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Old 08-31-2015, 10:12 PM   #1
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1984 31' Excella
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Advice on rewire

So, we've taken our walls off, and the condition of the wiring is making want to start from scratch rather than chase down potential issues with the existing wiring (there were several mice living in our trailer).

My wife and I have done quite a bit of home renovation, and I've moved around circuits and switches as we've added and removed walls in our home, but I've never worked with 12v system before.

I have the existing wiring to work from as a template, although I want to replace both the DC and AC fuseboxes, and I'd like to potentially wire in solar as well.

So, my question is should I take this on myself, or just hire a professional? Will a local electrician even work with the 12v system? The wires are all exposed so the actual labor part will be minimal, I just need the expertise.

Can I wire it myself and bring in an electrician to check my work? Will they even do that?

I'd love to do it myself, because it's worth learning and understanding how it all goes together, but electricity is serious business and I don't want my ego to prevent me making the right choice.

Thanks for your input. This forum has proven invaluable in everything else we've attempted so far.
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:26 PM   #2
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It is a very easy, and rewarding, project. 12v is a straight shot from the source to a distribution bus to circuit protection (fuse) to the end use. I highly suggest running individual grounding from each use to a ground bar. There is no pain like chasing a loose ground in the Airstream.
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Old 08-31-2015, 11:43 PM   #3
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I don't want to say you CAN do it, but you should be able to do it. 12v wiring is no more complex than 120v wiring. The big differences will come in from the uniqueness of trailer wiring versus home wiring. It's still pretty much the same, voltage, amps, positive, negative, current in, current out. It will probably give you peace of mind in the end if you're sure that the wiring has a good amount of damage from mice.
Additionally, with the walls off you can see how much wiring is in the trailer. I think it would surprise most people. It's all straight forward, but when it's all bundled together like in the trailer it can become difficult to understand. The big things you have to understand is that only 3 points really matter, where the wire starts, ends, and any junctions in between. So if you can make a list/map of where all the end points for the wires are, you can then work backwards from there to where you'll feed them from.
Keep in mind that a big bunch of those wires will be from the tank level monitoring system and those can be pretty confusing to work with, but this would be a good time to upgrade the tank level system anyway.
Hiring a professional, most electricians know house wiring, and not that they couldn't figure out the 12v system, it will be a learning curve for them as well. Hiring a pro won't be cheap either, considering the scope of the project, this will probably take an electrician several weeks in my estimate especially if he's figuring the what goes where to where. That's thousands of dollars in labor alone.
Which you need to think of as well, even with you doing all the labor, you should plan on a pretty good budget for the wiring, connectors, new tools, fuse panel, breaker panel, converter, inverter, solar etc. Several thousand dollars is not unreasonable.
As far as time goes, I would plan on much more than you'd expect. You want to be pretty thorough when working with electrical. You'll want to have a very good plan before you start. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Figure out what each house circuit fed, ie blue circuit feeds ABCD, brown circuit feeds EFGH, etc, this will give you a good idea of how the loads were originally distributed and a good starting point for planning. Remember you've got to add up all the loads to have an idea on the amps you'll need to support.
There are 3 distinct wiring systems in your trailer:
1. 120 volt for the regular outlets, fed by shore power or inverter from battery.
2. 12v power for house loads; lights, furnace, fridge, fans, etc. that get fed from battery, converter, and solar if added.
3. 12v for trailer towing, brakes, tail lights, brake lights, etc, that get fed from the umbilical that connects the trailer to the tow vehicle.

Could go on but some food for thought for now.
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:03 AM   #4
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Just took a look at the blog. Nice blog on Alice.

Noticed you mentioned ungrounded wires in there, remember in the AS the entire shell is a ground so it is not uncommon to have a positive wire feeding a fixture and the screw or rivet attaching the fixture to the skin is the negative/ground path.
Also not uncommon to find wires that end in big black rubber caps for lack of a better term and didn't go anywhere. They made common wiring harnesses and didn't always use all the wires there. They tucked them between the skins.

