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Old 03-28-2010, 03:37 PM   #1
LEV ZEPPELIN
 
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Converter explodes, fire!!!

Greetings.

Two nights ago while at the end of a week of out-side, we were sitting by the fire when we both heard what sounded like a popping noise. Three of them, each louder than the previous one.

Went running to find out what happened, open the door to our CCD to find smoke and even a little fire coming out of the vent of the bottom panel of the converter.

I shut power down, unscrewed the front cover and found that there are two capacitor (I think) on the left side. One of the capacitors looks like it just exploded!!!

I decided to see if anything worked, so with fire extinguisher ready, I turned on power and to my amazement, EVERYTHING seemed to work. I stood by to see if anything else might explode, get hot, or otherwise cause me to sleep in the cold for our last night, but things seemed normal: all over head lights, furnace, fans, pump, radio, even the air cond. which runs off of 120v

Truely strange (but welcome) to see everything sort of OK. Still did not manage to sleep, keeping an eye on things.

So my questions, who the hell fixes these things, or do I just look at buying a new one? I don't plan on using this in the shape it's in now. Can the bad capacitor or whatever that thing that blew just be replaced? Has this ever happened to anyone else? What did/does that capacitor do if everything still seems to operate?

I'll be calling AS in the AM to see what they have to say.

A few things to note. There were a few occasions where I noticed fluctuations in the power at the campground, ranging from 106 all the way up to >135!!!

My gut would tell me there are to lines of defense: one, the breaker at the campsite box would have tripped, and even if that didn't happen, there are the breakers in the AS. I just can't figure this one out.

But I'm glad to be reporting it here with a clean pair of underwear on. Sheeeshhhh. Really scarey.

Your thoughts appreciated.

Insane-Lev now.....
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Old 03-28-2010, 03:43 PM   #2
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Yikes, pretty scary. You know the guys on my boat replace those CAP's all the time. Word of warning though those things can hold a charge long after the device is turned off, seek a pro.
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Old 03-28-2010, 03:48 PM   #3
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hi lev

relying on the breakers isn't wise.

they (on the pole and IN the stream) have different ratings than the gizmos further down the line...

a 'trippin' breaka may save stuff or DELAY killing stuff, but a NON tripping one does neither.

high/low volts can FRY stuff.

the heat from LOW voltage killed my p-lax charger/converter last winter.

AC juice still worked after the killing, but CHARGING the batteries did not...

so INITIALLY 12v stuff seemed OK, but as the batteries faded so did the lights.
___________

reads like u need a new charger/converter (to replace the DEAD p-lax 73xx series originally installed by a/s)

many brands to choose from and many sizes (amps) based on power needs.

many threads on INSTALLING a new c/c have been posted including pictchas and stepbysteps...

it's easy enough to do the install that many of us have done it without die'n...

(search xantrex, intellipower, or progressive or converter or charger or LOOK in that sub forum for the LONG LONG threads)

i installed a xantrex but NOW wish it had been a progressive dynamics model instead...

so get on you diy search pants and work gloves.

otoh given the 'turned it back On to watch for another BOOM, then slept on it...' approach....

ya might wanna have some1 else do the transplant.

cheers
2air'
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Old 03-28-2010, 03:53 PM   #4
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Im not sure what Converter you are using. But YES lev thats what you heard. Caps exploding will sound like a shotgun goin off. Caps can be replaced,but what else did it take with it. It usually melts a bunch of stuff.
Sometime voltage spikes or overvolt will explode em. Maybe you can send it back to the manufacturer . Id love to find a schematic on the UNIVOLT the Filter caps in mine are bad and need replaced before it does what yours did. Seem no one has a schematic.
GOOD LUCK
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Old 03-28-2010, 04:01 PM   #5
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say lev, was the levbox on or off at the time?

as mentioned, you won't know what else is fried. it's more than a few meals out but you get some of it back in healthier batteries. time for a new converter.
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Old 03-28-2010, 04:38 PM   #6
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circuit breakers versus voltage fluctuations.

circuit breakers are overcurrent protectors of the LOAD. They are designed to operate (trip) when too much current is drawn by the load (appliance or fan or ?) they protect the wiring from overheating and melting, and hopefully protect the load from overheating and catching fire, melting, etc. It sounds as if you (and 2air) have experienced poor voltage supply; either too much or too little; both can cause motors and other loads to do strange things, but usually drawing too much current is NOT one of them. In other words the supply voltage can go all over the place and current protectors will not operate.

