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RV Doctor – Why Does The GFCI on My Brand New RV Keep Tripping?

April 6, 2010 by Gary Bunzer · 21 Comments 

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Dear RV Doctor,
I have a troubling electrical issue. Last year when I plugged in my brand new RV at the campsite the GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) on the pedestal tripped immediately. The campground had to wire up a standard non-GFCI outlet and then everything work fine. I took the RV into the dealer for service and everything checked out fine. They said that possibly the GFCI in the coach needed to be reset or I had moisture in the plug. Recently I took the RV out of storage and plugged it into my house which had a GFCI in the circuit and it tripped again as soon as I plugged it in. I’m taking it in again for service but I am expecting a similar response that everything works fine when they plug it into their GFCI outlet. Any ideas on what might be the problem? - Jeff Hayes, (Monroe, OH)

Answer:

Gary BunzerJeff, you clearly have an electrical problem within the alternating current (AC) system on the RV. I would avoid using it until this situation has been resolved. Plus I doubt I’d take it back to that same dealer. At least not until their technicians get some further training.

As to the actual problem; the GFCI is tripping because it is detecting an imbalance between the hot and neutral conductors in the unit which usually indicates a leakage to ground on one of the wires. You can easily do some preliminary investigation yourself.

Purchase a plug-in circuit tester from your local hardware store. They are inexpensive, reliable and invaluable when checking out AC electrical problems within RVs and even park pedestals. In fact, I recommend that every park pedestal be tested and the voltage measured before ever plugging in for the first time.

For now, plug your coach into a non-GFCI circuit so it won’t trip during the test. Test every receptacle in the coach. Don’t forget those hidden receptacles like behind the refrigerator, microwave or convertor. If the tester indicates a problem it will be identified.

It is also possible that the GFCI receptacle in the RV is itself faulty and the park GFCI is sensing this fault and tripping first. Most well equipped RV service shops will have a GFCI test device in their tool crib. This plug-in test device applies a variable and controlled amount of leakage to the GFCI to determine if it trips at the correct level. You can also eliminate or condemn the GFCI by removing it temporarily to see if the source GFCI still trips.

Obviously, the shoreline cord should be unplugged before you remove the GFCI. Simply connect all the black wires together and the white wires together after you remove the GFCI. Be sure to note and label which is the incoming conductors and which are the downstream conductors; it makes a difference.

If the problem is eliminated by removing the GFCI then simply replace it with a like model. If the problem persists it will be necessary for a qualified service shop to run a full battery of tests including a hot skin test. There’s little else the handyman can do.

(Please feel free to comment, however, please also note that due to the volume of communications I receive from multiple channels I cannot guarantee a personal response in every instance. However, questions of an overall general interest may be considered and published in an upcoming RV Doctor column.)

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RV Doctor – I’m Having Issues With Main Fuse In My RV

September 22, 2009 by Gary Bunzer · 7 Comments 

Dear Gary,
While closing my slides I found the main (30A) fuse blown. I returned home and replaced the fuse and set up the coach and plugged into my AC electrical source and opened up both of them. We had some bad weather coming through our area so I went out to close the slides and the main fuse was blown again! I replaced the fuse after opening the slides and it was okay. My book doesn’t show an electrical diagram for the circuits and I am lost. Neither time could I smell any type of smell indicating bad wiring. - Randy Serice, (Lake Charles, LA) Read more

ELECTRICAL – Respect Electricity – Play It Safe

July 31, 2009 by Fred Brandeberry · 6 Comments 

Failure to turn off the Campground Post Circuit Breaker before Plugging in or removing your Electrical Plug could cause any of the following Safety Hazards:

1. The plug on your cord could arc and burn, damaging your plug, and injuring you.

2. The Campground Post Electrical Outlet could arc and fail from this damage.

3. This arcing could cause YOU personal injury. Less than 100 volts and 1/2 amp can cause your heart to stop.

4. If the Campground Post Electrical Outlet is faulty, or your RV Plug is damaged, a sparking Hazard could occur.

5. POLARITY: Check the Polarity with a Polarity/Ground/Open Circuit Tester BEFORE you plug in. Reverse Polarity can cause damage to the Electrical System and its components; such as Air Conditioner, Furnace, TV, Refrigerator, etc.

6. GROUNDING: Check the Campground Post Electrical Outlet with an Electrical Tester before you proceed to plug in your RV. This procedure also helps you identify the correct Circuit Breakers for the outlet you are using. Your neighbor will not appreciate it if you turn off their Electrical Power by mistake.

7. LOW VOLTAGE: Below 107 Volts AC; Using appliances and other equipment in your RV with a voltage lower than 107 volts can increase the amperage draw on that circuit and cause a fuse or Circuit Breaker to blow. Your convertor/battery charger and other appliances may not work at all, or be damaged by the low voltage.

8. HIGH VOLTAGE: Above 130 Volts AC; your Convertor/Battery Charger will most likely shut down automatically using a voltage above 130 volts. The lamps will burn out prematurely and appliances could shut down; such as the Refrigerator.
Contact Campground personnel if these conditions exist. DO NOT USE THIS SITE, until repairs have been made; or ask permission to use another site.

Happy Camping,
Fred b.
rv101byfred.com

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My Eleven Biggest RV Goofs:

July 2, 2009 by Fred Brandeberry · 17 Comments 

My Eleven Biggest RV Goofs:

  1. Our rooftop antenna is up while moving, resulting in damage to the TV antenna.
  2. The steps have not been retracted, causing damage when contacted by other objects.
  3. Tire pressures were not checked, overloaded and under inflated tires fail. As a “gator” rubber separates from the tire causing major damage to the wheel well and sidewall of our rig.
  4. We do not hold the sewer hose in place while dumping, we get gunk all over our shoes, clothing and dumpsite. Anything we dump on the ground well end up in our drinking water.
  5. Our lights are not checked on the toad or (anything towed behind our rig) and someone rear-ends us – not enough time for them to stop.
  6. We leave our water hose attached and left on while away from our rig – we come back to find the entire rig flooded from a water line break.
  7. I forget, as we travel, electrical wiring and pipes may vibrate, chafe or brake or short out. Be careful, when hooking up after a long day, water may leak, things may vibrate loose, and electrical systems may have been damaged.
  8. After traveling, open cabinets with caution, stuff may fall out and injure you or damage itself.
  9. Check the torque on your wheels lug nuts, wheels do fall off.
  10. We lose our sewer hose on the pavement while traveling – the cap fell off of the sewer holder.
  11. A damaged awning, unfurling while traveling or during a storm.

Happy Camping,

Fred b.

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