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Old 08-26-2010, 08:40 AM   #1
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scotdo's Avatar
1981 24' Airstream 240
96703 , California
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 37
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HELP! Electrical system in a 1983 is down, and I am at Burning Man!

I can not get power at all now to my rig, and I am plugged into a land line. Yesterday I had power but it still acted as if I had a weak source, and I am plugged into a power pole. Before that I was running my generator, an onan 6.5 and it had a hard time powering both ac's and anything else... Now I show no battery power at the control panel for the coach batteries but I do show good auto battery. I checked the batteries and they are both fully charged. I have a parallex unit that the power from the land and geny go through but it shows no sign of any damage. Is there another inverter or something from the 12 volt system that could be down?

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Old 08-26-2010, 08:53 AM   #2
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2012 30' International
Walkerton , Virginia
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,369

I hope some of our experts will sign on, but my immediate question is - does any of your 12v work? House lights, water pump, that sort of thing.

When you lose power suddenly, I'd suspect fuses or circuit breaker. Perhaps shut off all your breakers, then turn on your main breaker, then the others, one at a time to see if you can isolate the problem.

Good luck and I hope some BM karma finds its way to you.


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Old 08-26-2010, 08:53 AM   #3
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2000 30' Limited
battle ground, , Washington
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 510
check the male plug end of your land line

the usual fail point of the land line is the 3 pronged male plug and the wires immediately near said plug. the constant use, flex, etc takes its toll on the connection end of the land line. If the cord has any limpness around the plug, or any bulges, or other deformations, then the wires may be broken. Check the plug itself for discoloration, or burned spades. It is a simple project to cut off at least 6 inches of cord, strip it back and put on a new 3 prong male plug.
good luck
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:59 AM   #4
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1975 Argosy 24
Malakoff , Texas
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 490
The large cord plugs - heat and diminish in amp carrying capacity over time. I always
start with the main supply line. The old cord itself may have suffered abuse since 1983 also...pinch, pull, hot and cold etc.

Just a suggestion
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:29 PM   #5
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1982 31' Airstream 310
Columbia , Tennessee
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 161
Images: 37
Look for the transfer relay

My 310 had (can you say melt down) a transfer relay that has a time circuit that after about 30 seconds would switch over to the genset from the land line. As my relay was going bad, I had to open the door that holds the relay and timer, and wack the relay to let the contacts un-stick from the genset back to the land line.

I removed the relay and have gone to a 50 amp land line, and a poor boys transfer, basically a plug in place of the relay box to plug the land line into the genset output.

I will be doing a manual switch over like used on boats, but don't have the 250 bucks to do that yet. Liked the manual switch over we had on our Burnscraft house boat.

Never liked the auto switch over, it was always to soon for the genset to warm up like it should.

My bet is on that relay is bad or going bad on you.
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Many Years ago, 1972 Argosy 24' trailer
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Old 08-27-2010, 06:19 AM   #6
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Silverton , Colorado
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Posts: 2,101
If the ac is not operating with a functional condenser, it will throw your circuit...temperature will affect the switch. Trying to run both ac units is probably not a good idea...another source of electrical failure could be the solenoids...a relatively cheap repair...m
Michael & Tracy
1989 345 Motorhome
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Old 08-27-2010, 07:55 AM   #7
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2000 31' Land Yacht
Central , Florida
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Prior to total failure you said gen wouldn't handle two a/c's; their combined amperage is about 40 and genset is 65 so I agree with looking at the relay and assoicated wires. If your landline is 30 amps, two a/c's will burn it out but that shouldn't affect the generators ability to power them up. AS wired ours so that when on 30 amps a manual switch controls which one can run but not both.
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:05 PM   #8
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1983 31' Airstream310
Santa Cruz , California
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That circuit often has a lot of flaky connections due to abuse and neglect. (Besides all the comments above, check those things too.) Trace the path from the power cord, through the relay box, to the breaker panel which is probably directly above it in a small compartment under the rear window. Not sure what you mean "hard time" running things, the genset always sounds like it's having a hard time but that's how they are.
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Old 08-28-2010, 03:51 PM   #9
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1981 24' Airstream 240
96703 , California
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 37
Images: 4
thanks for the replys

well, it is not the land line that is the issue, there was bad breaker that I was hooked into so the land line is running the ac, etc, but the 12 volt system is showing problems. Probably the converter, but unfortunately I am in RENO and the trailer is on the playa, I am trying to buy a converter but no idea which one. If anyone knows a model number please call me at
415-637-4120 before 4 pm west coast, they are closing then.
When I have a few things on the lights dim, but my batteries are showing full power. Any other ideas?
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:59 PM   #10
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1983 31' Airstream310
Santa Cruz , California
Join Date: Sep 2008
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My crystal ball says that the battery posts and clamps on the coach battery are corroded or loose, or the wiring between the coach battery and the converter/fuse panel is loose. Or maybe that your coach batteries are toast. The batteries "show full power" when you're plugged in to AC because the control panel shows the voltage on the coach side of the batteries -- not the condition of the batteries themselves. It will show "good" with the converter running and no battery at all. In your first post you said that both batteries were fully charged. How did you determine this? Did you look inside and check the charge in the electrolyte with a hydrometer?

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