Re-wire - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-09-2010, 10:39 AM   #1
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I have found the fun(??) part of buying a vintage trailer, is that when you look deeper into one possible "problem", you find 3 more!!
So now I am almost down to just a shell - the wiring looks like . I have thought about what to do,or not do... there is where I need help. There are the standard rv 12v lights (which I hate) and a couple of old flourescent lights, and the converter is probably original and no battery.
I am going to pull all of it out and would like to put maybe 1 or 2 120v lights and supplement with rechargable led's, also have an a/c.
Is there any reason I need a converter now? Can i just put in a regular household breaker box with 2 15amp circuits, one for the a/c or heat and the other for everything else?
I wait for all of the elecrical experts!!
Vicki
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Old 02-09-2010, 11:14 AM   #2
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I have found the fun(??) part of buying a vintage trailer, is that when you look deeper into one possible "problem", you find 3 more!!
So now I am almost down to just a shell - the wiring looks like . I have thought about what to do,or not do... there is where I need help. There are the standard rv 12v lights (which I hate) and a couple of old flourescent lights, and the converter is probably original and no battery.
I am going to pull all of it out and would like to put maybe 1 or 2 120v lights and supplement with rechargable led's, also have an a/c.
Is there any reason I need a converter now? Can i just put in a regular household breaker box with 2 15amp circuits, one for the a/c or heat and the other for everything else?
I wait for all of the elecrical experts!!
Vicki
I know this is not what you asked about,but whether they are working or not, you should consider making your first wiring project a complete and isolated rewire of the DOT lights,[taillights,turnsignals, & running lights] including replacement lights.
This will pay big dividends in safety and peace of mind, while saving the aggravation of doing repairs while on the road.
Regards;Floyd
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Old 02-09-2010, 01:15 PM   #3
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Hi Vicki,

As you know, I'm working on renovating my PP right now too. I just finished installing all new insulation (the foil-backed bubble wrap stuff), but not before running new wires to all my proposed upper cabinet lighting fixtures, as well as the "porch" light.

Right now I'm running all new wires for my DOT lighting. I found cool LED replacement lights at both AutoIllumination (http://autolumination.com) and Arrow Safety Device (http://www.arrowsafetydevice.com/).

Like yours, my PP did not come with an on-board battery. I think this is kinda dumb, especially if one does any boondocking. So, I'm putting one in. I'm also ditching the original converter for something more modern—so when hooked-up, I've also got battery-recharge capability.

While I'm at it, I'm replacing both the 12V and 120V wiring for the fridge, and also installing a small 12V pump for the water tank, so I can upgrade the hand pump for a nicer faucet/spout.

I mention all of this because if you're rewiring, now's the time to anticipate all of your needs. You could get by with a simple circuit breaker box, but who knows what you (or the next owner) may want to install sometime in the future.

Good luck.
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:50 PM   #4
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Do yourself a big favor and install a converter/AC box from the start. It is a fused AC and DC panel all in one plus the battery charger. You can pull the fuse on the charger side until you decide to install a battery and/or use DC lighting.

Running Light Wiring: In addition to the Positive wire, Run a ground from each of the running lights and attach it to the frame. You will appreciate this later on when your lights go bad because of a bad ground. This is extremely important on fiberglass models where there aint no ground around. The frame is the ground path for all DC. The frame is the ground on your tow vehicle and the ground on the camper. Your white wire in the running light harness goes to frame on the tow and camper both.

It would be nice to have some sort of terminal block up front, (that you can get to) for the running light wiring so you will be able to replace the plug in portion of the cable when you accidentally ruin the one that is there. (Mine dragged on the ground and I had to splice in a new one.

You might want to consider running BRAKE wire should you decide to install brakes at a later date. Be sure to use 12Gauge or larger for this application. Note: The brake ground side goes to the frame so you only need to run one Positive wire, to each side.

Added: Here is a source for a converter and other camper stuff:
http://stores.ebay.com/Tri-State-Surplus
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:47 PM   #5
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Just a quick note: I concur with most of what Darwin has said. However, running individual ground wires from each DOT light (on our PP's, I count at least six. Add the three stock overhead cabin lights, that's nine!) seems a bit excessive.

Of course, each DOT light does need a ground, but if you're careful with the connectors, all of the grounds can be "daisy-chained" together and run back to your converter, on-board battery AND/OR to a strong common ground to your frame. (In fact, multiple ground points is not a bad idea.) I recommend using 12 gauge stranded wire for this. There are a variety of cool marine-grade connectors with "shrink-able" plastic shrouds that, when heated, create a water-tight seal and help fuse your wire to your connector.
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Just a quick note: I concur with most of what Darwin has said. However, running individual ground wires from each DOT light (on our PP's, I count at least six. Add the three stock overhead cabin lights, that's nine!) seems a bit excessive.

