Possible Fire threat - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-04-2016, 05:49 PM   #1
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Name: Norm and Ginny
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Possible Fire threat

A good friend of mine called me from the road because they smelled something burning but could not find it.

I suggested he look at his breaker box where copper wires go into aluminum bus bars held with steel screws. These dissimilar metals can cause a high resistance contact, melting the insulation on wires. He opened the breaker box, took off the covering panel and found melted wires. This is all complicated by road vibration.

In our motorhome I saw the same problem. I coated all wire ends with an anti-oxidant grease and made it a practice to 1/4 turn loosen and retighten screws every year.

When we bought our beach cottage I detected a similar problem in it's breaker box, probably accelerated by beach salt air.

I posted this find on our motorhome's website and a number of other owners reported a similar problem. I wrote to the factory reporting the problem and suggested a number of solutions...never a reply.

Just a thought.
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Old 05-04-2016, 06:01 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
A good friend of mine called me from the road because they smelled something burning but could not find it.

I suggested he look at his breaker box where copper wires go into aluminum bus bars held with steel screws. These dissimilar metals can cause a high resistance contact, melting the insulation on wires. He opened the breaker box, took off the covering panel and found melted wires. This is all complicated by road vibration.

In our motorhome I saw the same problem. I coated all wire ends with an anti-oxidant grease and made it a practice to 1/4 turn loosen and retighten screws every year.

When we bought our beach cottage I detected a similar problem in it's breaker box, probably accelerated by beach salt air.

I posted this find on our motorhome's website and a number of other owners reported a similar problem. I wrote to the factory reporting the problem and suggested a number of solutions...never a reply.

Just a thought.
Good point Norm.
This is a good reason to ALWAYS use SAE GXL or SXL wire in our trailers. GXL stands for general cross link. Cross link is the generic term for Teflon. SXL is Special Cross Link. The difference is SXL has a thicker insulation the GXL thus used where abrasion could be a problem.
It doesn't take a lot to get a wire hot, and vinyl insulation burns.

So be careful and be safe so you can enjoy many happy hours of camping.
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Old 05-04-2016, 06:07 PM   #3
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Name: Steve Robison
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I would imagine this wire is also sold at places like Lowe's or home depot? I have no electrical in my trailer so I'm doing a brand new installation.
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Old 05-04-2016, 06:17 PM   #4
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How timely.. I just happen to have my power distribution panel pulled out for a little rewiring (and to secure the converter plug just in case it wants to come loose, see pic).. I think I will take some OxGard I have here and do just as you suggest.
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ConverterPlugWiretied.jpg  
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Old 05-05-2016, 12:27 AM   #5
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Actually it is a very good idea to purchase marine rated wires for RVs. It is made to take the movement of the structure. I am in the process of rewiring my Sunrader FGRV motorhome and will soon be doing the same to my new FG trailer.

The best grade of the marine wires are already tinned inside of the jacketing which provides the best possible protection and also the best contacts as well. But it is a lot more expensive than the rolls of wire from the home center and hardware stores. Fortunately my friend has a very good discount at a marine supply store. I buy it by the foot there. But I was also given all the wires that were taken out of a large sailboat during a major interior remodel so I will be using that free supply in my projects.

Marine Grade Wire, AWG Tinned Copper Boat Cables Made in USA Genuinedealz.com
Above is a randomly selected link showing what marine wire is. On the Romex type of products made for marine use the wires are twisted versus being a solid strand. That allows for the wire to flex with movement instead of getting work hardened with the potential to fracture at stress points. The fully tinned wires inside of the jacketing are the best grade for resisting corrosion but also it is fairly expensive. But tinning is probably not too important unless you are frequently in a coastal area. But you can tin the bare ends of the wires you are going to put into terminals. That will help keep them from corroding and it is simple to do that procedure if you have a soldering iron.

Electrical codes do require that the bare ends of any aluminum wire be coated with a anti-corrosive compound before making connections with it.
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:05 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
Actually it is a very good idea to purchase marine rated wires for RVs. It is made to take the movement of the structure. I am in the process of rewiring my Sunrader FGRV motorhome and will soon be doing the same to my new FG trailer.

