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Old 01-22-2009, 06:52 AM   #29
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Randy, in 120 v. wiring black means hot, white means common, green or bare wire means ground, and red means a second hot (such as in a 240 v. circuit). Auto and trailer 12 v. wiring should be similar but isn't most of the time. Gene
Gene has good advice but be aware that even if the trailer started that way, it may have been altered somewhere along the line by previous owners. The dreaded "previous owner" has ruined more stuff than you could imagine. Also, it is easy to blame the PO if you make a mistake somewhere.

Some years ago, I bought a '67 Austin Healey. Nice car and the PO had replaced all of the wiring...........................with red wire--all of it! The battery cables were red and black but color coded backwards. (The car was originally positive ground but had been changed) That was a long summer but, at least, the old car didn't have vacuum door locks, power seats, CD player, and seat belt buzzers to work around.

Buy and use a multimeter. It is fun and might prevent you from lying on the floor w/ your ears ringing while you wonder why you are lying on the floor with your ears ringing.
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Old 01-22-2009, 11:13 AM   #30
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Could this circuit be wired in series? What you describe sounds like old Xmas tree circuits if. If it's wired in series, there would not be two wires to each bulb, but one in, one out, and the last bulb's "out" wire would probably be attached to the frame. Somebody could have done this to save wire. There are other more confusing possibilities. I can imagine some other possibilities of strange circuitry because the PO had a broken wire and went part series, part parallel.

When you wire a lamp from a switch, one lamp is easy, but with multiple lamps people get confused and could end up with series wiring. In house wiring you interrupt the hot wire, thus a hot wire goes into the switch and out of it to the lamp. The common (ground in auto and trailer wiring) goes directly to the lamp. I can see someone just continuing the hot wire from lamp to lamp instead. You can take the hot right to the lamp and common back to the switch and interrupt that wire. This is not the preferred way to wire any switched item. In auto wiring I've seen things done that make no sense to me and they work.

Because the lights don't go on until all the bulbs are in, it sounds like series (or partially series) wiring to me. Because meltdown doesn't start until the bulbs complete the circuit, Andy may be right about a shorted bulb, or there may be a short to the frame at one lamp.

Why does the wire get hot? Get that multimeter and make sure you are not getting 24 v. to that circuit. Could the fuse panel be wired for 24 v. to that circuit? I don't know how it could be done, but would a converter have the option of 12 or 24 v.?

Gene
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Old 01-23-2009, 11:41 AM   #31
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A little update...I did the "Andy Test" (pulled out all the lights and installed one by one) and the lights wouldn't even come on until I had all the bulbs in. After that, it heated up again melting the fuse and making the wire hot. I didn't have much time so far this week to work on it ( I had to be in Las Vegas for work) but I plan on some more work this weekend. I am going to try the wire switching test to see if it is the fuse panel or the wire. I think it would be better if it was the fuse panel. I would guess pulling a new wire would be somewhat difficult. I will be glad when I can get this worked out and move on to those nasty looking leaky vista windows. Thanks so far for everyone's help, I am glad for a forum like this.....you guys ROCK!!!!
Alright if you insist on messing around....

What you describe is a circuit with 2 problems.

1) the common or ground wire is broken or disconnected between the first bulb and the fuse panel. That is why the lights fail to work.

2) the common or ground wire is shorted between the last bulb and the second last bulb. That is why the lights work but short out when you put in the last bulb.


Here is what I recommend you do. DO NOT work on that circuit when it is alive with 120 volts it is too dangerous.

DO disconnect the plug or extension cord bringing power to the trailer.

WITH THE POWER COMPLETELY OFF take the cover off the panel

Disconnect the wires to the bad circuit and pull them right out of the box

Put the cover back on the box.

Now you can plug in your "shore power". The bad circuit is completely disconnected - you hope.

DO NOT take anything for granted. Check the aluminum body of the trailer for power before you touch it or go in. Once inside, check the bad circuit to make sure it is completely dead both internally and to ground.

Now you can proceed to test diagnose and repair the bad circuit. Do not connect it to anything stronger than a 12 volt test light until you find out what is wrong with it and fix the problem.

There is a good chance you will find the problem by taking out that last light fixture and examining the wires.

PLEASE do not take chances with live electric wiring.
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:04 PM   #32
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Getting back to work on it

Hey everyone, thanks for all your help. I am attaching a pic of the actual fuse panel. I unscrewed the purple wire for that first circuit until I can figure out what in the world is going on with it. After looking at it you can see that the first circuit has a rusty fuse holder and also has a black allen wrench type screw instead of the silver ones. What are some ideas on rebuilding it with new posts or just trying to clean the panel up really good. Any ideas are greatly appreciated

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Old 01-29-2009, 11:11 PM   #33
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Hey everyone, thanks for all your help. I am attaching a pic of the actual fuse panel. I unscrewed the purple wire for that first circuit until I can figure out what in the world is going on with it. After looking at it you can see that the first circuit has a rusty fuse holder and also has a black allen wrench type screw instead of the silver ones. What are some ideas on rebuilding it with new posts or just trying to clean the panel up really good. Any ideas are greatly appreciated


Don't mess with it. It's not worth it.

