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Old 06-05-2017, 06:32 PM   #1
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Shore Power GFCI Tripping

Just got back from Alumapalooza - we had a great time! But now I think I have a problem with the Airstream's 120VAC system. Or maybe not.

A little history: we bought our 2007 Safari SE about 16 months ago. Since then it has been plugged into an outdoor 15 amp GFCI outlet (with a 30 amp to 15 amp adapter). No problems, everything on AC has worked fine.

During the past week at Alumapalooza, the GCFI breaker in the Airstream tripped once. I found out because I noticed the fridge was running on propane and I didn't recall manually switching it (which I should have done, but that's another story...). I reset it, and no further problems.

Got home last night, and this morning when I plugged back in at home I had no AC power at the Airstream. Quick look at the house GFCI outlet showed it had tripped. I reset it, plugged back in, and it tripped immediately. This happened about 5 times before my thick head said "something ain't right here."

Into the Airstream I go, and I shut off all the AC breakers, then plugged back in. All good. Turned on the main, good. Added the first breaker, and tripped the house GFCI. Turned it off, reset the GFCI, then turned on the 2nd breaker - tripped the house GFCI. The third breaker did not trip the house GFCI, and neither did the GFCI breaker in the trailer.

If I plug shore power into a 15 amp non-GFCI outlet, everything in the trailer works just fine. The GFCI breaker in the trailer does not trip.

I've read on Airforums that you shouldn't plug shore power into a GFCI circuit because that puts 2 GFCIs on the same circuit and will often cause a trip. I'm eager to chalk my problem up to that, but since it has worked for the last 16 months, I have to believe something has changed, and that makes me nervous.

I'm not sure where to go from here. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,
Jim
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Old 06-05-2017, 08:51 PM   #2
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2 gfci in series should not be an issue.

The gfci you're plugging into might be bad, but more investigation is warranted.

Turn off all 120v in/to the trailer then check that all your connections in the breaker panel are tight.

You've got basic trouble shooting down, narrowing it down to the first or second circuit. So now disconnect all the loads on those circuits and plug them back in one at a time and you'll find the fault.

The fact that 2 different circuits causes the gfci to trip is a little troubling though.
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Old 06-06-2017, 05:48 PM   #3
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Thanks, I'll start looking at the loads on the circuit. Naturally that will take some time because I'll have to ask Airstream for a wiring diagram. None of the breakers are labeled to show what they feed. I'll never understand why they don't label them....

My fear is that it's bad wiring inside a wall, which I'm not prepared to deal with.

Jim
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Old 06-06-2017, 05:57 PM   #4
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Hi

GCFI's tripping is not something you should ignore. Spend the time and get to the bottom of the issue. It might be as simple as a rodent nest in a strategic location. It could be a whole bunch of other things. A local electrician should be able to help if you hit a dead end. This is not something that is so RV specific you can only do it at the dealer.

Bob
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Old 06-06-2017, 08:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_bob View Post
GCFI's tripping is not something you should ignore. Spend the time and get to the bottom of the issue.
Yes, I'm very aware that I can't ignore this. As soon as I get a wiring diagram from Airstream I will get into the troubleshooting. There's little point in starting off blind since very few of the circuits actually have loads on them now - the trailer is not being used and nothing is turned on except the converter. That tells me that the problem is likely in the wiring, or the converter has gone bad.

Once I find out what the two breakers feed then I can get into troubleshooting in earnest. In the meantime, the trailer is not connected to 120VAC power.

Jim
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Old 06-07-2017, 08:29 AM   #6
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Hi

On my AS, the owners manual has a pretty detailed wiring diagram and list of what goes where. It's hidden down under "maintenance" rather than being up with the "electrical" section. It should be a quick download from:

https://www.airstream.com/service/ma...ear_select=120

Bob
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:19 AM   #7
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Since no one has mentioned this, I will. Check your trailer's outside outlet(s) for moisture. That is a common cause of GFCI's tripping.

Also, if you have more GFCI's in the house, use an adapter and a long extension cord and plug the trailer into them. If they don't trip, suspect the one you are using is failing.

Al
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:36 AM   #8
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I had a 28' INT do the very same thing and it ended up being a blown water heater element. I left the water heater on when the tank was dry and the element overheated and shorted to the inside wall of the tank, on lightning bolt the water would only get warm because there was only 3 inches of element left. Worth a check!
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:39 AM   #9
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I 2nd Al and Missy's idea. I had the same issue and it was a bad gasket on my outside outlet. The box was damp. I changed the box and not problems since.
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:00 PM   #10
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Hi

If you suspect moisture in an outlet, compressed air and silicone spray are handy things to have available.

Bob
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:24 PM   #11
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Jim-

The principle of a GFCI is that it measures the current draw from the hot to neutral. If the current differed more than several milliamps, then it assumes that current is passing to ground, and shuts the circuit off. All of the aforementioned items could be possibilities. As Al noted above, moisture is a likely culprit. Think to yourself "what changed in the last week?" Rain? Or a wash? Critters can also shunt current to ground. Isolate the possible circuit(s) first so that you narrow the scope of the troubleshooting. If it trips under any or all, it could very well be in the distribution panel.

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Old 06-07-2017, 02:40 PM   #12
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A couple of points,
You have plugged a 30 amp 120 volt device, likely into a 15 amp gGFI residential receptacle. Or better a 20 amp. You have abused the recepticle.
Two go purchase at the Home Depot a GFI receptacle tester. I think mine was about $20.
Three plug into a non GFI receptacle and use the tester to find the problem.
See all the above suggestions.
Four replace the GFI with a 20 amp 120 volt standard receptacle, available at the HD for about $5, don't get a cheap one.��
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Old 06-07-2017, 03:23 PM   #13
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Some replies upthread of varying quality. Caveat lector.

