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Old 08-11-2009, 03:12 PM   #1
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Replace Aluminum wiring?

Well amongst the many things that I am learning about my tailer is the fact that is is wired using aluminum wiring. Surprise. I have the trailer just about completely gutted and will be replacing the entire subfloor, this will require that most the interior lower panels be removed. Now the question. Should I rewire the trailer? I see no corrosion what so ever on any of the aluminum wire connections. I could go ahead and rewire the sections that are being exposed but really had not planned nor want to remove end caps, upper and ceiling panels. If aluminum wiring is dangerous then I will want to go ahead do it. Thoughts?

Thanks, Michael
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Old 08-11-2009, 03:46 PM   #2
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This thread will help shed some light.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f37/...ghlight=wiring

Aluminum wiring is a great conductor. But there are un-desireable side effects when connections oxidize.

My $0.02...

If I were in position to replace aluminum wiring without having to rip things apart...I probably would replace with copper. But I wouldn't rip an interior out in order to do it. Hope this helps.

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Old 08-11-2009, 03:50 PM   #3
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Yep, rewire. There are lots of threads here about the problems with aluminum wire, so I won't go over all of that except to say that it can be dangerous. Rewiring is actually a bunch easier than it looks. The hard part is getting the interior skins off, but you're half way there already.

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Old 08-11-2009, 03:59 PM   #4
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It's not so much that aluminum is inherently "dangerous." There are issues associated with aluminum 110v wiring that create potential issues that copper does not have.

"Aluminum is relatively soft, and as temperature increases, expands more than the metals from which connectors are made. When current flows through a connection, the connection becomes warmer. The expansion of the aluminum, confined under a screw terminal, generates tremendous pressure, so that the metal "flows" into the empty spaces in the connector. When the electrical load is removed, the aluminum cools and contracts, and a gap forms between the wire and the connector. The slightly loose-fitting connection now has a higher resistance, and more corrosion forms in the gap, further increasing the resistance. The next time a heavy load is applied, the connection becomes even hotter, and so on, until one day the connection may burn out, or surrounding material may ignite."

When we acquired out '67 Overlander, I found out quickly that it had an aluminum 110v wiring plant. I decided immediately to replace it with copper. This was a relatively easy decision because we planned to replace all of the wiring. Dismantling the system, I saw enough to make me feel like this was the right decision.

Personally, I think a travel trailer is a challenging environment. It is subject to movement, vibration, temperature changes, etc. Just like on a boat, I think it makes sense to consider this when evaluating things like electrical and mechanical systems. If the trailer is just going to sit and all of your connections are good, you may feel fine. If you're not planning on changing, I would have a professional electrician evaluate all of the connections and make sure everything you have is aluminum-compatible. On an older system, there's simply no telling what a previous owner might have done.
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Old 08-11-2009, 04:05 PM   #5
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Michael, I'm at the same place you are with my 1968 Sovereign. I'm an electrical engineer and would not even consider moving on without a rewire... Aluminum gets brittle when it is overheated. It won't cost you very much just a few dollars and a day or so... don't forget the "under the floor" lighting stuff. My insulation just about had it...
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Old 08-11-2009, 05:28 PM   #6
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What Ronbo said!

Ronbo is dead on regarding replacement of your aluminum wiring. If you take a close look at it you will see connections made without junction boxes and outlet boxes as well as twisted connections with only 40+ year old electrical tape to insulate the wires from the inner and outer skins. Check out the wiring threads here and be safe. Happy Trails, Ed
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:14 PM   #7
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Ok, I'm convinced...talk about a slippery slope! I keep going "well if I'm going to that then I might as well do.....again and again and again. I am now seriously considering doing a complete shell off. Oh man, wait until I tell the CFO.
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:25 PM   #8
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For what its worth.... My 1967 Tradewind is a California built unit. The 12v wiring is aluminum. The 110v wiring is copper. I think the aluminum is safe for 12v. Adios, John
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Old 08-11-2009, 06:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverHoot View Post
Oh man, wait until I tell the CFO.
I follow the

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission"

philosophy. It's no less painful, but it usually means fewer nights on the couch!!

Good Luck,

Kevin
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:20 PM   #10
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You can get aluminum compatable plugs to replace the ones in the trailer. I did that and used anti oxident grease and have had no problems in 10 years. But if it's apart I would replace everything I could get out, plumbing, wireing, insulation and floors.
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Old 08-11-2009, 09:11 PM   #11
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Well my California built is 110 aluminum

So from what I read nothing is consistent on AS. Here's more proof. If it were 12V I would not be worrying.
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Old 01-30-2010, 08:43 AM   #12
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In the InspectAPedia article, they show applying the oxide inhibitor first and then follow up with sanding the wire. This doesn't make sense to me. I would think that you should sand first and then apply the oxide inhibitor.

Advice anyone? Also, where can I find the special aluminum outlet boxes?
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:11 AM   #13
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I would think any reputable elec supply house should sell outlet fixtures for alum. wire. I would take it out if I had the opportunity though.

We once bought a townhouse that had alum. wire and although it had theproper receptacles, we experienced fires in two outlet boxes.

Although they had the proper receptacles, they were the cheapie kind where you jusdt skin and poke the wire into a hole in the receptacle. I replaced them all with sctrew type receptacles (for al) and didn't have any further problems.

The other thing I found with alum. compared to copper is that you cannot bend the ends many times before it breaks off - can be a problem if the electrician has not left much wire in the outlet box!

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Old 01-30-2010, 11:08 AM   #14
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I did a major overhaul, and at the time decided not to pull all the upper interior skins off and replace my aluminum wire. I did quite a bit of research and found that the most common problem with the aluminum wiring is the corrosion of the stripped ends where they connect to a receptacle or wire nut.

On one of my ceiling 12v fixtures, I noticed it was getting REALLY hot. I thought I had the wrong bulbs, or the rotary switch was bad. Come to find out as I was replacing the switch, the wire nuts that connected the fixture to the 12v aluminum wire had MELTED! When I looked at the wire it was obvious that there was major corrosion and dirt in the wire nut. Also, some of the stripped wire was outside of the nut.

I decided after research and this finding that it would be best to reconnect all 12v and 110v fixtures and receptacles. I cut off all old corroded exposed ends of the wire, re-stripped, and added special wire nuts that are made for aluminum connections. These nuts have antioxidant compound in them, and are really expensive. You can also buy antioxidant compound by itself. As for 110v receptacles, I replaced all of them with ones that were designed for aluminum wiring.

That said, if you have the time and $$ to replace all the wiring, I would do it. But if you can't, I would recommend something like what I did.
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Old 01-30-2010, 06:24 PM   #15
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Thanks for the input everyone. I think I will go the route of fixing what I have for now. The job doesn't look difficult to do and is perfect for accomplishing this time of year.
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