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Old 03-07-2016, 05:12 PM   #1
Rivet Master
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2007 Interstate
League City , Texas
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 5,704
ADVISORY - Electrical converter failure hazards

Our 3-stage electrical converter failed rather catastrophically, and I want to describe the situation here, especially for the potential benefit of our T1N friends who may have done this common OEM retrofit (or who might be thinking about doing it).

We made the switch shortly after we purchased our Interstate in late 2014, installing a Parallax Power Supply Model 55TCRU, with battery temp sensor. I described the retrofit in this blog post.

The unit failed on February 22, 2016, and it's worth noting how we discovered it. We had come back from an overnight trip and had put the Interstate in its storage locker as we normally do. About 90 minutes later while relaxing on the couch at home, I launched into an anxiety melt-down / OCD episode - and I don't have OCD or anything close to it. I knew in my bones that something was wrong so I sent my husband back out to the storage facility. As soon as he got there, he Face-timed me, totally floored by what was transpiring. Both the LP and the CO alarms were screeching without a let-up for reasons that were not immediately apparent.

Moral of this first part of the story is always listen to your gut. Before we left the storage locker, I probably noticed some subtle sign of something beginning to go badly wrong, but it didn't rise to a conscious level of awareness. I still can't tell you what that sign might have been, but if I hadn't responded to it 90 minutes later, the rig might have gone up in flames.

I went straight out there to join him and we determined that the alarms were sounding because the converter was in the process of cooking the battery (we have power to our storage locker and we plug in every time we put the Interstate up). Both carbon monoxide and propane alarms can be falsely triggered by the liberation of hydrogen, and that's what we first thought was the cause. Retrospectively, it might have been a bit simpler than that. The LP detector appears to be exquisitely sensitive to electrical irregularities; several days later when we ran tests on the converter, it would re-commence wailing every time the amperage spiked. The CO detector that I had installed to replace the 8-year-old OEM detector may have an "unadvertised special" of incorporating a smoke detection mechanism within it. As my husband was later running tests, the OEM DVD player started smoking ("FIRST TEST" in the attached screengrab). So it might have been set off by smoke production on the initial night of failure as well.

I'm attaching an excerpt of some test runs we made immediately prior to making our warranty claim (the converter has a 2-year warranty). I truncated the page here so that the resolution would hopefully still be sufficient (tap or click to expand for clarity). We sent this data sheet to Parallax along with the unit. They admitted today that this was their product-related fault. The guy who ran the diagnostics explained that the thing had "short-circuited and burned out a trace on the circuit board". He noted that they had seen "two or three" previous failures exactly like this, and also noted, "There's nothing you did to cause it, and there's nothing that you could have done to prevent it."

In sum, who knew?? Who knew that this kind of thing could even happen? The Interstate is just sitting there on shore power, everything is properly installed, nothing is damaged or compromised - in fact we have an internal surge suppressor which we installed with the intention of preventing ANY electrical episodes of any consequence - and the next thing we know, the thing is cooking its own battery and generating dangerous conditions.

Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has ever heard of this kind of thing as a possibility, and whether Lewster has ever seen anything like this.

For everyone else, be warned. Parallax is now shipping us a new converter, but I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to trust it, or whether we should be switching to some other product line. "Two or three" of these short-circuits out of how many units sold? And what happens if a rig owner doesn't catch it in time?
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