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Old 09-16-2016, 12:37 PM   #1
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Finding a short

Hello everyone,

After having the entire driver side skin replaced at an Airstream Dealer we seem to have run into an electrical short, but not certain. We picked up our 28' CCD and went to a local campground for the evening. Everything appeared to work properly; AC, lights, microwave, TV's, etc. We were so happy to get her back.

Then I drove home and parked her for about 3 weeks. Yesterday, I wanted to plug in so I could use the fantastic fan to move some air around. Just trying to connect to 115volts causes the house breaker to trip. It acts like a dead short. But I had just used it on a 3 prong 30amp service at the campground without issue

I could use some help in isolating the problem. I've already made sure there isn't a short in the extension cord so I'm convinced the problem is in the trailer somewhere.

Thanks for your help and thoughts.

John
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Old 09-16-2016, 01:34 PM   #2
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I haven't personally had this experience, but my initial thought is that perhaps you could begin to isolate the problem by first opening all the breakers in the trailer itself, then plugging in the power, and flipping breakers on line one by one to see when the power trips.

Brian.
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Old 09-16-2016, 02:29 PM   #3
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I haven't personally had this experience, but my initial thought is that perhaps you could begin to isolate the problem by first opening all the breakers in the trailer itself, then plugging in the power, and flipping breakers on line one by one to see when the power trips.

Brian.
Good troubleshooting start.

I'd also use a multimeter on the prongs on the trailer electrical inlet to check there for a short. Then check the cord you're using for issues.

Make sure your air conditioner is off and not trying to start as soon as you plug the trailer in.
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Old 09-16-2016, 03:17 PM   #4
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As noted above turn off all the AC breakers and then plug in the trailer. One by one turn a breaker on and leave it on as you go to the next breaker. If a breaker trips that is the one with the problem. You have now defined the circuit in question. The breaker circuits may not be clearly described at the panel. Leave the tripped breaker tripped and all other breakers on. Do an inventory the trailer to see what receptacles are not powered. Unplug EVERYTHING AC powered. Don't forget to check the frig, convertor, hot water heater if AC powered and any other receptacles that may be hidden behind curtains. The AC circuits in an Airstream use the wall boxes as junction boxes so you can open a box, say in the middle of the circuit layout, disconnect the wires and retest for the short by turning on the tripped breaker, If the breaker hold the problem is further down the circuit. Turn off the breaker and go to another wall box and check. The short will be beyond the last box that tested OK.

Go one wall box further and if you are lucky you may find the problem in that next box.

Now the real problem is do you want to pull the skin off to find the short or can you live without those receptacles beyond that point.

You probably have a claim against who did the work but what will be required to get to it may just be out of the question
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Old 09-16-2016, 03:18 PM   #5
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Is the water heater on. If so that will trip the circuit
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Old 09-16-2016, 03:56 PM   #6
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Forgot to mention the switch on the air condition in the off position is the same as unplugging it. Did not want you ripping the AC apart to isolate it.
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Old 09-17-2016, 09:02 AM   #7
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Thanks for the guidance. I think I'll start by making sure I have everything turned off and then meter the input to see if the short is still there. If not, that will be a big step. It is possible I left the hot water heater turned on as I can never remember "on" and "off" since it isn't marked.

Thanks and I'll be in touch.

John
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Old 09-17-2016, 09:24 AM   #8
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Ok, so I turned off all the Breakers. Then I tried metering the inputs and honestly could tell if there a short although I had continuity between the ground and one of the other pins. I tried plugging in the shore cord and it popped the breaker again. One other note; the breaker I'm using on the house side is a GFI. That's what keeps popping but I've always used this outlet in the past.

Is there something else I could try?

John
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Old 09-17-2016, 09:56 AM   #9
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You will get a resistance read between Neutral, one of the flat pins, and Ground, the round pin, on the cable. They are the same point in the panel.

The question is did you get a reading between the 2 flat pins on the cable? With all breakers off that should show open.

If all the breakers are off and you pop the house GFI when plugging the cable in that would indicate the problem is in the cable or the panel. Has the cable or male plug been exposed to water? Disconnect the cable, all 3 wires, in the panel and try plugging in the cable.
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Old 09-17-2016, 10:13 AM   #10
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Howie, I will take another reading based on your input. Since the shore cable does not trip the breaker by itself before connecting to the input wouldn't that indicate it is fine?

When you say to disconnect the cable and all three wires in the panel I'm not sure which 3 wires you are referring to but I'll look to see if it is obvious. Thanks again for your guidance.

John
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Old 09-17-2016, 10:42 AM   #11
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The problem is going to between you GFI plug in and the breaker box in your trailer.

The likely culprit is that someone in the repair process crossed something up.


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Old 09-17-2016, 11:07 AM   #12
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Thanks. With all the breakers off, I do not show a short on the 2 smooth input pins. With all the breakers on, there is a short. Then I thought I could isolate the problem one breaker at a time. I turned off the 30 amp breaker and the short went away but when I tried to power on it still tripped the breaker. Then I turned off all the breakers and the house breaker still tripped. If I've read the wiring diagram correctly it appears all the breakers are fed by the same input, maybe with jumpers. Does this make sense?

Since the entire driver's side aluminum was replaced with all the associated equipment it leads me to believe that the problem must be somewhere inside the trailer. However, after getting her back we camped out for the evening close by and everything worked properly???

UGH!

John
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Old 09-17-2016, 11:08 AM   #13
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Other similar "GFI Problem" threads on AirForums indicate that the most likely cause is the refrigerator 120 VAC heating element.