GFCI trips are hard to diagnose because a path to ground from the neutral (white) wires is the most frequent cause. The breakers do not disconnect the neutral wires therefore it is common for trips to occur even when the affected circuit is shut off at the breaker.

The most surefire way of tracking these down is to to disconnect all power sources, shut off all the breakers, and then disconnect each one of the branch neutral wires from the neutral bus and use an ohmmeter to check resistance from the neutral wire to ground.

Otherwise you can luck out with a series of guesses. Moisture inside on outlet can contribute, with the outside outlet being the most frequent offender. Burned out water heater element can contribute. A short to ground in the neutral connection to the air conditioner is also a frequent cause. Could also be the converter or anything else though so if your first few guesses aren't lucky you're better off using a meter to isolate it.

It is not unusual for there to be more than one problem. Leakage current is cumulative so you can end up with two problems neither of which is bad enough to trip the GFCI by itself but both together will do it.
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Old 06-07-2017, 03:31 PM   #14
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Thanks to all who have offered suggestions - all good ones.

I received the wiring diagram from Airstream this morning and the two breakers that are causing the GFCI to trip are the Air Conditioner circuit and the converter circuit, which also feeds the two 120VAC receptacles in the bedroom. That narrows things down.

Some thoughts in response to your suggestions:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al and Missy View Post
Since no one has mentioned this, I will. Check your trailer's outside outlet(s) for moisture. That is a common cause of GFCI's tripping.

Also, if you have more GFCI's in the house, use an adapter and a long extension cord and plug the trailer into them. If they don't trip, suspect the one you are using is failing.
Al
There are no outside receptacles on the offending circuits, so we can rule out moisture. I suppose the bedroom receptacles could be wet, but that scares the devil out of me because it means a leak. Let's assume that's not the case for now.

As for testing at another GFCI outlet - I did that first, in hopes the problem was with the house outlet, not the Airstream. Alas, it tripped also.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckFeldt View Post
A couple of points,
You have plugged a 30 amp 120 volt device, likely into a 15 amp gGFI residential receptacle. Or better a 20 amp. You have abused the recepticle.
Point taken, but given that I never run anything but the converter when I'm plugged in at home, the draw is not more than a few amps, and certainly not enough to "abuse" the receptacle. And that wouldn't explain why it happens with multiple GFCI outlets; I haven't "abused" them all (you'll have to take my word for it).
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckFeldt View Post
Four replace the GFI with a 20 amp 120 volt standard receptacle, available at the HD for about $5, don't get a cheap one.��
That's only acceptable if the circuit is a 20 amp circuit, which in this case it is not. It's not acceptable to put a 20 amp outlet on a 15 amp circuit.

I think I've narrowed this down to the converter and/or the AC unit. I'm going to replace the converter with a PD4655 and go from there.

I'll check back in when I have more news to report - thanks everyone!

Jim
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Old 06-07-2017, 03:52 PM   #15
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Good choice

Quote:
Originally Posted by AirstreamJim View Post
Thanks to all who have offered suggestions - all good ones.

I'm going to replace the converter with a PD4655 and go from there.


Jim
OEM converter needed replacing anyway.
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Old 06-07-2017, 06:24 PM   #16
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After dinner I went out to poke around the AC breaker panel. When I opened the cover, this is what I found:



The green wire (ground connection, I have to assume) is hanging freely in the box, not attached to anything. I can't imagine it's intended to be that way. However, the bared end doesn't look as though it's ever been connected to anything (it's stranded wire, which I would normally think would show evidence of having been screwed down to something).

Any thoughts?

Jim
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Old 06-07-2017, 07:58 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AirstreamJim View Post
After dinner I went out to poke around the AC breaker panel. When I opened the cover, this is what I found:



The green wire (ground connection, I have to assume) is hanging freely in the box, not attached to anything. I can't imagine it's intended to be that way. However, the bared end doesn't look as though it's ever been connected to anything (it's stranded wire, which I would normally think would show evidence of having been screwed down to something).

Any thoughts?

Jim
Hi

Other than "that does not look right at all." or "yikes!!"

I would use an ohm meter to verify that the green wire really *is* a ground. It's a really good bet that it is, but better to check it before you put it where it belongs. This of course *assumes* it's long enough to get to the ground bus bar. It may be hanging loose because some guy named Bob cut it off to short. He then was to lazy to re-wire the circuit to make it right.

Bob (who has no idea at all how it got that way ... honest
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Old 06-07-2017, 11:34 PM   #18
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Is your converter stand alone or incorporated into a load center? Before replacing it I'd try to disconnect it to see if that fixes the problem.

That ac breaker panel is, well! Go through and make sure everything is tight. Not sure why there are wire nuts, the wires look like they would be long enough without the pigtails, hard to tell though.
Green looks like it might be the ground wire from the main shore power cable?
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Old 06-08-2017, 08:08 AM   #19
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Hi

My assumption is that indeed the cable coming in at the bottom of the picuture is the shore power feed. Somebody messed with it at some point. It could have been a mix up at the factory (who knows ??). Trace it out and get it hooked up right.

Bob
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Old 06-08-2017, 08:41 AM   #20
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I was taken aback by the wire nuts as well. First because I thought you never use wire nuts in a moving vehicle where they can vibrate off, and second, because as you note, the wires appear to be long enough to do what they're intended to do without the pigtails.

I sent the photo to Airstream to ask about the green wire. They just responded (in less than 20 minutes, by the way - with an annotated version of my photo included) that it's the ground from the converter and it needs to be attached to the ground bus. I will do that tonight and see what happens.

Keeping my fingers crossed (but still ordering a PD4655 to replace the crap Parallax converter).

Jim
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