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Old 07-13-2022, 06:50 PM   #1
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2015 20' Flying Cloud
Kingsport , Tennessee
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Converter died

Arrived at the campground. Connected to the power box (with our surge protector), turned on the breaker. Wife is inside the camper, says “There’s smoke!”. Breaker didn’t flip, smoke rolled out from under the fridge, but quickly dissipated. Diagnosis afterwards: battery power works, no shore power. Surge protector checks the line, says it’s good, but nothing inside.

I’m assuming the converter is toasted. 2015 20FB. Is there something better to replace it with? Does Victron make something? Or should I just source the original?

Other thoughts, things to check?
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Old 07-13-2022, 07:05 PM   #2
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The converter takes the incoming 120v power and converts it into 12v DC power to charge your batteries and run your 12v systems like the lights, the furnace control board, fridge control board, etc.

The converter does not provide shore power to your trailer, so if the immediate problem is that you have no shore power the converter would not be my first suspect.

Do you know if you have a transfer switch inside your trailer? If you have multiple places to connect your shore power cord then you have a transfer switch. If the transfer switch goes then you'll have shore power problems.

The smoke came from under your fridge? What else is down there? Do you know where your converter is located? Many of them are located in the front of the trailer near the batteries.

If your converter is the culprit, Progressive Dynamics makes good replacements - if you have a standalone converter they have those, and if you have one built into the power center they have those as well.
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Old 07-13-2022, 07:09 PM   #3
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Hi

First a couple questions:

"No shore power" implies that you have no 120V outlets working, even though you are hooked to shore power. Is this true? If so, the converter is not the (only) issue.

The converter turns 120V into 12V. It has nothing to do with powering up the 120V outlets. If the 120V outlets are dead, grab your multimeter and start tracing voltage from the power post into the breaker panel in the trailer and then on to the outlets.

If the converter is toast, how do you know this? There normally is a bit of troubleshooting before you declare it dead. No, that's not to say the converter is fine. It may well be toast and the troubleshooting may have been done. It simply didn't get mentioned in the post.

Better / worse / whatever on converters depends a lot on what your plans are for the trailer. Is a lithium upgrade somewhere in the future? Is the stock inverter on the list of "need to improve" items? Is the trailer going to be swapped for something else this fall? Depending on those answers, what's best could be any of a number of things.

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Old 07-13-2022, 07:57 PM   #4
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I had this exact problem on my 2020 Flying Cloud. It resulted in the Converter being blown out. Airstream replaced it and after 3 trips it happened again. They finally figured out it was all caused by a short in the power connection outside. They replaced it and it solved all of my problems.
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Old 07-14-2022, 03:45 PM   #5
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Fair points all. Now that we're back home, I can be a bit more thorough (my initial post was made via phone from an overlook up on top of the mountain where I could get a bit of coverage).

Ok: in a 20FB, underneath the fridge is the electrical panel where the breakers are, the fusebox is there beside the breakers, and my understanding is that the converter is behind the panel where the breakers are. (I've not removed the panel yet to verify that, having just gotten home.)

To recap it all a bit more precisely: arrived at campground, leveled and unhooked, wife had stepped inside to start settling in, I was outside beginning to set up. I attached the shore line to the camper, went to the power box, breakers there were off, I plugged in our surge protector, turned on the breaker on the box, watched the LED readout on the surge protector do its line test, it clicked the green led light on, plugged in the camper, then went to start to put down the stabilizers... that's when the wife said there was smoke inside.

My initial thought was, it was going to be propane related, the fridge changing over from having been on propane on the road to electric when it got plugged in, but as soon as I got in the door, it was apparent it wasn't anything propane related, it had an electrical smell. The breakers inside didn't throw, the breakers outside didn't throw. I unplugged it all, of course; checked fuses, fuses were fine; I turned the breakers inside off then back on (with it not being propane, my new thought was that it was the main breaker that was bad). The switch at the door that switches between being on the battery, and turning off the battery but would power things if on shore power: if I clicked it over to battery, the house lights would come on, but, after plugging back into shore power, clicking the switch to turn off the battery and to use shore power, the house lights wouldn't come on (weren't using the outlets, wasn't trying to power anything off the inverter). (I leave the tv unplugged/unused most of the time, the main reason we wanted shore power was to run the A/C.) I ran down the road, in a shop nearby found a breaker, replaced the main breaker (thinking maybe it was faulty, had died, might've been the source of the smoke), but that wasn't it. Nothing on the front of the breaker panel is 'toasty'. So, at that point, not being propane/fridge related, and not being the main breaker that was at fault... (not thinking inverter, not using 120 lines inside to check, thus far it was the fact that the interior lights weren't coming on, even though the surge protector was showing that there power present), that's why I was thinking converter. But I am not an electrician, maybe it isn't the converter. What is there behind the breaker panel that might've 'died' that would kill the incoming shore power, but still let the camper run on battery power?

