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Old 02-18-2014, 09:02 AM   #1
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Electrical problem (camping in Mexico)

We have an electrical problem and I know almost nothing about electricity, so here it goes with my description of what's happening.

We're staying at Freedom Shores in Isla Aguada, Mexico. Yesterday, when we arrived, I plugged the RV into shore power (15 amp). Everything in the RV ok: microwave came on, fridge switched to AC, phone started charging.
Ten minutes later, I go inside the RV and notice the microwave being off. The rest (fridge, phone charging) still ok and on electric. Strange.

I find my multimeter and test the 15 amp campground outlet: around 230 V!
I unplugged shore power and found a different campground outlet that shows around 110 V to plug into.

What is the current situation?
- microwave 'dead' (and apparently the microwave fuse is built-in, so I don't know how to check if that's the issue)
- fridge on AC (not on gas, which it's on when we're not plugged in)
- outlets in RV working (to charge phone)
- fan and AC in RV working
- I checked the RV battery with my multimeter and in early afternoon it showed 12.70 V; in late evening 12.69 V
- I reset all the breakers in the RV: nothing changed.
- I also visually checked the RV fuses: nothing looks burned.

Any idea what is wrong? Being in Mexico limits the availability of parts or experienced RV electricians, added up with my limited Spanish knowledge ...
Any help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Jorn
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:07 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
We have an electrical problem and I know almost nothing about electricity, so here it goes with my description of what's happening.

We're staying at Freedom Shores in Isla Aguada, Mexico. Yesterday, when we arrived, I plugged the RV into shore power (15 amp). Everything in the RV ok: microwave came on, fridge switched to AC, phone started charging.
Ten minutes later, I go inside the RV and notice the microwave being off. The rest (fridge, phone charging) still ok and on electric. Strange.

I find my multimeter and test the 15 amp campground outlet: around 230 V!
I unplugged shore power and found a different campground outlet that shows around 110 V to plug into.

What is the current situation?
- microwave 'dead' (and apparently the microwave fuse is built-in, so I don't know how to check if that's the issue)
- fridge on AC (not on gas, which it's on when we're not plugged in)
- outlets in RV working (to charge phone)
- fan and AC in RV working
- I checked the RV battery with my multimeter and in early afternoon it showed 12.70 V; in late evening 12.69 V
- I reset all the breakers in the RV: nothing changed.
- I also visually checked the RV fuses: nothing looks burned.

Any idea what is wrong? Being in Mexico limits the availability of parts or experienced RV electricians, added up with my limited Spanish knowledge ...
Any help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Jorn
Looks can be wrong.

Check the fuses with your multimeter.

Andy
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
We're staying at Freedom Shores in Isla Aguada, Mexico. Yesterday, when we arrived, I plugged the RV into shore power (15 amp). Everything in the RV ok: microwave came on, fridge switched to AC, phone started charging.
Ten minutes later, I go inside the RV and notice the microwave being off. The rest (fridge, phone charging) still ok and on electric. Strange.

I find my multimeter and test the 15 amp campground outlet: around 230 V!
I unplugged shore power and found a different campground outlet that shows around 110 V to plug into.
This usually occurs because of an open neutral in the campground wiring, which can occur as a result of poor wiring practices.

Quote:
What is the current situation?
- microwave 'dead' (and apparently the microwave fuse is built-in, so I don't know how to check if that's the issue)
Not much you can do there except have a technician repair the microwave or do it yourself. There's a good chance it's just a fuse.

Quote:
- fridge on AC (not on gas, which it's on when we're not plugged in)
If it is still working it probably isn't damaged. Operation on 230v usually causes the heating element to overheat and fail.

Quote:
- outlets in RV working (to charge phone)
The outlets, breakers, and wiring will typically not be damaged by 230v. Cell phone and computer chargers vary, with some of them designed to accept a wide range of input voltages to facilitate travel and sale in multiple countries -- those that are will typically run fine on 90-250v.

Quote:
- fan and AC in RV working
- I checked the RV battery with my multimeter and in early afternoon it showed 12.70 V; in late evening 12.69 V
- I reset all the breakers in the RV: nothing changed.
- I also visually checked the RV fuses: nothing looks burned.

Any idea what is wrong? Being in Mexico limits the availability of parts or experienced RV electricians, added up with my limited Spanish knowledge
Sounds like everything else is fine. I wouldn't worry.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:16 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
Any idea what is wrong? Being in Mexico limits the availability of parts or experienced RV electricians, added up with my limited Spanish knowledge ...
The sum total of my Spanish is, "¿Dondé esta la cervezas fria?" i.e. "Where is the cold beer?" In a horrendous norteamericano accent.

But some things that could be wrong:
1 - Does Mexico use 60Hz or do they use 50Hz for their frequency? I ask because I really can't recall. If 50Hz, anything with a computer chip in it will be a bit wonky, including your microwave.
2 - On edit— Jammer seems to have addressed everything else.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:17 AM   #5
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Thanks.

The campground owner speaks english and has contacted a local electrician to look at the microwave. Hopefully an update later.

I'm worried that the converter is damaged but it sounds like it's ok?
As a side question: do RV converters have any built-in protection against high currence?

