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Old 07-27-2021, 08:48 AM   #1
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Converter Issue?

Recently got back from 3 weeks on the road. We have a 2013 25' trailer that has the original Parallax 7300 Series Converter. Specifically, Model 7355. On the second night of the trip we noticed what I would classify as a "hot" smell. It really wasn't a burning smell but you could tell something was getting hot. We were plugged in and the fridge and some miscellaneous lights were on. I had just turned on the water heater as well. Anyways, did a little digging and the converter was under the bed and once I lifted the bed I could tell that was where the smell was coming from. I felt around the bed frame and it was warm but not hot. I took the wood cover off of the frame to allow access to the converter and electrical boxes and the top metal electrical box was pretty hot. I could place my hand on it but not for too long. I should have felt the actual converter to see how hot it was which is below the electrical box but I didn't think about it at the time. Ironically, the fan for the converter was not running at the time.

I immediately unplugged and just switched over to propane. Let the unit cool down overnight and plugged back in the next morning and just ran the lights and what not. I continued to run the fridge and anytime we needed the water heater on LP. We never experienced it getting warm again while just running the lights. While running a minimal load, the fan would kick on at times to cool the unit and everything seemed just fine. Continued to check the box and it stayed cool to the touch.

At one point on the trip while plugged in, I decided to see what would happen if I put a load on it again so I switched on the water heater and it started to get warm again. I'd be willing to bet, it would have got just as hot as the previous episode but shut it down once it really started to warm up. I also switched on the a/c at one point to test it and again the box got pretty hot. Fortunately, we didn't need a/c on this trip and continued to use LP for the fridge and water heater for the remainder of the trip.

The picture below has the electrical box that got hot circled and the converter is underneath that. Anyone have any advice on if this is just the converter or should I be looking at other things as well? We might have a few small trips the remainder of this year but just want to figure this out before too long. I also checked the fuses and circuit board but didn't see any scorch marks or anything that looked out of the ordinary. Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 07-27-2021, 10:00 AM   #2
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The power converter makes 12vdc from 120vac. It should have nothing to do with running the water heater, other than perhaps working the controls (which would be a minimal load.) Whatever is getting hot when you put the heavy AC loads on it are most likely not the converter itself, but it certainly could be something in the same general area.

My guess, and it's just a guess, is that the box you've circled also contains your main 120vac shore power connections. If one of those connections is not tight, it will create a lot of heat. Poor connections produce resistance, and resistance produced heat.

If this were my trailer, the first thing I'd do after unplugging from shore power and turning off the 12v power is open the case on that box to inspect. The thing to look for at first is any sign of overheating, like browned/darkened insulation on wires. Then I'd inspect for any loose connections, making sure that all the shore power connections are tight.

If you are not comfortable working with 120vac power systems, then I'd strongly suggest that you find someone who is, like an electrician, and have them do a thorough inspection.
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Old 07-27-2021, 11:41 AM   #3
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Does your trailer have a dual fuel (propane or electric) water heater? If it is only a propane unit, it only uses a small amount of 12 v. to operate.

Regardless, open that box that looks to be on top of the converter and see if the connections are tight. It has been more than a decade since I replaced the OEM converter, but the photo looks familiar. There are far better brands and types of converters than the OEM one. A better converter will not cook the batteries. My point is replacing the converter is a good idea anyway. There are lots of places there could be loose connections, so keep checking.

Why wasn’t the fan on when the area got hot? That may be the problem. Clean the fan blades and see if dirt has caused a problem or the fan is dead. Sometimes the problem is an insect shorts out the circuit board (and himself). So check everything, clean everything, tighten everything and consider getting a better converter.
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Old 07-27-2021, 11:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene View Post
Does your trailer have a dual fuel (propane or electric) water heater? If it is only a propane unit, it only uses a small amount of 12 v. to operate.

Regardless, open that box that looks to be on top of the converter and see if the connections are tight. It has been more than a decade since I replaced the OEM converter, but the photo looks familiar. There are far better brands and types of converters than the OEM one. A better converter will not cook the batteries. My point is replacing the converter is a good idea anyway. There are lots of places there could be loose connections, so keep checking.

Why wasn’t the fan on when the area got hot? That may be the problem. Clean the fan blades and see if dirt has caused a problem or the fan is dead. Sometimes the problem is an insect shorts out the circuit board (and himself). So check everything, clean everything, tighten everything and consider getting a better converter.
All great points....just as a reference somewhat related, as a good rule of thumb, it's good to make sure that all the screws and such are checked periodically both in the power lugs as well as cabinetry since these are moving houses, things do tend to work their way loose over time and miles.

Totally agree on a 3 stage converter. One of the best things I could have done and wickedly extended the life of my batteries by doing so.
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Old 07-27-2021, 12:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene View Post
Does your trailer have a dual fuel (propane or electric) water heater? If it is only a propane unit, it only uses a small amount of 12 v. to operate.

