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Nations-Alternator
ONE OF THE ONLY S#!T EXPERINCES WE'VE HAD ON OUR BUILD

As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, I like helping good companies out. If I have a good experience I want others to know about it. If I have a bad experience or if someone doesn’t deserve mentioning I simply won’t mention them. For example, there's a specific company that made some bits on our van who’s name I literally go out of my way to photoshop out of the images before I post them. They were that bad to deal with. But that’s as far as I take it. I can’t do that in this case though. I digress….

When we decided to have a van built there were several “musts” for us. Short wheelbase was a must. Plenty of water storage was a must. So were things like onboard water capacity, bathroom/shower, etc. One of the absolute cornerstones of our build was going to be the battery bank. This was to be the heart of the build and something that many other things revolved around. We weren’t going to have propane on board so that meant everything had to be electric. This includes our fridge, oven and cooktop (We have a Webasto DuoTop Evo 6 that runs off the van’s diesel for heat & hot water).

Because we have a larger battery bank (1,000 amp hrs) we were going to need a way to efficiently charge them. We leaned on Josh at Master Overland for his input on this and it soon became apparent that Solar wasn’t really an option. Not with that size battery bank. We simply wouldn’t have the real estate on the roof to charge all that. To give you some perspective, we had 480 watts of solar on the airstream. 320 watt panels on the roof and 160 watts via a deployable panel that we could aim directly at the sun. Even with all that, the most we’d ever get, for a limited time during peak sunlight, was maybe 40 amps. So let’s say we did have that much solar on the roof. If we were to draw our new batteries down to say 60%, it would take 10+ hours of peak sunlight to recharge that. That’s assuming we're not using anything to draw power during that time. The solution would be a secondary alternator from Nations Alternator. The alternator would pump out an eye watering 200+ amps of power while driving (eight x’s the realistic daily average of 25 amps from solar). The idea was that even when stationary in one spot for a few weeks, because we still drive into town every few days we'd be topping off the batteries without issue. If need be we could idle the van and get as much charge in half hour with the alternator as we’d get in an entire day with solar.

Once we got the van we had some issues with the alternator dropping output. It was working, but not the way it should. We would start off and see it climb to 150 amps, but then after a few minutes it would drop down to about 90 amps, then to about 30 amps. Oddly enough it would charge better when idling than when driving. A restart was the only remedy. We reached out to Adam at Nations Alternator. At first he was responsive, but over time it got harder and harder to get any sort of support or answers to my questions. Just recently for example: I sent emails on 1/20…no reply. Re-sent the same email and followed it up with a text on 1/22…..no reply. Sent the same email again on 1/25….nothing. Then AGAIN on 2/15……ZILCH!! To date I still have not received a reply to any of those emails or text. Worst part is….my question was whether or not he’d recommend trying a newer charge controller he started selling. At one point during all this, he finally replied to one of my many attempts to text him by saying that I call or reach out to him after hours. Yet, I wasn’t asking for him to get back to me that very moment. I would have been happy with the reply the next day…or the next week!!! I got neither.

Backing up though...At the start of these issues and after several attempts to troubleshoot it on my own I was finally given the name of a “local" shop that works with their product. They were 2 hours away, but I’ll take it. Adam insisted it had to be something with our setup/wiring, but when I took it to this shop they confirmed there was nothing wrong with the install or our setup. To Master Overland's credit, in speaking to one of the head guys at Victron (he actually came in and consulted on our build), he made it clear that of all the installations he’s seen, which include $10 million yachtts, the installs at Master Overland are some of the cleanest and best he’s seen With this feedback from the shop, they sent an entirely new alternator. Once that came in I set out on another 4 hour round trip to have it installed. They installed it and nothing. Same issue. I set out again on yet another 4 hour round trip to have the Balmar charge controller replaced, the hope being that there was a temp sensor or something else that was malfunctioning. Again nothing. Same problem. Because one of the remedies was a re-start, I went back yet another time to have a switch installed. This would let me shut off the charge controller and turn it back on whenever this happened while driving. This was a short term fix.

Long story short, after 16 months, 5 trips to this shop, 20 hours of driving, over $1,000 worth of labor charges, and several tanks of diesel the issue was finally resolved. What was the problem?? A sense wire needed to be run from the alternator directly to the battery terminal. That’s it. This is something that on day one of the first install, when asked if it needed to be installed, Adam said wasn’t necessary. I’d bet my ass if he was asked about that now he’d say that wasn’t true and yet, he knew it wasn’t installed and recommended all those other fixes. He only mentioned it as a possible remedy months later. If he thought that would fix it, why did he send a completely new alternator? Why did he suggest it might be a temp sensor or the charge controller? That’s what he directed us to do (when you could actually get a hold of him) before anything else.

I’m not upset about the product. These things happen. Let’s forget about the fact that the fix was something he specifically told us wasn’t needed. I get it. Shit happens and we eventually got it right. If I was having these problems while he was actively making a genuine effort to help and was responsive when reached out to then no problem. Instead, he treated the situation and me as a nuisance. If he had taken more of an interest in helping us then maybe he would have asked more questions, asked to see photos of our wiring. I'll go out on a limb and say if that was the case I would have saved myself a LOT of aggrevation, time, money and gas!!

Anyway, I don’t just shit on someone and their business out of spite. I’m not like that. If something goes wrong, but someone is trying to help me and trying to make things right then I’m absolutely good with that. My problem is that I shouldn’t have had to go through the virtual pulling of teeth to get this guy to engage in trying to help me. THAT’S where I have a problem. So if you’re reading this, Adam, go ahead and say tell me that there's a single shred of this that isn’t true. I'll gladly post screen shots of all the texts and emails with date stamps to show all the fu#$!ing times you ignored us.

In closing I should as always credit Master Overland for offering up suggestions and feedback and to Edge Van Works in San Leandro, CA. Gordon is a class act. He was responsive, returned every call and did everything he could to fit me in to what is obviously a very busy schedule. He is everything that Adam wasn’t..
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