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Old 12-26-2008, 07:43 PM   #1
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My Trailer Trips the GFCI Circuit - Help?

Last night when I went to show off our new 1970 Airstream Caravel to some family members that were over for Christmas I had an unexpected surprise. I walked out barefoot on wet concrete and when I went to open the door I got shocked. I unplugged the shore power and then it was no problem. Today I tried to find the problem by using a circuit tester and found that I had an open ground on the AC plug I was using. When I tried another GFCI circuit it tripped.

I can still plug the AS into a grounded kitchen outlet (non GFCI) and it works fine, but I am reading about 2 VAC from the skin of the trailer to earth (ground).

Any ideas of where to start troubleshooting? I can read a meter and turn a wrench, but I am a bit puzzled. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Mike
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Old 12-26-2008, 09:13 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by weiss1957 View Post
Last night when I went to show off our new 1970 Airstream Caravel to some family members that were over for Christmas I had an unexpected surprise. I walked out barefoot on wet concrete and when I went to open the door I got shocked. I unplugged the shore power and then it was no problem. Today I tried to find the problem by using a circuit tester and found that I had an open ground on the AC plug I was using. When I tried another GFCI circuit it tripped.

I can still plug the AS into a grounded kitchen outlet (non GFCI) and it works fine, but I am reading about 2 VAC from the skin of the trailer to earth (ground).

Any ideas of where to start troubleshooting? I can read a meter and turn a wrench, but I am a bit puzzled. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Mike

Go to Home Depot and pickup a "polarity tester."

The source of power to your trailer is incorrectly polarized, or the trailer is mis-wired.

Start your tests at the source of power.

Andy
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Old 12-26-2008, 09:18 PM   #3
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Not sure I ca help, but I have a few Questions.
...for your shore power, what kind of power cord ar you using?
...was the cord laying in the water and could it have a short or a bad spot on the cord?
...is your electrical ground wire connected to the trailer properly?
just a few thoughts to start with.
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Old 12-27-2008, 12:43 AM   #4
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I agree with Head'nOut, grounds are often the cause of GFI problems and "shocks". Check your 110 electrical box and the chassis ground. The other thought I had was a frayed shore power cord or has it been "yanked" a good one by a PO? Check the junction box and connections there. Let us know...VK
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:32 AM   #5
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Along with everything else said, turn off all the breakers in the trailer and check for the leak. If you don't find one flip on one breaker at a time to see which circuit has the leak. Hope this helps, let us know what you find.
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:47 AM   #6
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If your get shocked... then I would think that the wires coatings somewhere have rubbed off and is connected to the aluminum frame somewhere... water could also be making the connection. I agree with Andy and start testing all the different areas and find out where your system has gone wrong!

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Old 12-27-2008, 09:58 AM   #7
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If you do not find the problem to be polarity at the source remove the electrical power panel cover and check polarity of the shore cord, with all breakers off, as it enters the panel. If these check out OK connect your voltmeter between the trailer and a GOOD GROUND, back at the house, and start turning on each breaker one at a time to isolate which circuit is giving the problem. Once the circuit is located remove items that may be plugged int that circuit one at a time. Don't forget the refrigerator, converter, and the door bell.

Keep this in mind. Even if you find and remove the voltage problem you may still have a problem when plugging into a GFI. This is because GFIs sense ground current and some electrical items, those that have a transformer on the input, may have a capacitor across the line before the transformer. The charging current of the capacitor is enough to trip a GFI. The only way around this is to get rid of the GFI or the electrical item. This tripping does not pose a hazard just a nuisence.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:07 AM   #8
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Some good ideas. Here is my plan for today. Properly ground the GFCI outlet that has a floating ground, then try to find if I have a 120 VAC short to the trailer somewhere.

I was plugged into my garage (the GFCI outlet with the floating ground) when I got shocked. After that I tried to plug into a properly grounded GFCI (same garage different circuit) and it tripped the GFCI. I finally went into the house and plugged into a kitchen (non GFCI) properly grounded circuit. I didn't get shocked in this configuration, but by then it had quit raining and Darwin had taught me that I ought to be wearing shoes...

Shore power was connected with a brand new 15A extension cord adapted to my brand new 30A/15A pigtail from Campingworld. I will say that the old (1970's) 30A cord looks pretty old, but I am sure it was up out of the water when I got shocked. I may replace it anyway as it looks like something that might try to kill you.

So... where do I find the breakers in my trailer ( I just brought this 1970 Caravel home) I looked all around yesterday and didn't see any.

Thanks,

Mike
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:14 AM   #9
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Cheap Safety Item

I keep a polarity checker plugged into the receptacle by my stove, I used a marker to color it from yellow to silver to match the aluminum. Now no matter where I camp when I plug the unit in I know the status of my power. Cheap safety check.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:31 AM   #10
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Does anyone know where the electrical power box is on a 1970 Caravel? I thought I saw one somewhere in that thing, but looked all over yesterday and didn't find it.

As for the polarity tester... I am sold. I will henceforth wear one around my neck on a string and test all circuits high and low. I will keep one in my trailer, my bathroom, and my shaving kit for when I go on travel to an unknown hotel...

Thanks,

Mike
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:55 AM   #11
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Our 69 breaker box is directly over the water heater in a cabinet in the bathroom. Not sure with yours being shorter and one year newer if its the same but worth checking.
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Old 12-27-2008, 08:15 PM   #12
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I found the breaker box located in the tall closet next to the head. It was behind a thin wooden wall. There was a hole cut so you could switch the breakers, but I needed the cover off.

I spent all day rewiring my garage to make sure that I had that freshly grounded feeling, installed an 8 foot ground rod and tied my GFCI's to that. While I was at it I added a receptacle nearer the trailer and one on the outside wall as well.

With all that fine electrical work out of the way I switched off all my AC breakers in the AS and plugged the trailer in. GFCI tripped in about one second. Hmmm... perhaps the old 30A cord is frayed or is grounding prior to getting to the breaker box. I guess tomorrow I will try some continuity testing to see if that solves the mystery.

I am attaching a pic of my wiring diagram in case anyone wants to ponder it a bit. Any other suggestions/great ideas would be welcomed.

Thanks,

Mike
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:47 PM   #13
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The next thing I would do is remove both legs of the shore line from the terminals in the box and float them in open air. Then plug the shore line in. If it blows then the cord has water in it.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:19 PM   #14
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First a FLOATING GROUND IS THE POTENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 2 GROUND POINTS this is due to poor grounding design along with improper electrical phasing.

Next a correctly grounded trailer is designed to protect you from INTERNAL GROUNDS WITHIN THE TRAILER ( electrical wiring or electrical devices ) BUT and I say BUT again no amount of protection built into the trailer is going to protect anyone standing in water and touching an electrical apparatus of metal.

third you have a high resistance ground not a short circuit. The high resistance ground can be sourced from 120vac appliances or 12vdc , 12vac equipement. be aware that to obtain 12 volts you can use auto transformers or wire wound resistors that have voltage taps, any problems with these 2 items can also creat voltage leaks, and open neutrals can create wierd voltages and back feeds.

safe rving
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