Of course, each DOT light does need a ground, but if you're careful with the connectors, all of the grounds can be "daisy-chained" together and run back to your converter, on-board battery AND/OR to a strong common ground to your frame. (In fact, multiple ground points is not a bad idea.) I recommend using 12 gauge stranded wire for this. There are a variety of cool marine-grade connectors with "shrink-able" plastic shrouds that, when heated, create a water-tight seal and help fuse your wire to your connector.
The DOT lighting should NOT be wired to the converter or the house battery, they are to be controlled and supplied from the TV. I would not use a frame ground but rather a common isolated ground back to the plug at the TV.
Regards; Floyd
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:40 AM   #7
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There are a few reasons why I would opt out of installing a converter in a trailer. One would be that you plan to do away with your 12v internals (lights, water pump, furnace, etc) and always use hookups. Another would be that you plan to do only dry camping, put your house batteries on a charger/maintainer when you're at home. The last is you have a solar panel setup that more than meets your 12v charging needs.

For most of us, however, having a converter (even an old converter, if it still works) is a great convenience. It allows you to keep your battery topped & charged, run your 12v electrics (lights, water pump, fan, furnace, 12v battery chargers, etc) without having to worry about your battery levels quite so much.

Which is not the same as saying you have to have a converter if you do those things. Last camping season our Scamp's converter was turned off. All season. Our 12v power came from the two solar panels we have mounted to the roof, and all of or lights have been replaced by 12v LEDs, which light our trailer very, very nicely. We don't even have AC lights.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:58 AM   #8
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The DOT lighting should NOT be wired to the converter or the house battery, they are to be controlled and supplied from the TV. I would not use a frame ground but rather a common isolated ground back to the plug at the TV.
Regards; Floyd


Oops, Floyd, you are absolutely correct. My bad! Got my wires tangled up.

DOT lights are controlled by the tug. Cabin lights and 12V accessories can be run back to the converter.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:33 AM   #9
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I appreciate all of the input from everyone.

PeterH - some of the reasons I was thinking of eliminating the converter is, it is not a charger, and I don't have anyting in the egg that requires 12v. There is no water pump, fan or heater.

Others have the thought that I may at some point add a water pump, fan or something else 12v - that makes a lot of sense to me and I will have to think on that. (Thinking is so hard to do, sometimes!)
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:23 PM   #10
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If you have no 12v appliances or lights, a converter is just dead weight.

That said, having a 12v setup gives you flexibility. With a working 12v system you can add 12v "Warm" white LEDs that put out a much nicer light than the little battery operated units, and you can add a water pump and Maxx/Fantastic fan.

Perhaps you don't want those things now, but will you still feel that way later? Your best option might be to pre-wire your trailer for 12v in case you change your mind. Run a pair of (one black & one white) 12-gauge stranded wire all the way around the floor at the outer edge of your camper, put a 3" diameter (10" of wire) loop of "slack line" at each corner of your trailer and midway down each side (so you have points you can connect to later), and separate pairs of wire with a loop of slack at each end up your trailer wall to ceiling level, plus one run all the way to the roof vent. Glue a 1/4" nut to the fiberglass next to the end of the wire loop so you can find it with a magnet if you ever decide you want 12v lights or a fan later without having to tear the walls or cabinetry up.
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:48 PM   #11
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PeterH- that's a great idea! Iwill use that
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:07 PM   #12
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It is my personal opinion that most DOT lighting problems are from a bad ground.

Some people rely on the hitch and hitch ball to supply ground to the DOT lighting system and this is wrong. The DOT lighting system should have the frame of both the tow vehicle and trailer as a ground in addition to the actual ground running from the connector to the DOT light.

This way, should something happen to the primary ground, you may be saved by the hitch and ball being in contact and providing an additional ground.

Should you take a look at your battery on the tow vehicle, you will notice that the negative side of the battery is attached to a metal part of the vehicle which ultimately provides ground to all the metal body parts and frame and this same procedure should be used on your trailer.

By the way, when I wired my DOT lights to ground, I ran one ground buss inside the camper and attached all grounds to it and I ran each end of the buss to the frame.

DOT Lights: Always coat the connectors on the bulbs with a dielectric grease prior to inserting in the (Clean) receptacle. This keeps the contacts from corroding.
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