The best grade of the marine wires are already tinned inside of the jacketing which provides the best possible protection and also the best contacts as well. But it is a lot more expensive than the rolls of wire from the home center and hardware stores. Fortunately my friend has a very good discount at a marine supply store. I buy it by the foot there. But I was also given all the wires that were taken out of a large sailboat during a major interior remodel so I will be using that free supply in my projects.

Marine Grade Wire, AWG Tinned Copper Boat Cables Made in USA Genuinedealz.com
Above is a randomly selected link showing what marine wire is. On the Romex type of products made for marine use the wires are twisted versus being a solid strand. That allows for the wire to flex with movement instead of getting work hardened with the potential to fracture at stress points. The fully tinned wires inside of the jacketing are the best grade for resisting corrosion but also it is fairly expensive. But tinning is probably not too important unless you are frequently in a coastal area. But you can tin the bare ends of the wires you are going to put into terminals. That will help keep them from corroding and it is simple to do that procedure if you have a soldering iron.

Electrical codes do require that the bare ends of any aluminum wire be coated with a anti-corrosive compound before making connections with it.
I suspect that marine grade wire is the same as SAE GXL. SAE (Society of Auto Engineers) is specified for automobile, truck, and bus applications.
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Old 05-05-2016, 06:41 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
I suspect that marine grade wire is the same as SAE GXL. SAE (Society of Auto Engineers) is specified for automobile, truck, and bus applications.
automobile wire is multi stranded but it not typically going to be found with the wire inside of the covering fully tinned to prevent corrosion in harsh environments. As I stated it is not typically needed but if you are going to be by the ocean much of the time then it is just one step further you can take to help prevent wires being corroded which goes back to the original intent of preventing fires because of finding corrosion in the wiring system.

All of the Romex wiring used for the 120v in my 1980 Fiberglass motorhome was done with household Romex that has solid wires instead of being installed using the multi stranded Romex style wires recommended for auto and marine applications.
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Old 05-05-2016, 06:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
I suspect that marine grade wire is the same as SAE GXL. SAE (Society of Auto Engineers) is specified for automobile, truck, and bus applications.
automobile wire is multi stranded but it not typically going to be found with the wire inside of the covering fully tinned to prevent corrosion in harsh environments. As I stated it is not typically needed but if you are going to be by the ocean much of the time then it is just one step further you can take to help prevent wires being corroded which goes back to the original intent of preventing fires because of finding corrosion in the wiring system.

All of the Romex wiring used for the 120v in my 1980 Fiberglass motorhome was done with household Romex that has solid wires instead of being installed using the multi stranded Romex style wires recommended for auto and marine applications. They had even run a screw that was for mounting a tail light right through the Romex that was routed next to the tail light area that would have powered the rooftop AC unit. Fortunately it has never had AC installed so that wire was never hooked to a circuit in the converter. But also upon investigation by cutting the wire sheathing open I found the screw only penetrated the outside sheathing and did not harm to the coverings of the individual wires inside of it. So I just sealed up the sheath and made sure to secure that wire away from the screws. There were some other potential chafing situations where the wires could have been damaged by the screws that penetrated through the fiber glass used to mount things like the water filler and the light for the license plate.
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:22 AM   #9
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Vehicles, trailers and motorhomes are DC current for their road going electrical needs. RV's like cars and trucks are wired with stranded wire for 12 volt DC current. RV's are also wired in many situations with 120 volt AC circuits for 120 volt accessories using solid core "Romex" type house wire. The National Electric Code does have a section that relates to RV's concerning both 12 volt & 120 volt RV wiring. Article 551 requires stranded wire for 12 volt circuits but does allow "Solid OR Stranded" wire for 120 volt circuits in an RV. Check the article out at your local library or online. Lots of useful information.

VERY interesting that in the boat industry which is REGULATED you NEVER see solid core "Romex" type wiring for the 120 volt AC circuits in a boat. The marine industry uses stranded wire for both AC and DC circuits with is specified in the boat industry electrical code.

The potential problem with solid core wire is the issue of "vibration" which can cause a wire to come loose at termination points in a trailer or vehicle. You do not have this potential problem in a permanent none moving structure such as your home.

