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Old 03-13-2004, 11:07 AM   #1
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Warning: Ceiling Light Switches

I was having trouble with the ceiling light switches in our '78. They would either not turn, would make intermittant contact or no contact at all (just freely turn). I tore into each of the fixtures and was very glad I did.

The picture shows the worst of the three located under a vent. The one in the bedroom without a vent was still in pretty good shape. You can see that this one could have become a serious problem as it was well on its way to melting through the plastic. I believe that exposure to moisture over time rusted the metal parts, caused corrosion of the wires and eventually rotted out the fiber-type material covering the back of the switch.

I replaced these switches with ones purchased from Home Depot. For purists, the original switches are still available from the manufacturer (Cole-Hersee Co., Boston, MA). It is their part #72078 and has MSRP $47. Airstream supposedly has a replacement, too. I have ordered a replacement from our local Airstream dealer, but haven't been over to pick it up yet.

While you have the fixture down, it's a good "cleaning opportunity"! I also do not like the use of wire nuts to tie together wires and used this excuse to change all of the wiring over to weatherproof butt connectors with shrink wrap seals.
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Old 03-13-2004, 11:23 AM   #2
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Here's a picture of the replacement switch I used which is available from Home Depot and Menards. It's probably for a 3-way light application. There are three positions: A, B, and A+B which correspond exactly to the original switch used by Airstream. First the inside two lights come on, then the outside 4, then all 6 of them. I have not adapted the original knobs to work with this new switch. They will fit into the old fixture holder perfectly and stick out of the cover enough to be usable without any difficulty.
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Old 03-13-2004, 11:28 AM   #3
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Re: Warning: Ceiling Light Switches

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Originally posted by DPeakMD
I also do not like the use of wire nuts to tie together wires and used this excuse to change all of the wiring over to weatherproof butt connectors with shrink wrap seals.
Excellent idea. As a 'purist' I solder and shrink-wrap all of my wire splices.
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Old 03-16-2004, 08:28 AM   #4
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1974 and up ceiling light switches

Use caution when replacing ceiling light switches, with a universal that "does not" have a stated DC current rating.

The DC rating is considerably less than the stated AC ratings.

The original Airstream switch, that is very adequate, costs $26.85.

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Old 03-20-2004, 07:45 PM   #5
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Hello, This is my first post to this forum, and I can only say "ditto" to all those who have proceeded me in saying what a great place to learn about Airstreams.

My Wife (Teresa) and I have just purchased our first AS and are anxious to start working to put her back on the road. We plan to first make her usable (clean, all systems working and road worthy) and then make her beautiful (Polish and improvements).

We are still in the discovery phase (Knew beforehand that most of the mechanicals were in need of work) and while working on the interior lights, found that one of the rotary switches (3 way, by Leviton) is busted. I removed the switch and opened it up to find the innards had turned to dust.

Having said all the above, who or where is the best source for a replacement? Our AS is a 72 Sovereign 31'. The Service Manual lists the original part number as 05232. Thanks.
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Old 03-20-2004, 07:49 PM   #6
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Just a thought....

Doesn't gear have load stamps on them someplace? If so, you couldn't you go to the nearest Radio Shack for something like that in the same range for less or is this a proprietary device?
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Old 03-20-2004, 11:27 PM   #7
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Some switches have both AC & DC current ratings listed, you must be careful to check the DC rating. For any given 'wattage' bulb, 12vdc will draw more current than 110vac.
P=I X E; Power (watts) = I (current) times E (voltage). To solve for I (current), divide the power (watts) by E (voltage); I=P/E.
...boy that's clearing out some cob-webs in my grey matter....
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Old 08-02-2008, 05:31 PM   #8
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One of my original Leviton switches went bad as well recently - took it out and it is rated as: 1A-250V-3A-125V-T. There is no specification for AC or DC, but for many switches it doesn't matter. Looks like the Home Depot switch has 3A-250V and 6A-125V rating - should be more than adequate. Just for S&G, measuring the actual current draw I got the following: 2 bulbs = 2.8 A; 4 bulbs = 5.5 A; 6 bulbs = 7.9 A. This is pretty linear at around 1.4 A per bulb. I may try one of the HD switches out myself.
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Old 08-02-2008, 06:05 PM   #9
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I installed two of the switches pictured above in 2005 after reading this thread. After three years of heavy use, they are still like new. When I made the repair, I tested them before reinstalling the cover and after burning all six bulbs for an hour, they weren't even warm to the touch. I believe they will hold up fine for years to come, if not even better than the originals.
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Old 08-02-2008, 07:30 PM   #10
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I would not use a switch that wasn't DC rated. The normal de-rating for switches in DC lamp circuits is a factor of 8.

