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Old 07-03-2017, 05:20 PM   #1
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1974 23' Safari
Seattle , Washington
Join Date: Jul 2017
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Question Electrical Help

Hi All
My name is Kris, I'm new to trailering in general. I'm gutting and restoring a 23' 1974 airstream. I've taken all interior appliances and skins, all that is left is the electrical system and sub floor. I have been reading some of the forums, and I've come to the realization that it would be best if I got help. I live in south Seattle and have contacted electricians and RV repair shops but they have all told me that its is too old to work on or just that they only do house electrical. The trailer did not have any control center so its been difficult to know whats what. I need to purchase a new system and just need some guidance on what to buy. Also if any one knows a local guy who I could hire to come out and take a look- that'd be helpful.
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Old 07-03-2017, 06:48 PM   #2
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1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
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Welcome Kris Dales: So you are as crazy as me and jumped into this vintage Airstream hobby, the deep end it sounds. Rewiring an Airstream with the interior skins off is certainly do-able. You've got to study it some and you'll be fine. Here is Airsteam electrical 101 to get you started.

1. Airstream rather invented the "univolt" trailer electrical system. The idea is to have all the trailer's systems run on 12 volts. Furnace, water pump, roof vents, lighting, and the like. Doing that, you can park your trailer in the middle of a field and have all the comforts the trailer offers.

2. The 12v battery (direct current, or DC) sits at the head of the table for your electrical system. Direct current has a "positive" and a "negative" terminal at the battery. All your trailer's systems are wired to the battery. Many trailers have two batteries for extra power and life before discharge. The batteries are "deep cycle" batteries designed for many charge, discharge cycles. They are not car starting batteries.

3. So now you have to charge your batteries. The battery power only lasts a few nights before the batteries need charging. Your electrical system will need a "converter" that converts 115vAC to 12VDC. The converter is powered by 115vAC. Heck, since you are charging your batteries, why not run all the trailer's 12v items off the converter while it's plugged in? Saves wear and tear on the batteries.

4 Since you have to plug in your trailer to charge the batteries, why not run a 115vAC wire to an outlet so you can plug in a microwave? Or a electric heater, or or a TV, or an air conditioner? So your trailer will have 115vAC wiring to power outlets and the AC.

5. Most Airstreams run on 115vAC with 30 amps of power. This is about 3000 watts of power.

6. You have to protect your 12v circuits with fuses. And you protect your 115vAC circuits with circuit breakers like your house might have. So you need a fuse panel for the 12v circuits, and a "power distribution panel" for the 115vAC circuits. My old 1966 Airstream Trade Wind has 3 12vDC circuits protected by 15 amp fuses, and 4 115vAC circuits protected by 20 amp breakers. I have a separate wire for the microwave, and a separate wire for the air conditioner. These appliances pull significant power and shouldn't be running if something else is running.

7. Now you need an electrical plan. Yes I want an AC, yes I want a microwave, yes I want two outlets in the bath, yes I want a 12vDC charge port for my phone and tablet, etc, etc. Figure out what you want and where.

8. Also figure out where you want the batteries so you can get at them for maintenance. And figure out where you want to have the "outlet" where you can connect to 30 amps at the campground. Most electrical shore power connections are on the left (street) side rear.

RV wiring is a bit different than house wiring. The things you will need to buy are batteries, a converter, a fuse panel, and a power distribution panel.

And first things first, you must get in your trailer and identify every wire that is left. What did this wire do? The label them; e.g. 115v wire for bedroom outlet, 115v wire for air conditioner, 12v wire for furnace, 12v wire for fridge, etc.

Here is a wiring diagram for my 66 Trade Wind. At least it shows the basics. You can find a wiring diagram for your trailer on the internet somewhere.

And here is a photo of my fuse box, my converter, and my 115vAC power distribution panel.

I hope this little post helps you with the basics and helps you begin to sort things out.

David
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Old 07-03-2017, 07:17 PM   #3
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2017 30' Classic
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Hi

There are differences between a solar home and an RV, that said, there are also a lot of similarities. A local electrician likely would be able to help you with this sort of stuff. At the very least, he could look over what you have done *before* you put the inside skins back on. It might save a lot of embarrassment ....

Bob
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Old 07-03-2017, 07:58 PM   #4
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1974 23' Safari
Seattle , Washington
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thank you for the info! I'm trying to get a licensed electrician to look at it but I've had little success.

Thank you both for responding
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Old 07-03-2017, 09:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kris dales View Post
thank you for the info! I'm trying to get a licensed electrician to look at it but I've had little success.

Thank you both for responding
Hi

Anyplace I've lived, getting somebody out for this or that has been a < 1 week sort of thing for the cheap rate. If I'm in a hurry, getting them here in < 24 hours is very do-able (for a higher cost).

Bob
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Old 07-03-2017, 10:44 PM   #6
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Morrill , Nebraska
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Look up "The 12 volt side of life" on the internet. It will help you understand the DC systems of your coach.
Also look for a thread by "lucymcdog" on wiring a coach. She was a total novice. With help from several here on the forum she was able to do all of the work herself. She did both the 120 volt AC and the 12 volt DC wiring and component installation.
Just because someone has a license doesn't mean they know anything about RV wiring. If you are willing to learn and have the time and interest you can do the work yourself. And when you are done you will have an understanding of how everything works.
We are here to help.
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