Lot's of RV's, trailers and motorhomes out there with LOT'S OF YEARS of road travel, camping use and sitting that were and still are wired with solid core wiring for the 120 volt AC circuits and have NEVER experienced an electrical problem. Make your own decision as to how you choose to wire the 120 volt AC circuits in your RV! Personally if I were building new RV's or re-wiring a vintage RV on the 120 volt AC circuit side I would use the proper gauge stranded wire in the circuitry instead of solid core house wire.

It all boils down to DOLLARS & CENTS. Stranded wire of proper gauge for use in 120 volt AC circuits is more expensive than solid core "Romex" wire. Since there is NO requirement in the National Electrical Code for use of stranded wire on the 120 volt AC side wiring in a RV why spend the money is probably the attitude of the RV manufacturer's. The RV industry IS meeting the current electrical code using solid core wire for their 120 volt AC wiring harness's in your RV.

One of the best places price and selection wise to purchase stranded wire for DC and AC circuits in your RV or trailer is here:

Marine Wire, Boat Wiring & Marine Electrical - BestBoatWire.com
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:47 PM   #10
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Name: Steve Robison
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Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
Actually it is a very good idea to purchase marine rated wires for RVs. It is made to take the movement of the structure. I am in the process of rewiring my Sunrader FGRV motorhome and will soon be doing the same to my new FG trailer.

The best grade of the marine wires are already tinned inside of the jacketing which provides the best possible protection and also the best contacts as well. But it is a lot more expensive than the rolls of wire from the home center and hardware stores. Fortunately my friend has a very good discount at a marine supply store. I buy it by the foot there. But I was also given all the wires that were taken out of a large sailboat during a major interior remodel so I will be using that free supply in my projects.

Marine Grade Wire, AWG Tinned Copper Boat Cables Made in USA Genuinedealz.com
Above is a randomly selected link showing what marine wire is. On the Romex type of products made for marine use the wires are twisted versus being a solid strand. That allows for the wire to flex with movement instead of getting work hardened with the potential to fracture at stress points. The fully tinned wires inside of the jacketing are the best grade for resisting corrosion but also it is fairly expensive. But tinning is probably not too important unless you are frequently in a coastal area. But you can tin the bare ends of the wires you are going to put into terminals. That will help keep them from corroding and it is simple to do that procedure if you have a soldering iron.

Electrical codes do require that the bare ends of any aluminum wire be coated with a anti-corrosive compound before making connections with it.
That's great, and free shipping. I'm going to get boat wire and use it to install my electrical.
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Old 05-06-2016, 12:34 AM   #11
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Name: Randy
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I installed a..MINI extinguisher in the trailer-beside the window, not far from...oven burners- with secured brkts for a peace of mind....
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Old 05-06-2016, 07:59 AM   #12
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I installed a..MINI extinguisher in the trailer-beside the window, not far from...oven burners- with secured brkts for a peace of mind....
But... the stove / oven burners are the most likely place for a fire to start. Do you really want to fight the flames to try to reach the extinguisher?

In fact Scamp puts extinguishers in the Layout 4, 16's next to the sink where it could be hard to get to. I moved mine to the side of the door since in case of fire I am getting the heck out of the trailer, and only then might I reach in the door with one hand to get the extinguisher.

But actually, the extinguisher in the tug is the one I plan to go to. Its bigger and far from the danger.
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Old 05-06-2016, 09:24 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
A good friend of mine called me from the road because they smelled something burning but could not find it.

I suggested he look at his breaker box where copper wires go into aluminum bus bars held with steel screws. These dissimilar metals can cause a high resistance contact, melting the insulation on wires. He opened the breaker box, took off the covering panel and found melted wires. This is all complicated by road vibration.

In our motorhome I saw the same problem. I coated all wire ends with an anti-oxidant grease and made it a practice to 1/4 turn loosen and retighten screws every year.

When we bought our beach cottage I detected a similar problem in it's breaker box, probably accelerated by beach salt air.

I posted this find on our motorhome's website and a number of other owners reported a similar problem. I wrote to the factory reporting the problem and suggested a number of solutions...never a reply.

Just a thought.
This has been a problem with many RVs, fiberglass or not. The best solution, unless you want to rewire the trailer with marine stranded 120V wiring (and even then) is to check the connections in the converter or distribution panel as well as heavily used receptacles at least once a year. If the connection is loose, tighten it, if burned, replace it as well as the burned wire.
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