The issue with the switches isn't how much load they can handle without heating up. The issue is how much inrush current they can handle without arcing and welding the contacts. That's why they are de-rated for DC service.
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Old 08-02-2008, 08:18 PM   #11
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One of my original Leviton switches went bad as well recently - took it out and it is rated as: 1A-250V-3A-125V-T. There is no specification for AC or DC, but for many switches it doesn't matter. Looks like the Home Depot switch has 3A-250V and 6A-125V rating - should be more than adequate. Just for S&G, measuring the actual current draw I got the following: 2 bulbs = 2.8 A; 4 bulbs = 5.5 A; 6 bulbs = 7.9 A. This is pretty linear at around 1.4 A per bulb. I may try one of the HD switches out myself.

The original switch is available from a few dealers that specialize in vintage parts, both the old and new style.

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Old 08-03-2008, 09:14 AM   #12
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I would assume that if the Leviton (OEM) switches were DC rated, they would stamp that along with thier AC ratings, but they dont. It is interesting that the Leviton AC rating is well below the actual current draw - this is interesting. But I would feel safe with the Home Depot switch (easier to find and get)

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I would not use a switch that wasn't DC rated. The normal de-rating for switches in DC lamp circuits is a factor of 8.

The issue with the switches isn't how much load they can handle without heating up. The issue is how much inrush current they can handle without arcing and welding the contacts. That's why they are de-rated for DC service.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:38 AM   #13
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Can't believe this, I'm working on these same switches this weekend on the Silver Dragon. I have a switch that killed the batteries deader than dead, in the last week. smoking when I turned on the charger yesterday.
Good to know if Andy has some of these switches. Radio Shack has nothing in a 12 volt rotary switch. Home Depot has no 12 volt stuff at all. The original 12 volt bulbs are 1.4 AMPs each.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
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I would assume that if the Leviton (OEM) switches were DC rated, they would stamp that along with thier AC ratings, but they dont. It is interesting that the Leviton AC rating is well below the actual current draw - this is interesting. But I would feel safe with the Home Depot switch (easier to find and get)
Dealers that stock parts for the vintage trailers, always have those switches in stock.

The DC rating is not stamped on them, but their typical life span, is at least 20 years, with frequent use.

We do not recommend using unknown switches, since they can cause a fire.

The smart dealers, still purchase the proper switches from Airstream, and offer them for sale.

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Old 08-03-2008, 09:44 AM   #15
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Can't believe this, I'm working on these same switches this weekend on the Silver Dragon. I have a switch that killed the batteries deader than dead, in the last week. smoking when I turned on the charger yesterday.
Good to know if Andy has some of these switches. Radio Shack has nothing in a 12 volt rotary switch. Home Depot has no 12 volt stuff at all. The original 12 volt bulbs are 1.4 AMPs each.
Sometimes things are just meant to be.

We always have those switches.

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Old 08-03-2008, 09:50 AM   #16
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switch test

There is a simple test that can be made to check out the condition of the ceiling light switches.

Turn the switch so that "all" of the bulbs are on, preferably when plugged into city power, so that the voltage is at it's maximum.

Leave them on for at least 10 minutes, or more.

Gently, repeat gently, try to turn the knob "backwards".

If the lights flicker, "at all", then that little test tells you that particular switch, is on it's last legs, and should be replaced, ASAP.

Home Depot switches, usually in short order, will not pass that test, as reported to us by many owners.

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Old 08-03-2008, 09:57 AM   #17
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Looks like that switch in the picture is only rated at 6 amps. Not enough for all 6 bulbs. I would not use it.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:58 AM   #18
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I had one in my 75 that would flicker and also could be heard through the radio. During one of my work trips to Tucson, I bought one at Oasis RV.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:59 AM   #19
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Andy, do you have any of these switches?
Thanks
Perry

edit, He answered before I posted. That's Fast!
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Old 08-03-2008, 10:14 AM   #20
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Looks like that switch in the picture is only rated at 6 amps. Not enough for all 6 bulbs. I would not use it.
Pick.

Your absolutely correct.

A 3 amp rating at 125 volts AC, is 375 watts.

The DC formula for watts, is W=EI

However 375 watts at 12 volts DC, would mean a current flow of about 31 amps. Forget that all together.

Switch DC ratings are far remove from AC ratings.

Unfortunately, the DC ratings are not always stamped on the switch.

The original Airstream switches are still available, but they cost more than the Home Depot supposed replacements.

The switches that Airstream originally used are still available, and have a proven track record, of at least 20 years or so.

Not bad, we think.

Andy
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