Enter the dragon. No, not the dragon-enter TVSS. Transient & Voltage spike supression. Most commercial buildings have TVSS, and some residences do (especially in Canada). A qualified electrician can install such a device on your AS and it will protect against strange voltage, including Lightning. Lightning can, however destroy the fusible link(s) in a TVSS. So there is an(other) upgrade you can make to your never ending money sink, commonly known as your RV!

Spend your money on a new charger/converter and do not look back, warranty hassle is more work than just replacing it, imho.
ol' bill
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Old 03-28-2010, 05:55 PM   #7
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If the big capacitors exploded, and you saw smoke and flames, the printed circuit board and other components in your converter are probably damaged, possibly beyond repair. While the converter may be fixable, for safety reasons, this should definitely be left to knowledgeable electronic technicians. From seeing power supply printed circuit boards that burned during reliability testing in an electronics plant, failures like the one you describe frequently require replacement of the most expensive parts on the board and/or the PCB itself, which is way beyond hard-wiring around a couple of burned circuit runs. For this reason, it may be time to start looking for a replacement.

In any case, if this had happened to me, I would definitely NOT continue to use the converter without at least having it tested by an electronics technician, preferably by someone who repairs power supplies or by the factory repair facility. Continued use might only result in no output from the converter. However, an electrical short of one of the remaining components could result in another fire, which is not worth the risk, in my opinion...
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Old 03-28-2010, 06:19 PM   #8
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The good side of this is that if you purchase a new power unit, you will be able to upgrade to one that has an intelligent battery charging circuit built into it. My '04 Classic doesn't have one of that quality, which to me seems to a slight considering the $$ I paid.
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazylev View Post
I shut power down, unscrewed the front cover and found that there are two capacitor (I think) on the left side. One of the capacitors looks like it just exploded!!!
They do that from time to time.

Quote:
I decided to see if anything worked, so with fire extinguisher ready, I turned on power and to my amazement, EVERYTHING seemed to work. I stood by to see if anything else might explode, get hot, or otherwise cause me to sleep in the cold for our last night, but things seemed normal: all over head lights, furnace, fans, pump, radio, even the air cond. which runs off of 120v
Be careful. It is possible that the converter still "sort of" works but is producing dirty DC that will be tough on everything that runs on 12 volts. The parallax converters are a linear design, and the caps are filters. If you blew up a cap, then there's no filtering, or half of what there should be, or whatever.

Quote:
So my questions, who the hell fixes these things, or do I just look at buying a new one? I don't plan on using this in the shape it's in now. Can the bad capacitor or whatever that thing that blew just be replaced? Has this ever happened to anyone else? What did/does that capacitor do if everything still seems to operate?
Well, competent electronics technicians are a rare and dying breed, but any competent one can fix a parallax. There isn't much to them. Whether it's worth it or not is another matter. I consider even a working parallax a candidate for replacement with a switcher from Xantrex or one of the other makers that isn't stuck in the 1950s.

Electrolytic capacitors filter the output from the power supply. There are four steps in a linear power supply. 1) a transformer to change the voltage, 2) a rectifier to change it from AC to DC, 3) a filter, usually made up of capacitors and chokes, and 4) a regulator. Filter capacitors can fail due to overvoltage, overheating, latent manufacturing defects, or no reason at all. We used to blow them up for kicks in the lab when we were bored (little ones).

Quote:
I'll be calling AS in the AM to see what they have to say.
Well, as they say, good luck with that. :-(

Quote:
A few things to note. There were a few occasions where I noticed fluctuations in the power at the campground, ranging from 106 all the way up to >135!!!
Post hoc ergo propter hoc - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

No guarantee that had anything to do with it, and if it did, it may have just accelerated the inevitable. The parallax, despite its stone age design, has a reputation for being bulletproof, and it should be able to run on 135 volts standing on its head. Usually, the diode bridge burns up before the caps, in an overvoltage situation, or maybe the regulator if it isn't thermally protected.