Regardless, open that box that looks to be on top of the converter and see if the connections are tight. It has been more than a decade since I replaced the OEM converter, but the photo looks familiar. There are far better brands and types of converters than the OEM one. A better converter will not cook the batteries. My point is replacing the converter is a good idea anyway. There are lots of places there could be loose connections, so keep checking.

Why wasn’t the fan on when the area got hot? That may be the problem. Clean the fan blades and see if dirt has caused a problem or the fan is dead. Sometimes the problem is an insect shorts out the circuit board (and himself). So check everything, clean everything, tighten everything and consider getting a better converter.
It's dual fuel and the box above the converter was getting hot when it was running off of shore power only. Switched the water heater over to LP and the box never got warm the rest of the trip unless I put a load on it just to test it out.

At this point, I'm thinking that the fan for the converter wasn't running because it wasn't the converter that was getting hot, it was the electrical box above it. The fan for the converter did run at various times after this incident so I do know that the fan will kick on. My next step is to open the electrical box and see what's in there. The only problem is, in order to open the box up and check everything, I have to take a few of the bed frame boards out in order to fully access the screw to open the box. I'll try and set aside a few hours this week to get in there and check it out.
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Old 07-27-2021, 01:20 PM   #6
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GSP9, I remember working in that area and my body did not really fit well crammed between the bed and various walls. A leg would fall asleep making getting up quite an experience. Moving my body was a challenge and inevitably I would have to get up a few times to get another tool. Have someone help you so you don’t have to get up so often or take a pill that makes you small.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:00 AM   #7
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Finally got some time to pull the converter and take a look at things. As I started to assume, the electrical box to the rear and on top of the converter is where the issue is. I pulled the metal cover and you could see char marks along the one side. I'm not the greatest with electrical terminology but it looked like it was a white braided and slightly heavier gauge electrical wire that runs from the grounding bar in the breaker box over to a green control panel. It was charred where it connects to the green control panel.

As I look at the whole thing, I see three components:

1. The actual converter that sits on the floor.
2. The breaker box and fuse panel which sit on top of the converter towards
the front.
3. The electrical box which sits on top of the converter to the rear (where the
issue is).

I'm trying to get a game plan on what needs replaced. I think since the converter is 8 years old we will go ahead and replace that and we will certainly need to replace the electrical box with the green control panel. Is there a specific name for the electrical box that contains the green control panel that got charred? Is it the transfer switch?

Any idea as to what would cause the excess heat issue in the first place? Obviously, I'm trying to figure out if there's something else going on elsewhere that would cause this so that I can fix it the first time. As I mentioned before, we were on shore power for 2 nights. There didn't seem to be any issue the first night but noticed the burning smell on the second night when we turned on the water heater.

The first four pictures are of the wire that got fried in the electrical box where it connects to the green control board. The last picture is of the same wire where it connects to the grounding bar in the breaker box. Any help is appreciated.......thanks.
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:55 AM   #8
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Someone with more experience will comment but I think that's called the distribution panel box. It's where all of your 120 VAC lines come into the AS. You have a dirty/poor connection that is arching and building up deposits. Those connections need to be cleaned or replaced, then tightened.

Switching over to LP took the load off the AC connections which is why they cooled down.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:19 AM   #9
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Its hard to say what happened, a loose wire or a cold solder joint, but the outcome is the same. It created heat and fried the connection and now that circuit board is toast. You have no choice but to replace those items with the same stuff or change it out for something better. Replacing it with the same hardware could result in the same outcome in the future. Replacing it with something else will result in you trying to source the items that will fit and work together. You are between a rock and a hard place. Personally I'd choose replacing with items with something else and upgrade the whole thing to be more reliable.

Personally I dislike running high power connections on circuit boards. The outcome is usually the same. It's next to impossible to get the circuit board to accept the solder to these connections. It's a known defect and typical of cheap components. But many companies build their equipment this way. A better approach is to solder a wire to the board and locate the connection block on it's own away from the circuit board. This way a loose connection will not dry the board and its easier to get better penetration of the solder joint with just the wire. But unfortunately you have to choose items that are available and will fit into the space allotted.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:48 AM   #10
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It appears the failure is in the automatic transfer switch. Switches between the two power inputs from the outside of the trailer, one in the side and the “generator “ input on the front.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:51 AM   #11
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it appears the failure is in the automatic transfer switch. Switches between the two power inputs from the outside of the trailer, one in the side and the “generator “ input on the front.


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Old 08-05-2021, 12:21 PM   #12
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Hi

Charred anything is bad news when it comes to electrical gear.

Any wire that's been cooked should be replaced. Even the insulation that's not charcoal now probably got a bit to hot. It's more likely to crack in the future as a result. Going back at least a foot from any charcoal is a good idea.

The transfer switch does seem to have bit the dust for one reason or the other. There are alternatives out there. Think a bit about what else you will be upgrading / changing out. There are combo inverter / charger / transfer switch "all in one" gizmos out there.

