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Old 08-21-2009, 12:36 PM   #1
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Air Rookie Seeks Veteran Advice on Electrical

Hey All,

I'm new here and new to airstreams. We just got a 63 Flying Cloud and from what I've found there are no service manuals offered for this year.

Right now things are coming along nicely with the cosmetic restoration.

But here are my concerns with the electrical (internal systems)

  1. I was able to get some lights and fans running when I plugged in a 30/15 amp converter and plugged into an outlet on the outside of the house. Why isn't the rest working? is it on a 12V circuit?
  2. The transformer (converter?) had both wires fried completely off. I'm guessing it's no good...or should I try to reconnect the wires to the left over stubs?
  3. I want to use a plug-in Fridge, TV and computer equipment. Do I need to rewire the whole thing to work with these "standard appliances"?
Any help is appreciated and I'm glad to be a member here

-Jae
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:10 PM   #2
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Hi, Welcome!

In my 68 all the lights run on 12v, so it's possible that any lights that aren't working for you may be 12v. If so, the converter being fried probably has something to do with them not working, at least on my 68 the Univolt which charged the battery also had the fusebox for the 12v system built in. I replaced it with a modern charging system and a seperate fusebox.

So I don't know if this helps with yours, but someone with 63-specific knowledge should chip in soon.
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Old 08-21-2009, 02:37 PM   #3
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Our 62' has both a 110V & 12V system, so I suspect some of your lights may be 12V. If your converter is fried this would likely kill the 12V circuit. I would think you could test the system by hooking a battery up and bypassing the converter.
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Old 08-21-2009, 03:24 PM   #4
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Separate systems

Your 63 had two separate electrical systems 12v and 110v. The 12v was run from a battery which was charged via the tow vehicle. The 110 via a shore line hooked into a breaker box. However, who knows what a previous owner may have modified. A lot of folks convert everything to 12v. I kept both original systems but updated them with such things as GFI breakers , new wiring for A/C , a marine battery charger in the 12v system, battery shut off, and fuses in the 12v system. Just make sure what you have is safe and correct.
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Old 08-21-2009, 06:29 PM   #5
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To echo what 63air said, your light fixtures, and fans all have two settings, 110 and 12v, most lights have two different wattage bulbs, and your fan switches have a city and battery switch, on the battery it runs obviously off the 12v battery, on the 110 city side, it runs 110 household current through a little doorbell style transformer (by the roof vent in the corner, or under the counter by the furnace for the kitchen exhaust fan) which converts the 110 to 19v ac (basically 12v dc) and runs the fans that way. Someone may have spliced in a power inverter/charger into the system so those transformers aren't really necessary (but we just thought it was cool so left it). I just finished rewiring ours with new romex with the integrated ground, but only because I was fighting a short in the system somewhere and it was easier with it all pulled out to just start over.

The transformers in ours had the same wires all burned out, so we replaced ours with 19v transformers I got at the big box stores in their doorbell section (be careful shopping there are several different voltages available) and that fixed those fans.

Your standard household electrical outlets should be working when you're plugged in, half of the sockets in every fixture should only run when you have a battery hooked up in the system (or plugged into the tow vehicle with that providing 12v on the charge circuit). Whether you need to rewire is probably going to be based on the condition of your existing wiring. you may find it isn't great for computer equipment since there is only nuetral and hot (no ground) 2 prong wiring. If the rest of the system checks out ok, you could run an insulated (green) stranded ground wire to each of the outlets and hook it up to the 3rd terminal, would be easier to fish than the full romex cable.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:59 PM   #6
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The 63's did not come standard with a 110 to 12 volt converter. Someone put that unit in later. It may not be repairable. Putting in a good battery charger instead of a full converter is a cheaper approach. The wall scones have two bulbs that look alike but are not. One is a 12 volt and the other a 110volt. Do not get them mixed up, you will blow the 12 volter out, if you screw it into the 110 socket. It is too bad there was never a service manual or wiring diagram published for the early Airstreams.
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Old 08-25-2009, 01:33 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the great feedback. That makes things a little clearer. Now for a few more questions to clarify things a little more.

  1. How do I know which light sockets/outlets are 12v and which are 110v? The wall sconces wiring looks the same and of course the outlets look the same as well.
  2. The guy we have doing painting and floors tore apart the city/battery switch. Does anyone know how this was wired up? It looked like 2 wires from the exhaust fan were hooked in. and there were 6 wire screws total. So I'm not sure on the other 4 wires or where they go.
  3. goransons: Yes I'm sure that this was what you are talking about it had a 19v transformer. Does that mean the 12v items will run when I'm plugged into 110v? Also... does the battery also recharge when I'm plugged into 110v?
Thanks again, the qualities of the replies and speed has been impressive.