Suggest you try running refrigerator on propane. If problem goes away, replace refrigerator 120 VAC heating element.
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Old 09-17-2016, 11:38 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by John Geisen View Post
Thanks. With all the breakers off, I do not show a short on the 2 smooth input pins. With all the breakers on, there is a short. Then I thought I could isolate the problem one breaker at a time. I turned off the 30 amp breaker and the short went away but when I tried to power on it still tripped the breaker. Then I turned off all the breakers and the house breaker still tripped. If I've read the wiring diagram correctly it appears all the breakers are fed by the same input, maybe with jumpers. Does this make sense?
The "short" you are measuring between the flat pins with the breakers on is the "load" and is normal. I have a question, has this power connection (GFI circuit) worked previously? Before ripping the the trailer apart I'd check the house outlet with one of these: https://www.amazon.com/Sperry-Instru...243H5209XSGJ3T

If it's good according to the tester, turn all all trailer breakers on, plug the tester into a outside trailer 120 volt outlet and then run an extension cord to a non-GFI circuit. Carefully power the trailer via the new circuit and look at the tester. It sounds like hot and neutral is flipped somewhere. If so, this last bit could be dangerous as the trailer skin may be energized which is why I suggest using an outside outlet for the tester. Keep us posted. This is a weird one. My bet, if the outside trailer power connector was disturbed during the repair, is a wire reversal when the connector was reinstalled.
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Old 09-17-2016, 11:47 AM   #15
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Then I thought I could isolate the problem one breaker at a time. I turned off the 30 amp breaker and the short went away but when I tried to power on it still tripped the breaker. Then I turned off all the breakers and the house breaker still tripped.
I need some clarification on these statements. Not sure why there would be a 30 amp breaker in your trailer unless it is a Main Breaker feeding the rest of the panel.

How many breakers and what current rating are there in your panel?

My comments about testing only the cable to the panel assumed your cable was permanently connected to the trailer. The 3 wires I suggested to be removed in the panel are the wires of the cable where they come into the panel.

Lets find out if this problem is in the trailer or the cable first. Turn off all of the breakers. Plug the cable in. If the house breaker trips the problem is before the panel. If your cable is removable from the trailer. disconnect it from the trailer and the house reset the house breaker and plug the cable into the house. If the breaker trips the cable is the problem.

If these tests don't not indicate a problem the problem is in the trailer. Now one by one turn on the breakers in the trailer till the house breaker trips. That breaker has a short across it. If in fact there is a 30 amp main breaker turn that on first to feed the panel.

Posy the results
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Old 09-17-2016, 02:01 PM   #16
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The 30 amp breaker is the main input breaker all the other breakers get power after it goes through that breaker. The wire from the back side of the trailer input plug goes to the 30a breaker which is connected to the panels hot bus bar to feed the other breakers.
Since the street side panel was replaced, check the wires on the back of the electric inlet plug are in there and tightened properly. Obviously with the power disconnected, take out the screws holding it on the trailer pull it out and check the wires on the back side.
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Old 09-17-2016, 02:09 PM   #17
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So frustrating! and thanks for your patience with me.

Since I've been trying to do this with a decent size 120 volt extension the 30 amp RV trailer cable had to be reduced from a 3 prong RV to a standard 3 prong extension cord. I decided to take the adapter plug and the RV cable to my closest RV store to see if they would test it for me. They looked at me like I was crazy and told me to come back on Monday. While there, I picked up another adapter (RV to house extension).

Upon returning home, I immediately plugged in the new adapter. With all the circuit breakers in the trailer turned off, the GFI in the house didn't trip... until turning on the 30 amp trailer breaker. So, out of frustration I removed the house extension cord from the GFI and found another outlet that was not GFI protected. I plugged it in and then turned on all the breakers one at a time until I finally turned on the 30 amp breaker. The trailer came to life. I don't get this at all. Before the dealer repair I could use the GFI for everything without a hitch. Now using it causes it to trip like a dead short. Of course, I've tried other appliances, including a commercial grade air compressor and it works fine. Plugging it into the trailer trips it like a dead short.

So, now I'm happy to have electric in the trailer but I'm wondering if it's possible that SuperTrouper might have touched on something by bringing up the possibility of a wire reversal as the shore input plug was changed by the dealer.

Do I forget about it or is there additional testing I should try?

Once again, thanks for all your support. The forum and your ideas kept me going.

John
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Old 09-17-2016, 02:22 PM   #18
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Just remembered.
The converter. Try unplugging or opening the breaker that feeds the converter. When it initially comes on there can be a mismatch in current as capacitors in it charge up. This could cause the gfci to trip.
Just another thought.
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Old 09-17-2016, 07:44 PM   #19
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If the trailer is powered now and the shore power connector was wired in reverse, there is an electrocution risk. Go to the hardware and get a simple tester like the link I sent. If, while powered, the tester shows a hot/neutral reverse, you may have voltage potential from the skin to earth. Stepping into the trailer with bare feet or In wet grass and grabbing the door handle or grab handle will produce anything from a tingle to an unhealthy jolt depending on how the neutral and frame grounds are tied in the trailer. With the trailer powered you can measure this potential from the skin or a frame to earth (metal rod or water pipe). Any potential of more than a couple of volts AC means you have a real problem. Proceed with caution. I think the dealer that did the repairs has some splainin' to do!


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Old 09-17-2016, 08:16 PM   #20
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I agree with the danger issue . I had a trailer that had a wire reversed in a receptacle and the trailer was live. Luckily just a small shock. A simple plug in tester available at any elec or building supply . It will light up diff for diff problems. Be careful. I have also found that the intelli charger coming on will trip a gfi . Good luck and be careful.
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