So, to answer the questions asked so far, and to begin a more thorough level of troubleshooting:

I don't have multiple shore power ports, there's only the one on a 20FB. There is a switch at the front door that switches between being on battery power, and turning the battery off to go into storage, but everything will run on shore power with that switch in the off position. (And, actually, everything runs off shore power with that switch in the on position too, instead of battery... the A/C will run if attached to shore power, but will not if not attached to shore power and running on battery.)

Aside from the breaker panel, also under the fridge beside the breaker panel is the propane detector. I suppose I was making an assumption that the converter was under the fridge, since that's where the breaker box is, but, no, I've not pulled the panel yet to see what's behind there.

So, when I said 'no shore power', I meant: plugged into the power box, surge protector says there's power, but if I turn off my battery switch, there's no power in the camper: no lights, no A/C, etc.

No plans to trade in, upgrade, etc., we love our 20FB size. No rooftop solar yet, no lithium yet, currently still on the factory-type wet cell batteries, and a 'suitcase solar' panel to charge the batteries as needed. Yes, I had 'eventually' planned to upgrade to lithium and to install solar panels on the roof, but hadn't planned to do that until some point in the future.

Interesting side note: our route home just happened to pass by our old dealer... however, since we'd bought our camper, our dealership was bought out by A&L, I didn't recognize a face in there. But, I did stop in, just checking to see if they happened to have a converter in stock and how much it would be. After a moment, the parts counter guy was a bit surprised: he said usually they come in two halves, and that in a new one, I could replace the lower half for a few hundred, wouldn't have had to replace the whole thing, but he said that on the 'old' ones, they are a single piece unit for quite a bit more than a few hundred dollars, but he thought a 2015 like mine should have been new enough to have had the newer two-parter, and, he thought I could probably find something that was better, less expensive, and better able to integrate w/ solar and lithium needs in the future instead, so I left w/o ordering any parts yet, wanted to do more troubleshooting, and research.

So, my question: if my camper is working on battery, but plugging into shore power doesn't power up anything (not inverter outlets, but I mean, interior lights, pump, A/C, etc.), what aside from the converter could cause such to happen?

Now that I'm home, I'm game for more troubleshooting suggestions, things to check, etc.

Thanks for any and all help!
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Old 07-14-2022, 04:08 PM   #6
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If you are plugged in to shore power, with the batteries on, what voltage are you seeing for the 12v system?
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Old 07-14-2022, 04:19 PM   #7
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I have a 2017 FC20. You are right, under the refer is the power center. The parts guy was describing the Parallax, and you probably have one. It has a flip down door to expose the breakers in the upper half, 110V AC breakers on the left, 12V DC fuses on the right. Below those is the AC to DC converter.
If you have 12V service from the batteries while not plugged into shore power, it would seem your 12V system and 12V fuses are okay. When plugged into shore power, if you do not have ANY 110V AC service, no air conditioning, no working 110V plugs then the problem would be somewhere between the shore power plug on outside of trailer and the power center. Since smoke was coming from power center, that would be where I’d start looking. But, when plugged in to shore power and battery switch by door off, if you have 110V AC service (ie 110V outlets work) but not 12V then it is the converter portion of the power center. And yes that lower portion can be replaced. There are a variety of options for that, some of which have proper multi-stage charging and lithium charging modes.
I have replaced my converter portion to a Progressive Dynamics PD4600 with multi-stage charging. If you are contemplating future lithium, there are could be better options then the PD4600.
Good luck.
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Old 07-14-2022, 08:47 PM   #8
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NOTE: "Shore Power" is 120 volt AC not from the inverter, not 12v for lights and fans.

You need to check and see if you have any shore power in your trailer. If you don't have 120v supplied from the cord the converter can't work since it doesn't have power.
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Old 07-15-2022, 08:14 AM   #9
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While plugged into shore power, but with batteries on, it was reading the same as if on batteries but not on shore power (12.4, then 12.3, etc).

Yes, it is a Parallax 8355 power center; so, yes, it is the converter, fuse box, etc, all in one. https://parallaxpower.com/product/8355-power-center/

Wazbro: there is no shore power in the trailer now. It could be where the wiring comes into the power unit and not the power unit itself: I do believe I’m going to have to pull the power unit to find out, though.
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Old 07-15-2022, 09:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by LNBright View Post
Wazbro: there is no shore power in the trailer now. It could be where the wiring comes into the power unit and not the power unit itself: I do believe I’m going to have to pull the power unit to find out, though.
With no 120v in trailer it could be just a poor/loose connection that lead to the wire burning out. Yes, you might need to pull the power unit out to find it. Make sure trailer is unplugged and inverter off before messing with it, also a good idea to disconnect batteries. Just plug in when needed for testing, not when connecting/disconnecting wires.

