so, time to remove some parts:



The wire I'll be replacing is directly under the filter, highlighted here in green:



Rather than add to this wire, I completely replaced it, but only because I know for a fact that this is purely a simple ground wire. If you upgrade this exact wire, take care to told the bolt underneath or you'll twist this entire bracket when loosening the bolt.



Once the old wire is removed, I took a Dremel with a wire brush attachment and cleaned up the two contact points, getting rid of any paint or buildup so the wire would make good contact on the metal.



I shortened the ground wire that was supplied to the exact length I needed and bolted it in place. To avoid rust I used a bit of clear Rustoleum over the bolt where I exposed the bare metal.



Next was the battery-to-chassis ground. Again, I did not replace the existing wire...I added to it. There was already some grounding points tucked behind the battery, so I picked one and took the Dremel to it.



I took one of the ends I previously cut off and attached it to the existing positive wires to give a bit of an extension for the battery clamp.



I decided to mount the fuse to the front side of the fuse box. The power wire from the alternator routes into this and then to the new positive battery terminal clamp.



The new terminals were a simple bolt-in design. The negative side now has the original wire, my upgrade and the wire going to my Anderson plug. The positive is much the same...original harness, upgraded alternator wire and Anderson positive wire. I also have one more slot in the new plugs which I am reserving for the winch power and ground wires.



The old fuses/wires from the original positive plug are secured in place, although a little 'in the way' if I need to access the newly installed fuse.



...and everything cleaned up...



...now you just have to hop back in the truck and reprogram all of your radio stations! (And probably drive it to reset the Slip light)



...and of course the "after" picture. Can you see all the extra horsepower? There's at least like 400...maybe 450.



In all seriousness though, the biggest reason I did this was for future upgrades, sound system, winch, lights etc. With running all my future off-road lights, the possibility of upgrading the amp, subs etc...I want to be able to get the most out of my electrical system. This is not some kind of superfix for any particular issue, but it should help with some future upgrades I have planned.

So...did it work?

Before I did this upgrade, I ran a very basic test. I hooked up my multimeter and started the truck up. With the truck running and everything I could possibly turn off...turned off, I was showing an average of 14.2 volts. I then switched everything on...every light I have (headlights, KCs, LEDs etc), A/C, fans, backseat TV, cranked the music, heated seats...everything I could find. At that point, my multimeter was averaging about 13.2 volts.

After the install, I ran the exact same test. With everything shut off I was reading an average of 14.3 volts. After switching everything on...I showed 14.15 volts...with the lowest reading over a few minutes at 14.1 volts. Seems like everything is working correctly and ready for future upgrades!
 

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That's a really interesting upgrade, especially for someone like me who has a fridge, an inverter, lights, etc. Do you know if this bypassed the factory "smart" charging system or did it leave that intact? If it keeps it in place I might make that upgrade while I have a lot of things out of the way.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Short answer...I don't believe so.

I did a lot of digging before I decided to commit and give it a shot. Most of the research I turned up stated that as long as you leave the sensor on the negative ground in tact, you'd be fine, but some cautioned to about bypassing it. I do know the factory ground was already fairly substantial, so I suppose you could just do the Big 2, but thus far I haven't noticed any drain or charging issues like some say that bypassing it will do. To be fair, I have only had it installed a few days, but I'll be keeping an eye on it and once I get all my offroad lights on, my winch, slight stereo upgrade etc...I think I'll be able to get a better feel for if I see any voltage issues.
 

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Short answer...I don't believe so.