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Old 08-05-2021, 05:09 PM   #13
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I much prefer manual transfer switches. No fancy extra stuff to screw up ‘automagically’ when I’m not watching. I just have to remember to shut off the air conditioning before I start switching stuff or pulling shore power plug. I have a monitor panel on the output of the switch.

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I also have an EMS/Surge protector built into my power center set to the long delay time. This way I turn the transfer switch to the hot input, and it waits a minute or two before putting power on the systems. The EMS is the black box to the left in this photo. Dinette seat removed while I installed this gadget.

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I also do preventative maintenance every season that includes checking and tightening ALL electrical connections and looking for signs of overheating.
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Old 08-06-2021, 01:21 PM   #14
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It is hard for me to understand what I am looking at, but it seems the circuit board is charred and probably needs to be removed. Many things can make a board go bad—insects, dust, cheap components, loose connections.

If you have experience with electrical work, go at it. If not, getting help here is a good thing. If there is an RV shop with someone who is good at electrical (not something to assume), that might be best. By the way, color codes for wiring are black or red—hot; white—common (white and black are needed for a circuit); green or bare, ground. Many call white a ground, but common means it is common to all circuits through a distribution system. Auto and trailer wiring has lots of 12 volt wiring that is much thinner and often has unusual colors that are not used according to standard 120 v. wiring. Braided wires are used for high amperage wires (batteries or 120 v. connection to campground power because solid conductors are hard to bend in small spaces) or 12 v. wires which are thin and need to be so.

The converters used by Airstream are not the best. Look for other brands. When I replaced mine it cost less than $200, but that was a dozen years ago. The plus is that besides clean power, I didn't have to worry about the converter overcharging the batteries.

A surge protector is also a good. Unfortunately finding a place to install one inside a trailer is difficult. I did it in ours but had to screw it to the outside of the bed base and use an electrical box inside the base with extra wiring to and from. It was good to have, but not a very good solution. We now use one that plugs into the pedestal and hope no one steals it. It can also tell you when there are polarity problems at a pedestal, but the one we have seems to be too sensitive and the readings are not always entirely trustworthy. Many motorhomes have electrical equipment in a closet and sometimes there is room for a permanently installed surge protector.
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Old 08-09-2021, 03:30 PM   #15
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I did some research this weekend and am between two setups. I think I'm either going to replace the stock set up with a Boondocker Transfer Switch and Boondocker 1260PC or replace the existing transfer switch with the same ATS 301 and the converter with the Progressive Dynamics 4655. I talked to Randy at Best Converter and that was his two recommendations as well. He personally thought the Boondocker setup was the way to go but I need to do some measuring to make sure the Boondocker will slip in the existing location. Anyone else do a similar swap? Thanks.
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Old 08-10-2021, 10:52 AM   #16
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I replaced the OEM one with an Iota. That was at least a decade ago, but it was highly recommended by Lewster. Lew is an RV mechanic, solar expert and electrical engineer. He doesn't post much anymore though.
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Old 08-10-2021, 12:06 PM   #17
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Since the wire in question is only charred at the transfer switch, that points to a bad connection between the wire and the lug or the lug and the circuit board. The converter itself may be OK, but it won't hurt to change it to a newer multistage converter. That wire is apparently the neutral connection between the transfer switch and the trailer neutral bussbar. IF there was an overcurrent issue it would be more uniformly charred.
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Old 08-10-2021, 06:29 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by GSP9 View Post
I did some research this weekend and am between two setups. I think I'm either going to replace the stock set up with a Boondocker Transfer Switch and Boondocker 1260PC or replace the existing transfer switch with the same ATS 301 and the converter with the Progressive Dynamics 4655. I talked to Randy at Best Converter and that was his two recommendations as well. He personally thought the Boondocker setup was the way to go but I need to do some measuring to make sure the Boondocker will slip in the existing location. Anyone else do a similar swap? Thanks.
Hi

Following this day to day would be a lot easier if you would fill in your trailer info so that it shows up under your user information .....

A lot of inverters have built in transfer switches.......

Bob
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Old 08-10-2021, 07:35 PM   #19
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Hi

Following this day to day would be a lot easier if you would fill in your trailer info so that it shows up under your user information .....

A lot of inverters have built in transfer switches.......

Bob
True, but the transfer switch pictured is to switch between the 2 power inlets on outside of trailer. A transfer switch in an inverter wont do the same job.
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Old 08-10-2021, 11:05 PM   #20
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Converter Issue?

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Originally Posted by Wazbro View Post
True, but the transfer switch pictured is to switch between the 2 power inlets on outside of trailer. A transfer switch in an inverter wont do the same job.


Yup. Exactly. The new front port is for the generator that normally lives in the truck bed. Admittedly I prefer manual switches for this. Less stuff to go goofy at the wrong moment. No, I won’t give up my ‘Overkill Engineering Card…

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This got a serious workout on the 8,000 mile trip we just finished!
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