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Old 06-06-2011, 03:51 PM   #1
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Voltage Drop/GFI trip

I brought the Classic home last night after taking it out of its inside storage. Weather is dry and temps are hot here in STL 90+. I have a 15 amp circuit in the garage which is tied to a ground fault breaker in the basement fuse box. In the wisdom of the builder, the garage, 2 bathrooms, and an outdoor outlet are all tied to that breaker. Thankfully those outlets are lightly used and in the case of the trailer, I do not use the A/C unit when connected.

So for load purposes the only thing drawing power was the converter most likely charging the trailer batteries and two fantastic fans. I had the fridge on gas.

Apparently within 10 minutes of connection the breaker in the basement tripped. I reset it 3 different times and it tripped again and again after about 10 minutes. I've tripped this breaker before in the past with two different Airstreams. In those cases it dealt with operating the TV's and the amplified antenna. Not this time though.

I moved power to a 15 amp non GFI circuit that I use for the central vac which is in the garage. No trip, so I'm pretty sure it is the GFI function causing the trip.

First question, can a GFI monitor that is built into a breaker become faulty over time? It is about 25 years old.

The second question is the voltage in the trailer. I've measured 121 volts at the garage walloutlet, at the end of a 25 foot 15 amp extention cord, and finally at the converter plug that is connected to the extension cord that converts the 15 amp plug to the prongs of the 30 amp plug on the trailer umbilicle.

When I am measuring from the outlets in the trailer I see a good 10 volt drop to about 111 volts. I've always seen a voltage drop plugged this way but not this much. Normally it has been about 5 volts. I'm assuming the voltage drop is occuring with the 30 amp umbilical cable or the circuit breaker box. I'm not sure if the GFI trip has any association with the voltage drop. I'm wondering if that extension cord is showing its age and that the voltage is dropping once any type of load gets pulled. I'd appreciate the thoughts of you electrical folks out there.

Jack
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:47 PM   #2
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Do you have another cord you could try to see if that is the problem. I have a friend with a brand new house with that type of breaker. You could plug in copier/fax it would run for 20 seconds and then trip the breaker. They had the elect. contractor come out and he said it happens a lot. He put in a normal breaker and they haven't had anymore problems. The elect. contractor said the newer electronics give those new breakers fits and they don't have a good fix short of changing the breaker.
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Old 06-06-2011, 05:05 PM   #3
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GFI outlets can go bad, I have had one that just kept tripping. Replaced it and problem solved.
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Old 06-06-2011, 05:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcanavera
?..I've measured 121 volts at the garage walloutlet, at the end of a 25 foot 15 amp extention cord, and finally at the converter plug that is connected to the extension cord that converts the 15 amp plug to the prongs of the 30 amp plug on the trailer umbilicle.

When I am measuring from the outlets in the trailer I see a good 10 volt drop to about 111 volts. I've always seen a voltage drop plugged this way but not this much. Normally it has been about 5 volts...

Jack
If I understand your setup, the only load on in the trailer is your converter that may be charging the batteries. I would ballpark this at 4 amps or less, more likely 1-2 amps. A 10 volt drop is significant, I would even be concerned with a 5 volt drop with such a slight load.

Do any of the connections from the garage wall plate to the trailer feel warm to the touch? A high resistance connection could account for the voltage drop. As previously stated try a different extension cord to rule it out. Try a different outlet to rule that out. Try a new GFCI. If none of that improves your situation, a close inspection of the trailer wiring is needed. The trailer plug can be suspect. It is supposed to be watertight, but moisture has a way of working its way in corroding the connection from the prongs to the wires. Can you see any evidence of green corrosion or serious discoloration of the plug contacts? Follow the cord to where it enters the trailer, to the 110 junction/breaker box. You want to find clean, tight connections.

I assume you are using a 3-wire extension cord... The GFI is looking for equal current on the hot and neutral legs. If different, the current is going outside of the hot/neutral loop and trips to stop the current from flowing where it shouldn't (like through you). Corrosion can bridge the gap between conductors causing a high resistance path that could trip a GFI.

Sometimes a constantly tripping GFCI is replaced with a standard outlet or circuit breaker. The underlying cause is never found or corrected and the results could be shocking.
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Old 06-06-2011, 07:42 PM   #5
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GFCI problem will trip the plug if there is no heat being produced, if the breaker is tripping I would question that you have a weak breaker in the panel or your voltage drop could be coming from weak prongs in the extension cord or adapter causing heat that is tripping the breaker. If the garage break is one that gets loaded to the trip point from tools sometimes then the breaker probably should be replaced. You are dealing with #14 wire to the garage GFCI. If you have a #14 extension cord then a trailer cord with a bad converter or weak tension in the cord prongs it could be enough to trip the breaker
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Old 06-06-2011, 07:51 PM   #6
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a few thoughts:

does the breaker trip with the cords plugged in and not the trailer?

could there be condensation in the exterior or refrigerator outlets in the trailer?

can you plug in the trailer with the breakers turned off and powered up one at a time?

i've seen quite a few threads about converters tripping gfci's.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:48 PM   #7
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All interesting thoughts. As far as the GFI breaker popping, I will try a different extension cord. My gut is telling me that the voltage drop issue is either the 30 amp to 15 amp converter plug or the extension cord. The voltage drop is the same because I tried to use an outlet in the garage that is not on the same circuit and GFI outlet and found the same 10 volt variance.

I'm headed out to the Moraine View rally in a couple of days and will test the voltage at the campground. What will be different is that I will not be using my garage extension cord, and I won't be using the 30 amp to 15 amp converter plug. If the 10 volt variance doesn't show, the smoking gun will be one of those two items. I'm bringing the converter plug with me, even though there will be a 30 amp plug at my site. I can throw than on and see if the drop shows up there. Because the trailer is stored in an insulated very dry garage (a dehumidfier is on year round), I don't believe we are dealing with dampness or deterioration of the wiring. I've got a infrared gun that I can use on the box in the trailer and see if we have any heat buildup on those inside breakers.

I'll let you all know what I find out.

Jack
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Old 06-08-2011, 11:09 AM   #8
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Jack, It sounds like you have a good plan to troubleshoot this. By trying these things in different combinations, you can divide the puzzle into pieces that can be eliminated as the source of the problem. If good fortune is shining on you, it will be either your extension cord or the dogbone. We'd like to hear back when you find out what it was.
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