I did a lot of digging before I decided to commit and give it a shot. Most of the research I turned up stated that as long as you leave the sensor on the negative ground in tact, you'd be fine, but some cautioned to about bypassing it. I do know the factory ground was already fairly substantial, so I suppose you could just do the Big 2, but thus far I haven't noticed any drain or charging issues like some say that bypassing it will do. To be fair, I have only had it installed a few days, but I'll be keeping an eye on it and once I get all my offroad lights on, my winch, slight stereo upgrade etc...I think I'll be able to get a better feel for if I see any voltage issues.
From what I've read, yeah the smart system is on the negative side. So I guess you're right, one could just do the alternator wire and the ground wire from the engine to the chassis. I'll have a look at the negative wiring on my truck tonight and mull it over. I've often theorized that you could easily upgrade the charging from the alternator by adding an extra positive wire. Guess I was somewhat right.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well, you peaked my curiosity so I decided to read a bit more. It does seem like those that bypass the sensor completely can get an error code, and those that add a ground but leave the sensor in place have various other issues. They won't get the code, but in some cases it'll cause the alternator to overcharge the battery reducing it's life and possibly affecting mileage. I think I'll actually back off to the Big 2 myself when I replace the gold terminals with silver ones and run my tests again. If it doesn't affect it too much I may just keep it that way. Lord knows I've done enough mods that have killed my mileage, heh.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Alright, let me start by saying my tests are extremely basic, and for that matter probably wildly inaccurate. They consisted of me taking measurements over an extended period of time with a very basic multimeter...

I couldn't wait...so when I got home tonight I did some testing. I pulled the wire and hooked up the gauge. I only pulled it from the battery itself so I could pop it back in and try some comparison readings. What I found was that on average, the voltage was lower without the upgraded battery-to-chassis ground...typically by an average of about .15-.2 volts. I also noticed that the range was wider without the cable, where the volts would dip and spike between about 13.8 to about 14.2 without the cable, compared to about 14.1 to 14.3 with the cable.

Keeping in mind these variances could've been anything from the 'bass' hitting to my probes...not probing well...I'd say that upgrading only the 2 lines still seems to have helped. Given the trade-off of let's say .2 volts or even half a volt compared to the risk of overcharging the battery, shortening it's life span or risking a milage hit...I think I'm going to have to think long and hard about whether or not I'm going to reconnect that particular ground wire when my terminals come in on Friday. As for right now I'm going to leave that wire off and see about taking some more readings when it's not after midnight...maybe hook up some extra lights and such to attempt and suck up as much juice as possible.
 

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...I also fused the positive wire...which is up for debate as to whether it is "necessary" or not. I would rather be safe, and for various other reasons...I fused it...
What size fuse did you use, and do you remember about how long the run from the alternator to the battery is? Going to pick up some bits for this and want to get right parts/lengths.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What size fuse did you use, and do you remember about how long the run from the alternator to the battery is? Going to pick up some bits for this and want to get right parts/lengths.
I don't recall the length off-hand, but I ran it about as short as I could, I would say about 3 feet...ish. Using a basic formula, our stock alternator puts out up to around 110 amps, take that by the typical 1.25 rating...137.5...I am running a 150 amp fuse. Granted if you are running a higher output alternator, etc...may want to revise that, but for my setup, it works just fine...
 

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V6 Frontiers:
Fwiw, your 2012 received a factory 130 amp alternator. 2010 was the last model yr Frontier to receive a 110'er. The 130s began w/ 2011.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
V6 Frontiers:
Fwiw, your 2012 received a factory 130 amp alternator. 2010 was the last model yr Frontier to receive a 110'er. The 130s began w/ 2011.
You know, now that you mention that, I feel like I recall hearing it before...but apparently in my old, delusional, forgetful state...I decided to ignore it. Thanks for the heads up... ;)
 

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Awesome, thanks guys. So if my 2014 has the 130 amp alternator I should be shooting for a 165+ fuse, correct?
 

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You know, now that you mention that, I feel like I recall hearing it before...but apparently in my old, delusional, forgetful state...I decided to ignore it. Thanks for the heads up... ;)
You're not old, you're like fine wine. Or, champagne vinegar. :)
 

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For the wire extension from the positive terminal to the battery, what size did you use?
 

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That should be a #2AWG at minimum. Go with a 1 if planning heavy upgrades or a 200a alternator.

315069
 

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Ah dang I was thinking I'd get away with 4. I'll order a new multi-terminal that accepts larger wire. Thanks for the heads up
 

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Fishing, honestly you could get away w/ #4, when is your alt really ever going to be at max output for any extended periods of time? The only one I probably wouldn't cheat on would be a battery to winch connection.
 
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