When Vic Beleny read about a contest looking for the oldest working Vulcan Electric battery charger, he took the time to dust off the serial number on the "old jewel" that he bought second-hand in 1970.
It was older than he ever thought. His 25Hz workhorse was built in the early 1940s when Casablanca was playing in movie theatres.
"It still works great," says the owner of Vic Beleny’s Transmissions in Welland, Ont. "The only thing we ever done on it was change the cables. That thing will likely work another 100 years. It’s the quality." In fact, he didn’t want to give it up until he was offered the prize of $250 and a new Model 49 Canadian Automotive Charger by Vulcan.
Julien Fournier of Stoneham, Que. won $250 and a Model 49 charger for having the oldest-known 60Hz model, with a working 1945 Vulcan charger born the same year as rocker Neil Young. Kevin Kellerman of Okanagan Engine Rebuilders Ltd. in Kelowna, B.C. won a related draw for a leather jacket thanks to his entry of a Vulcan charger built in 1966, when Lester B. Pearson was prime minister. And dozens of other entries dated back to days when most cars ran on six-volt batteries.
"Our Vulcan charger has been in use at our trade school in the auto mechanics program for the past 28 years. It has survived rough treatment from our students and has proven, without doubt, its ruggedness, durability and reliability," says Fournier, an instructor at Aviron Quebec Technical School.
Entries were referenced against more than a century of Vulcan Electric sales records.
"We want to thank everyone who participated in the contest," adds company president Simon Plant. "Vulcan chargers are built to last. We proved it. But we’re also certain there are older Vulcan Electric chargers out there. Given the overwhelming response, we’re going to continue our search for the oldest working Vulcan-built model in existence."
Chargers don’t typically have an easy life on the shop floor. They’re dragged, dropped and kicked throughout their working lives, and hooked up to a wide array of batteries. The secret to choosing a model that will last for decades is to take a close look at individual components, he says, offering the following buying tips.
Transformers — Look for transformers wound in heavy-duty copper wire, and insist on units that are "conservatively rated" since their lower operating temperatures will protect against failures.
Cables When looking at cables, size is everything. A 4-gauge design will account for less voltage drop than a smaller 6-gauge cable. A rubber cover will also withstand exposure to oil and dirt better than a PVC cover, which will break down more quickly and lead to electrical shorts.
Clamps Look for clamps made with heavy-duty springs. The superior tension will provide better connections and be more effective at carrying current.
Diodes If you want to be able to replace a diode in the field, you’ll want a stud design. Maintenance on press-fit diodes will require special tools.
Switches You can tell the quality of a tap switch by touch. A heavy-duty switch will offer more resistance when you try to move it from one position to another, and you’ll feel it "snap" in place. Meanwhile, a selector switch that shows obvious settings between six, 12 and 24 volts will ensure a proper position, and protect the charger’s rectifier.
Timers — The motor and cam in an electrical timer will last longer than the workings of a mechanical timer.
Meters — Ammeters should offer scales to reflect different voltages if you’re charging batteries of different sizes.
Polarity protection This optional feature will protect the charger if someone accidentally hooks up the cables in reverse.
Circuit breakers — A heavy-duty, self-resetting circuit breaker should be sufficient to withstand a heavy charge and repeated re-setting.
Rectifiers Heavy-duty designs will do a better job at dissipating heat, and heat is the biggest enemy to this component that converts alternating current into direct current.
Power cords Battery chargers need their own source of power. A longer power cord will give you more flexibility when finding a home for the charger.
Cabinets The charger’s housing isn’t just for looks — it will protect the inner workings from impact-related damage. An 18-gauge steel cabinet will simply be more durable than an aluminum design.
Wheels — Watch out for wheels made from a single piece of plastic. Rubber tires will absorb heavier impacts and last longer.
Vulcan Electric has been powering batteries since 1896 as Canada’s leading supplier of industrial and automotive battery chargers. Its products appear under the Vulcan and Canadian brand names. For more information, contact Mohamed Khan of Vulcan Electric at 416-281-1550, 800-268-6949, or email firstname.lastname@example.org