Thank you,

Jorn
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:27 AM   #6
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Wow Jammer! A very detailed response to an electrical problem in 9 minutes. Isn't this forum the greatest. Thanks Jammer.

Dan
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:46 AM   #7
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1 - Does Mexico use 60Hz or do they use 50Hz for their frequency? I ask because I really can't recall. If 50Hz, anything with a computer chip in it will be a bit wonky, including your microwave.
Mexico is 60 Hz. Aside from some island nations, 120v 60hz is the standard everywhere north of the Bridge of the Americas.

"Wall Plug and Voltage Standards Worldwide, plug styles, voltages, frequency Hz"

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I'm worried that the converter is damaged but it sounds like it's ok?
The stock converters are extremely tough. If the voltage drops below 12.5 then it has probably failed, though. It's troubling that it's only 12.7.

Quote:
As a side question: do RV converters have any built-in protection against high currence?
It varies. The Xantex Truecharge converters are auto-ranging and will run on 90-250v 49-61Hz. I'm getting one of those when I have the cash.

I would guess that some others are autoranging also even if the label doesn't say so (to ease regulatory approval by UL and others). Switching power supplies have an inherent lack of sensitivity to input voltage, and good designs take advantage of this.

Older linear power supplies will typically blow a fuse.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:08 AM   #8
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Electrical Protection

There are several brands of devices that will protect one's TT from dangers such as the one you encountered. One such device is Progressive Industries 30 Amp Portable Electrical Management System - EMS-PT30C .

These devices are expensive to purchase. However, the savings that result from using this form of protection can more than offset the initial purchase price.

We have avoided problems of this sort in about a half a dozen cases while camping in the US.

Perform a Google search on RV Surge Protectors. You will find several devices. Also search this forum for others experiences with these devices.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jornvango View Post
Thanks.

The campground owner speaks english and has contacted a local electrician to look at the microwave. Hopefully an update later.

I'm worried that the converter is damaged but it sounds like it's ok?
As a side question: do RV converters have any built-in protection against high currence?

Thank you,

Jorn
If your converter was working, your 12v side would probably be registering 13.2v or higher when plugged int, not 12.7 and dwindling slowly.

I don't know if any converters are protected on the 120v side... I'm pretty sure my Powermax converters aren't, the fuses are on the 12v side to protect from reversing the battery wires.

A temporary measure if you can't get a 12v converter in a timely fashion is just to use a battery charger.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:27 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by nickmeloy View Post
There are several brands of devices that will protect one's TT from dangers such as the one you encountered. One such device is Progressive Industries 30 Amp Portable Electrical Management System - EMS-PT30C .

These devices are expensive to purchase. However, the savings that result from using this form of protection can more than offset the initial purchase price.

We have avoided problems of this sort in about a half a dozen cases while camping in the US.

Perform a Google search on RV Surge Protectors. You will find several devices. Also search this forum for others experiences with these devices.
+1 on the EMS. I have one and it has saved me a couple of times.
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Old 02-22-2014, 03:30 PM   #11
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Seems like the converter and microwave are fried. These will have to be looked at when we get back to the US: not many RV parts or mexhanics here in Mexico.

In the meantime, on the rest of our trip, the battery will get charged when we drive every few days. I also bought a battery charger (75/20). If I don't have an electrical hookup to plug it into, I will use the RV portable generator (Yamaha 2000) to plug the battery charger into.

Since I cannot find an outdoor protector here and a 30 amp one is overkill down here (only regular household outlets as hook up here), I bought an indoor surge protector (suitable for microwave, TV, ...). In the future we will hook up the 15 amp campground outlet to the protector (placed at the floor in the back of the car) and the RV is plugged into the protector. I think this gives us a protected 15 amp (or is it 20.. not sure) hook up, which allows us to run the AC in the RV.
Good plan?
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Old 02-22-2014, 08:52 PM   #12
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Most surge protectors won't protect against an open neutral.

Me, I just plug in and figure that any serious problems are likely to be rare enough that they aren't worth the weight, hassle, and expense of one of the autotransformer-type devices that actually provide protection against them.

Traveling someplace where the power might be dodgy the easiest thing to do is bring along an incandescent light bulb -- any wattage 40-300w, doesn't matter -- and a way to plug it in. Use that before you plug in the trailer. If it lights up and doesn't burn out in 10 seconds, the power is good.

The light bulb will actually tell you more than a voltmeter because it applies a load. Light bulbs are some of the most voltage-sensitive loads and will burn out quickly if the voltage is excessive.
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Old 02-22-2014, 10:30 PM   #13
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Did you check your GFCI?

The outlets for the microwave and converter might be controlled by a GFCI outlet or breaker.
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Old 02-23-2014, 07:40 AM   #14
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I'd be very çutious of an open neutral in the pedistal or even closer to a transformer.
If this is the case all your 110 volt devices are toast.
Also I believe Mexico voltage frequency is 50 Hertz not 60 like the American standard!
FWIW a surge protector of any make or design will not protect you from this fault here or elsewhere.
Don't let anyone fool you into thinking so. Everyone needs to learn what an open neutral is.
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