You could get a mobile tech if you feel uncomfortable working on it, some people don't like working with electricity.
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Old 07-15-2022, 02:00 PM   #11
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Hi

As mentioned above, you hook up 120V when you plug in. Most everything in the trailer runs on 12V. Things like the lights are *always* on 12V regardless of being hooked up to shore power or not.

Many of us have a dirt cheap "outlet tester" from a big box store. It plugs into an outlet in the galley or someplace else it is easy to see. You can tell at a glance if you have power into the trailer. You also can see if there is some sort of wiring fault. For < $10 it's not a bad thing to roll down the road with.

For another ten or twenty dollars, you could get a multimeter. They are something you should have in your RV tool kit. There are a lot of times "stuff happens" and the only way to see what's what is to have a meter handy.

One way or another you now need to see if you have 120V into the trailer or not. If not, then a wire between the inlet on the trailer and the breaker panel is likely the issue. Normally problems happen at one end of the wire or the other ( = they come loose ).

Could there be a converter issue? Sure. Might it be one of several issues? Yup. Figuring out the problem before you start swapping this or that is always a really good idea.

Bob
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Old 07-16-2022, 06:00 PM   #12
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Bob,

I do have one of those outlet-checkers. With the camper on battery-mode, and the inverter turned on, the inverter-powered outlets would light the tester up, but the other outlets wouldn’t fire up; if not on battery-mode, none of the outlets would light up.

I do have a multimeter too (I’m just new to figuring out things in an RV/ camper setting). I ensured all the power was off, removed the screws holding the power center in, slid it forward out of its hole. Nothing behind it was charred or toasted. I then would start to experiment with connecting and disconnecting, verified that I could get the 12v coming from the battery to the power center, but wasn’t finding current from the shore. (Time ran short, I haven’t completed my amateur diagnostics, will continue to see what I can learn.)

In doing other research, I have found Parallax’ lower portion of the power center, if needed, but have started finding other variants that are supposed to be a direct replacement that offer multiple battery selections, that could accommodate a future transition to lithium.
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Old 07-16-2022, 06:13 PM   #13
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Don't give up. Trouble shooting 12v and 110v can be difficult even for a veteran. Lot's of times there are two problems confusing everything.
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Old 07-18-2022, 09:53 AM   #14
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Had some other chores to get to past day or two, got back to diagnosing.

Really, odd. Today, w/ the shore power plugged in: the outlets ARE lighting up the outlet tester, when they weren't the other day. The other thread where Fernway is dealing w/ similar, it was mentioned about the microwave, hadn't thought to look, but it is lighting up when plugged in now, too. But the lights inside, fans, the battery-powered things aren't firing up.

So, it does seem that it is the converter itself that has the issue?
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Old 07-18-2022, 04:03 PM   #15
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I pulled the power center forward, then removed the converter from the power center. Decided to open up the converter: removing the panel, was hit by the aroma of burned electrical… snapped a pic of the inside: I think that’s the transformer that doesn’t look like a happy camper? Regardless, I do believe that a new converter is needed (at a minimum, we’ll see if there’s anything else after I get this bit done).
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Old 07-19-2022, 10:04 AM   #16
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Yes now that you know you have 120v it does narrow it down to the converter. Seeing the burnt parts also confirms it. You can go to bestconverters for guidance on a new converter. If there is any chance you might be going to lithium make sure the new converter can handle that to.
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Old 07-19-2022, 11:23 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wazbro View Post
Yes now that you know you have 120v it does narrow it down to the converter. Seeing the burnt parts also confirms it. You can go to bestconverters for guidance on a new converter. If there is any chance you might be going to lithium make sure the new converter can handle that to.
As a matter of fact....

Was on bestconverter, read through lots of possibilities, narrowed it down to a few options, emailed Randy to confirm and got his reply, ordered the upgrade for it that can handle lithium, now I simply am waiting for it to arrive and I can install.

All the help was appreciated! It helps having a place to act as a soundboard for troubleshooting.
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Old 07-23-2022, 02:37 PM   #18
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Follow up / wrap up:

Ordered a replacement converter from bestconverter. Arrived today. Easy to install, just reverse of removal, just had one more wire to run to the ground bar, and then had a new remote for the wizard-function for maintaining batteries (if/when I upgrade to lithium, won’t be useful, but might be for now).

Anywho, all is up and running again. Ready for our next trip!
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