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Old 03-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #1
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always trips GFCI shore power

I have an 09 Interstate where everything works normally when plugged into 30 amp shore power, but instantly trips when plugged into any GFCI power source. How can I determine what might be going wrong? It looks like the rear sofa needs to be removed to look at the battery connections. Could the problem be a defective inverter or battery charging unit? I appreciate any help. I live in the Seattle area and would also appreciate any leads on where to find professional help for electrical problems like this. Thank you!!!
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:08 PM   #2
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The first step in trouble shouting would be turn off all the circuit breakers in the trailer, then plug in and then turn on the 30 amp, then turn on 1 additional breaker at a time till the GFCI trips to narrow down witch circuit the problem is on. Test all circuits even if you already found 1 that causes the problem to make sure there isn't more then 1.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:20 PM   #3
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If all the breakers are off, and the GFI still trips, look in the breaker box and see if the copper ground and the white wires are on a common buss. They need to be separated for the GFI they are plugged into to not trip.
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Old 03-07-2013, 09:55 PM   #4
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You say everything works when plugged in to 30-amp shore power, but trips when plugged in to a GFCI.

First question, how many amps on the GFCI circuit you're plugging into? If you're plugging your shore power cable into a 20-amp GFCI outlet through an adaptor, you may be drawing more than 20 amps, overloading the circuit, and causing an ordinary trip, not necessarily a ground fault trip. A GFCI breaker is still a breaker, and can trip for other things than a ground fault.

On your control panel, specifically the Power Control System panel, you should have a switch to select either 30 amp or 20 amp power. If you're plugged into a circuit providing less than 30 amps, use the Power Control System to select 20 amps. This will allow the Energy Management System to perform its load-shedding routines based on the actual power available, shutting off individual circuits to prevent overload, before the source circuit breaker can trip from overload. If the Energy Management System thinks you've got 30-amp service coming in, and you really only have 20, then it will not shed loads in time to prevent a breaker trip.

Second question, do you have anything plugged into your Interstate's own GFCI circuits? It's generally considered bad practice to plug a GFCI into a circuit already protected by another GFCI. Not unsafe, exactly, just not efficient. Here's what happens… The upstream (closer to the electrical source) GFCI registers the downstream GFCI as being a ground fault, and trips. Doesn't always happen, but often enough.

If you're going to plug your Interstate's shore power cable into a GFCI-protected circuit, then leave the Interstate's own GFCI breaker turned off. That way, you don't have two GFCI's on the same electrical path. It would mean there are some outlets you can't use, but that's better than tripping the breaker at the source and not being able to use any of your outlets.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:35 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by windblade View Post
I have an 09 Interstate where everything works normally when plugged into 30 amp shore power, but instantly trips when plugged into any GFCI power source. How can I determine what might be going wrong? It looks like the rear sofa needs to be removed to look at the battery connections. Could the problem be a defective inverter or battery charging unit? I appreciate any help. I live in the Seattle area and would also appreciate any leads on where to find professional help for electrical problems like this. Thank you!!!
Windblade

Nothing to do with the battery. Possibly the inverter wiring but that's a long shot.

Nuisance GFCI trips like that are caused by one of two things. Either a short between neutral and ground, or rainwater or other moisture in one of the outlets.

On older trailers sometimes neutral and ground were connected together deliberately at the breaker panel but on a newer trailer like yours that shouldn't have happened. That's what some of the posters upthread are referring to.

To resolve this, with shore power disconnected, check around for moisture in the electrical wiring. The exterior outlet is a common problem area and you might want to remove the flip-up cover and check behind it. A hair dryer can be used to dry out anything that needs it. If you find dust and cobwebs anywhere in the wiring, clean them out as that can contribute to the moisture sensitivity.

Beyond that, the problem can be isolated by disconnecting both hot and neutral wires to various parts of the electrical system until the problem goes away. If you're not comfortable and familiar with electrical work, this would be a job for an electrician or RV tech.

If it's not just moisture, usually the problem ends up being either at the breaker box itself or in the air conditioner, but not always.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:44 AM   #6
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Second question, do you have anything plugged into your Interstate's own GFCI circuits? It's generally considered bad practice to plug a GFCI into a circuit already protected by another GFCI. Not unsafe, exactly, just not efficient. Here's what happens… The upstream (closer to the electrical source) GFCI registers the downstream GFCI as being a ground fault, and trips. Doesn't always happen, but often enough.

If you're going to plug your Interstate's shore power cable into a GFCI-protected circuit, then leave the Interstate's own GFCI breaker turned off. That way, you don't have two GFCI's on the same electrical path. It would mean there are some outlets you can't use, but that's better than tripping the breaker at the source and not being able to use any of your outlets.
I haven't heard of that, if that can cause the problem it would be very likely.

In all the trailers with GFCI I have seen enough to know (8 out of 8) the converter was plugged into the circuit with GFCI.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:08 AM   #7
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Try unplugging the converter and see if the GFI will hold. Some converters have a high inrush current when first powered up.
How old is the GFI on the circuit you are plugging in to?
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:02 AM   #8
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I have to turn my inverter off when plugging in to my 15 amp GFIC in my garage. Once plugged in, I can turn my inverter on and all's OK. It's not the in-rush current that's tripping it as I can't reset it 'til the shore power is disconnected.

Surprisingly, I can run the A/C on that circuit. And the GFIC is over 26 years old.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:00 AM   #9
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Thank you - GFCI trip problem

Thank you everyone for all of your suggestions and ideas. It is definitely some kind of ground fault rather than an overload since at time of plugging into shore power nothing in my sprinter motor home is turned on - only 1 or 2 amp draw if plugged into the 30 amp for powering inverter and any other miscellaneous electrical components that are always on. I will inspect my GFCI exterior plug for moisture and try many of the other suggestions on this thread to see if the problem can be discovered - will post an update when the problem is resolved.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:07 AM   #10
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I may be barking up the wrong tree but.....

Older GFCI outlets were prone to go bad. Does it happen when you plug into any GFCI outlet?
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:24 AM   #11
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yes, all GFCI's trip, including my home GFCI outlet in garage which was new just three years ago.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:28 AM   #12
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Drying wet electrical connections

I do commercial sheet metal work were all the power we use is ran off temporary power boxes that are GFCI protected. Since the job sites are usually wet we have this problem quite often. If the power goes out production stops, $$$. What we do to dry out wet connections to keep the breakers from tripping is spray them with WD-40. WD-40 literally means (water displacement formula, developed on the fortieth try) by the chemist. It works on the job site so you might want to give it a try.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:34 AM   #13
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Another thought…

Have you checked the polarity of the GFCI outlets you're plugging into? It's generally a good idea to check the polarity of any outlet you plug into, whether it's a GFCI or not.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:07 PM   #14
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GFI trip problem resolved

One of the many helpful suggestions I received on this thread was to turn off the inverter circuit breaker first and then plug into the 15 amp GFI outlet. This seems to work - when the inverter is switched back on after plugging into the GFI shore power, everything is just fine and the GFI does not trip. I first discovered this problem when I encountered the rather rare situation of an RV park with 50 amp service and a GFI outlet - i.e. no 30 amp service. I couldn't get the GFI to not trip at the RV park and then later at home the same tripping occured on a home GFI outlet.. So, now I at least have the technique for using a 15 amp GFI shore power should the situation arise in the future at an RV park. I didn't encountered this situation at home before the RV park incident because we have an exterier 30 amp outlet on the side of our house where we park the motor home. I suppose the why of it all remains a mystery, but I'm happy to have success - and it's comforting to know there's at least one more Interstate motorhome owner that's in the same boat. Thanks to all!
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