Simply bypass it with an "in line" fuse holder.

That will save you much time and grief.

Andy
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:35 PM   #34
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Hi, basic diagnosis:

(1.) Shorts, blow fuses.

(2.) Shorts and circuit overloads, trip circuit breakers.

(3.) Fuses and circuit breakers [correct size] protect wires and circuits.

(4.) Poor connections create heat and melt fuses and wire insulation.

(5.) Poor grounds cause things to work poorly.

(6.) Open circuits, hot or ground, cause things to not work at all.

(7.) Intermittant problems is a whole different animal.
Hi, install an inline fuse holder; or replace fuse panel. I have cleaned and replaced individual fuse holder clips [rusted] many years ago, but probably not worth the time and effort. They must be very clean and tight fitting or your problem will be the same.
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Old 01-30-2009, 01:32 PM   #35
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Randy, after all this, you may have found it. 12 v. auto wiring is a strange beast and lots of auto mechanics have never mastered it.

Being cheap, I'd clean the contacts and try that first, at least to find out whether that is the problem. The corroded screw is a standard item and can be replaced easily; the fuse holder looks screwed onto the panel and should be replaced too. But, I'd remove the panel (disconnect all power sources first) and see what the back looks like. That doesn't look simple since it is riveted to something, but can be done.

The whole panel could be replaced and that may be the best approach. I'm sure a new panel would be different, may not fit and could leave you with new things to think about, but when you get it done, you will know a lot about your electrical circuits.

Most of the contacts look like aluminum, a metal which has had lots of corrosion problems in electrical circuits. A new panel would be much less likely to corrode. The corroded screw and fuse holder may have been changed by a PO and then corroded because of a bimetal reaction. If you decide to replace the panel, make sure to mark each wire as to what it is because no one has a good enough memory to remember what goes where.

An inline fuse would work with a wire screwed to the panel where the fuse holder is, but seems messy to me.

And, the problem may be elsewhere, but obviously this is an issue to solve also.

Gene
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Old 01-30-2009, 02:48 PM   #36
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[QUOTE=CrawfordGene;661737]Being cheap, I'd clean the contacts and try that first, at least to find out whether that is the problem. [/QUOTE}

An in line fuse holder goes for a couple of dollars.

Quote:
The whole panel could be replaced and that may be the best approach. I'm sure a new panel would be different, may not fit and could leave you with new things to think about, but when you get it done, you will know a lot about your electrical circuits.

Gene
A new fuse panel from Airstream, costs just under $200.00.

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Old 01-30-2009, 04:32 PM   #37
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Cheap is good, but not always the best approach. An aftermarket fuse panel may work just fine, or one could be made out of easy to obtain parts at an electronic store. Some people may be comfortable with creating a new panel, others would order something like what they have.

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Old 01-30-2009, 04:50 PM   #38
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You didnt mention the type of lamp used in your trailer, so I will assume they are bayonet incadesent lamp and fixture, and assume you have a low resistant short ( because the fuse doesnt blow but heats up and melts and the wiring gets hot) . when you inserted that last lamp, the lamp didnt burn at half brilliance (would have if any other lamp was in series). Sooooo I assume you have a loose hot wire in the lamp holder, when you insert the lamp the lamp lights and so do the rest of lamps in that circuit (as stated by you) at the same time all the lamps light up, that loose wire in the lamp socket shorts out against another wire or against the trailer body (a low resistance short). one of your fixtures is the problem what ever type you have.

good luck
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:08 PM   #39
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Randy

try the purple wire circuit on another fuse I bet its fine.That fuse holder was hot! thats why it is discolored.The heat came from a loose fitting fuse the clip is shot.Andy is right just get an in line fuse hook it to the big red wire and the other end to the purple wire and its good to go. If you want things original I have a fuse panel just like that one.

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Old 02-01-2009, 10:12 AM   #40
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:11 AM   #41
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Randy, I hope you get this sorted out. You've gotten so many suggestions, not all of them that helpful, it must be quite a job to figure it out. We've been trying to diagnose something not so easy to understand from afar which leads to all sorts of guesses. I hope my suggestions haven't misled you too much.

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Old 04-19-2009, 07:40 AM   #42
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Hi Randy -

Too bad we have left Pensacola. Maybe you and my husband could commiserate about your electrical problems over a beer. We found your thread while trying to sort out our DC problems. Some of our DC lighting was working not all of it. Hubby thought he had it fixed and now none of it works! Ack.

BTW, I think we've met. Is it your beautiful rig that is parked across from Cactus Flower Cafe? I came by a few weeks ago and toured it while you and your lovely wife were working on it. We now own a '66 Overlander and my poor husband is working away with wires, switches, and fuses while I sew curtains.

If you can, go up to Mystic Cove Springs today and meet up with the vintage folks who are having a rally. They will love you guys and they are such a wealth of information. Good luck.

Lisa
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