-Jae
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Old 08-25-2009, 02:56 PM   #8
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On our "63" Safari the PO had marked the bulb sockets, not completely sure but I THINK, as you look at the fixture the left bulb is the 12v. The bulbs do appear different, the one that looks funky is the 12er.

Our new Xantrex converter decided to take a dump on our last trip, kinda wish we still had the separate systems. Would at least have had lights with the genset running.
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Old 08-25-2009, 03:23 PM   #9
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Here's a link that might help:

The Vintage Airstream Club (manuals 54-66)

They don't have your exact year, but one close might be the same.

Mary
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Old 08-25-2009, 06:07 PM   #10
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In the very least, you should be able to unscrew the light bulbs and read the stamped info on the top of the glass bulbs. Unless worn off, they should say what voltage and wattage they are. A surefire way to tell would be to use a voltmeter. Once identified, make up a diagram or label the sockets.

Welcome aboard!! Keep those questions coming.

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Old 08-25-2009, 09:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 63cloud View Post
Thanks for all the great feedback. That makes things a little clearer. Now for a few more questions to clarify things a little more.

  1. How do I know which light sockets/outlets are 12v and which are 110v? The wall sconces wiring looks the same and of course the outlets look the same as well.
  2. The guy we have doing painting and floors tore apart the city/battery switch. Does anyone know how this was wired up? It looked like 2 wires from the exhaust fan were hooked in. and there were 6 wire screws total. So I'm not sure on the other 4 wires or where they go.
  3. goransons: Yes I'm sure that this was what you are talking about it had a 19v transformer. Does that mean the 12v items will run when I'm plugged into 110v? Also... does the battery also recharge when I'm plugged into 110v?
Thanks again, the qualities of the replies and speed has been impressive.

-Jae
If everything is all hooked up and working correctly, that is you have a functioning 12V and 110V electrical system, a functioning converter, and a good battery, your 12V system will both work and be charging when you are plugged into 110V. If any of those pieces of the puzzle is missing or not working correctly than things may not perform.

As far as determining which fixtures are which, checking the bulbs will do the trick, but a voltmeter is the best way to test all the circuits. You can get a cheap one at Home Depot etc. There are no 12V wall outlets, so those will all be 110V unless they look like a cigarette lighter hole.
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Old 08-26-2009, 03:03 PM   #12
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OK, I guess I only need help understanding 2 more things.

  1. The Toggle Switch has 3 positions City/Center/Battery. What is the center position for? and which wires go where on the screws behind the switch?
  2. Will a higher Volt Transformer work? I can only find 10v, 16v and 24v tranformers. There is a Universal one which allows you to switch as well. Also there is a 70VA (volt/amps?)rating on the old tranformer to consider. From the limited knowledge I have of electrical theory I think that as long as the transformer is rated high enough the appliances which need the "juice" should only pull what they need. So as long as my transformer is rated at 19V+ or 70VA+ I should be OK, right?
-Jae
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Old 08-31-2009, 06:11 AM   #13
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The center position on the fan switches is off. Transformers change the value of the AC voltage but it is still AC. Converters or Battery charges change the voltage to DC voltage. Many motors designed to run on DC also will run on AC. That is what Airstream was doing at that time. The usual value quoted when we refer to AC voltages is usually the RMS value. You can usually get away with over powering a motor by little but sacrificing a little life. If you just put in a transformer you can not use the output to charge the battery. Airstream used to assume you were plugged into the car frequently enough to charge the trailer battery when you were moving to your next campsite. Most companies (and myself) felt that assumed a lot and put in a converter (battery charger) so you would charge the batteries whenever you are plugged into AC. My recommendation is to: buy a RV rated converter with the progressive battery charge capability.
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Old 12-18-2009, 02:17 PM   #14
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If you have both the 12 volt and the 120 volt systems working, you can identify which socket is which by putting standard 120 volt household light bulbs in both of them and trying the switch. One will work properly, one will barely produce a dim glow.

Consider that in 1962 the best available charger/converter technology was based on a selenium rectifier and was largely manual. In those days a high quality charger would have a mechanical timer that you could set for 30 minutes or an hour -- whatever you thought the batteries needed -- so you wouldn't overcharge them. The selenium stack provided enough series resistance to provide at least the idea of a tapering charge as the battery voltage went up. A far cry from the three stage, silicon rectified, temperature compensated, voltage regulated, microprocessor controlled wonders we take for granted today.

If you're still looking for transformers for the fans, less voltage is OK as long as the fans don't stall (they will run slower), more voltage is bad and can lead to overheating. The VA rating of the transformer should be greater than the wattage of the fan. The right way to do this is to measure it under load or guess high and put in a fuse or breaker.
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