One thing I did while working on my wiring, in the overhead where you have the indentations in the ribs to allow clearance for the wires to run through on each side. You've probably got the black springy clamps that hold the wires in there, that suck and fall off all the time and easily. I cut some aluminum strips, folded the edges over so there weren't sharp edges and put 1/8" holes in the ends and cleco'd them up while I was doing the wiring. Kept the wiring secure and was easy to undo and redo as I ran new wires. Recommend trying to keep the wiring runs up there separated as you may notice originally, the 12v and 120v ran down different sides.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:00 AM   #5
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Thank you for taking the time to reply. Your information is really helpful!
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Old 09-01-2015, 05:11 PM   #6
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Use stranded wire throughout. Highly recommended. Lots of grommets and protection so you don't worry about what's going on in the walls down the road.
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:09 PM   #7
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The ground connections become very important. Super clean and
super tight. A touch of dielectric grease to prevent rust/oxidation.
Bad grounding on a 12 volt d.c. system is the most common problem.
Electrically bond(- neg.) everything all the way to the bumper and the tow vehicle.
The hot wire is easy. Diligence in EVERY ground connection!!!!!
You can do it.......
Electrically bond (Neg gnd) everything. EVERYTHING
Mo bonded = Mo better!!!
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Old 09-01-2015, 07:12 PM   #8
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Very good advice from everyone on the wiring. You should have know problem doing it your self.
You mentioned, "I want to replace both the DC and AC fuse boxes".
I used a Progressive Dynamics PD5000 AC/DC - 30 AMP, 120 VAC distribution panel on mine and like it very much. Compact and not as expensive as two separate panels. It doesn't look bad either, however I built a recessed opening with a door to match my Maple cabinetry so it is, out of site. So many options, just my .02.
PD5000 Series AC/DC Power Distribution Panels

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Old 09-01-2015, 07:20 PM   #9
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One BIG difference between 120 VAC RV wiring and house wiring: Do NOT install the bonding screw in the 120 VAC breaker box if it has one. You want the neutral and ground to float rather than be bonded together in an RV. If you buy an all-in-one 120 VAC/converter/12 volt distribution power panel (like progressive dynamics makes), then you won't have a bonding screw to worry about. But if you buy a household 120 VAC breaker box, you might. Never, ever, ever connect 120 VAC neutral wires and ground wires together.

Why you may ask? If neutral and ground are connected together, and you plug into an outlet that's wired backwards (hot and neutral reversed), you just electrified the entire shell of the airstream with 120 Volts. Not good. Not trying to scare you off, just pointing out the importance of not bonding ground and neutral together in an RV.

Other than that, the 120 VAC system is very similar to house wiring. Shore power feeds a main breaker, which is connected to a hot bus that the other circuit breakers attach to. They then feed the other 120 VAC circuits. 30 AMP service is very straight forward with one 120 volt hot wire feeding a 30 AMP main.

Chris
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Old 09-01-2015, 07:34 PM   #10
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Agree.....
Ground BONDING of 12vdc,,,, Does NOT include the neutral of the 120vac system.

The neutral on a 120vac sys carries current. ~clarify agree w/previous post~

The bare wire(or green) on 120vac sys <<<<should be bonded to the frame>>>.
Bonding the bare/green to the frame prevents shock hazard in the event of
a ground fault.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:18 PM   #11
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Quote of the day!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennethowens View Post
Mo bonded = Mo better!!!
Awesome!
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:23 PM   #12
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Thanks everyone for your input. Looks like I've got some planning to do.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:25 PM   #13
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Hey Neighbor!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minno View Post
One BIG difference between 120 VAC RV wiring and house wiring: Do NOT install the bonding screw in the 120 VAC breaker box if it has one. You want the neutral and ground to float rather than be bonded together in an RV. If you buy an all-in-one 120 VAC/converter/12 volt distribution power panel (like progressive dynamics makes), then you won't have a bonding screw to worry about. But if you buy a household 120 VAC breaker box, you might. Never, ever, ever connect 120 VAC neutral wires and ground wires together.

Why you may ask? If neutral and ground are connected together, and you plug into an outlet that's wired backwards (hot and neutral reversed), you just electrified the entire shell of the airstream with 120 Volts. Not good. Not trying to scare you off, just pointing out the importance of not bonding ground and neutral together in an RV.

Other than that, the 120 VAC system is very similar to house wiring. Shore power feeds a main breaker, which is connected to a hot bus that the other circuit breakers attach to. They then feed the other 120 VAC circuits. 30 AMP service is very straight forward with one 120 volt hot wire feeding a 30 AMP main.

Chris

Chris- We are in Cottage Grove about 40 minutes south of you. If you ever want to come over and help us out on wiring we would pay you in pizza and beer/soda
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:31 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RumbleStrip View Post
Chris- We are in Cottage Grove about 40 minutes south of you. If you ever want to come over and help us out on wiring we would pay you in pizza and beer/soda
Shure! PM us when you want to get together.


Chris
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