Quote:
My gut would tell me there are to lines of defense: one, the breaker at the campsite box would have tripped, and even if that didn't happen, there are the breakers in the AS. I just can't figure this one out.

But I'm glad to be reporting it here with a clean pair of underwear on. Sheeeshhhh. Really scarey.

Your thoughts appreciated.
Relax. If the damage was limited to the interior of the converter then the enclosure did its job. Caps blow up from time to time and that's the reason they go inside a metal box. I would see this as an opportunity to upgrade to a Xantrex and enjoy the longer battery life and better charging performance that comes with those. And for what it's worth, the Xantrex high frequency switching design doesn't rely on big caps, though they too have components that can fail with something of a spectacle. That comes with the territory when dealing with large amounts of power.
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Old 03-28-2010, 07:24 PM   #10
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:11 PM   #11
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Hey thanks for that. And I did find a bunch of info on replace/install new converter. Best Converter came up and I'll give them a call to see what they say. On second thought, I probably will forgo the call to Jackson Center...

This seems to be a pretty straight forward thing.
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:40 PM   #12
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Check your capacitors

My '06 was produced in August '05. Here's an '05 model that didn't have the capacitors potted in place as they are on mine. http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...hed-52862.html

So... Earlier production shortcomings not backed by the converter manufacturer? How do we push a recall? DOT? State attorneys general?
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Old 03-29-2010, 10:17 AM   #13
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Wow! So that capacitor thing was completely detached!!!

Definitely calling Best Converter and gonna get something. I'll ask Best Converter, but if anyone could explain what a three stage converter is, and what is the difference between those and the POS Paralax?

Also, why would one get a converter that is say 60amp, if all you need to run power hungry AC uses only 30 amps.

After a 16oz shot glass of Buffalo Grass vodka and a good nights sleep, I feel up to the task of replacing this thing myself. It looks like from the DIY site that has a step by step, that the most difficult part is removing the guts from the old converter box, i.e. drilling out some rivets, 1" hole for wires, and side rials to fit nicely.

And if I'm looking at things more clear-eyed today, to connect AC- hot (black) to middle circuit breaker, white (neutral) to vertical buss bar. Not sure if there is a green (ground) or not.

On the DC side, blue wire to top nut thing, and the white needs to be attached with the DC board out.

Does this sound about right?

Thanks.

C-L
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Old 03-29-2010, 11:05 AM   #14
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i'm no juice wizard 'lev so please INGORE anything posted with isn't correct or relevant....

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazylev View Post
...Also, why would one get a converter that is say 60amp, if all you need to run power hungry AC uses only 30 amps...
these magic boxes are CHARGERS and converters...

the 'amp rating' is related to the VOLUME of charge/capacity to charge batteries...

so the size issue relates to HOW MANY batteries are being CHARGED...

not the AC/amp using of appliances like the a/c....

so for most applications with 1-2 deep cycle 12v batteries 40-60 amps is plenty...

but IF you add more batteries OR want faster charging a higher capacity unit is often needed.

and the WIRE SIZE (to the batteries) may need 2 be altered to fully benefit from the HIGHER charge sized units...

it's all like a game of wackamole!
_________

the diy guides on the BC site are useful, but check with OTHER VENDORS too, for these gadgets....

this thread covers MANY of the basics for 3 stage chargers, but SOME of the vendor supplied info IS MISLEADING...

or hype to support whatever unit is being PUSHED that month...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f206...yet-17326.html

some of the models in the thread above are now DISCONTINUED or have been replaced with newer examples with more features...

and NOT everyone has had a great experience with some of the popular stuff pushed here...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...ems-55549.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f449...rrr-52253.html

i'm not against buying asian made products when they are TOP QUALITY

but when good stuff is usa made and NOT more expensive and user reports are POSITIVE ...

well ?

(see posts #6 n #7 below or ANY of the others on this specific brand/model...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f314...ars-61076.html

IF your unit isn't plugged in 24/7/365 some of the 'features' of these units are NOT as important.

IF you tend to abuse the batteries (are they FLOODED wet cells) then some of the features are MORE important.

shopping is complicated.

we start out looking for a specific replacement gizmo, with maybe nicer features....

and often end up with something MORE expensive or very different than originally wanted OR needed.

so be careful with vendor suggestions that get you too far away from the PRIMARY needs.

cheers
2air'
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