My scamp tripping the breaker at a campground - Fiberglass RV
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Old 07-12-2016, 09:50 AM   #1
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My scamp tripping the breaker at a campground

Hi guys. My scamp trips the breaker when I plug into land power at the campground. Tripped when I plugged into a land power at the last one as well, so that rules out one particular source.

Before this trip had it plugged into a gfc on the side of my house for weeks, no issues. I've checked a look at everything, no shorts that I see. My two 15a breakers in my box are off when I plug in. Fridge is off also. I have tools and a multimeter, can start removing things and debugging. Just curious, is there something different about land power at a campground versus my house?

Thanks in advance from custer, sd.
Dan

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Old 07-12-2016, 11:25 AM   #2
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It would seem that there is a short circuit somewhere in the trailer between the breakers and the plug on the end of the trailer's cord if the breaker in the CGs keep popping, and the trailer breakers are off.


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Old 07-12-2016, 02:08 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Curbfeeler View Post
Hi guys. My scamp trips the breaker when I plug into land power at the campground. Just curious, is there something different about land power at a campground versus my house?

Thanks in advance from custer, sd.
Dan

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Your house and your trailer have slightly different systems.
Your house has a hot or 2, a neutral, and a ground directly wired.

Your trailer has a hot, a neutral and an indirect ground. Your power, neutral and your ground come in and exit out your power cord. This is called a bonded system. Your trailer is not its own independant electrical circuit it is a branch circuit protected from the main circuits at your camp ground supplier.

It is just An imbalance of power going in and out the cord is probably where your issue is. The ground coming in through your power cord must continue to all your receptacle grounds same with the neutrals. Your power connects to the hot side of the breakers and then splits off to the hot side of each receptacle. Sharing a ground with the DC side in a trailer can cause GFI issues if not wired properly. There are codes in the NEC books on what is required for a trailer electrical system.
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Old 07-17-2016, 04:51 PM   #4
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Thanks Steve for the reply. I wasn't able to pull myself away from the hiking trails long enough to troubleshoot this while still at the campsite. Now that I'm home I plug into my gfci and no probs, power to both circuit breakers and fridge all good.

It hasn't worked at any campsite I've tried (three total) so I know there is an issue. Just can't very well debug unless I go to a campground to troubleshoot.

I did notice when I dug into the breaker box that the ground and commons were all tied to the same block. Kind of freaked me out until I was able to read on the Internet and see its normal.

Will update this when I have more info. I think the next step will be to head to a CG and remove the fridge and both breakers and put it all back one by one.

Dan

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Old 07-17-2016, 05:21 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Curbfeeler View Post
Thanks Steve for the reply. I wasn't able to pull myself away from the hiking trails long enough to troubleshoot this while still at the campsite. Now that I'm home I plug into my gfci and no probs, power to both circuit breakers and fridge all good.

It hasn't worked at any campsite I've tried (three total) so I know there is an issue. Just can't very well debug unless I go to a campground to troubleshoot.

I did notice when I dug into the breaker box that the ground and commons were all tied to the same block. Kind of freaked me out until I was able to read on the Internet and see its normal.

Will update this when I have more info. I think the next step will be to head to a CG and remove the fridge and both breakers and put it all back one by one.

Dan

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In a trailer panel the grounded conductor (neutral / white )
and the equipment grounding conductors ( bare or green ) go to separate terminal bus bars. They are supposed to be isolated from one another except at the main service. Tying a neutral conductor to a bus bar that is bonded to the trailer frame is creating a shock hazard. The neutral / white is a current carrying wire by design.
The equipment grounding conductor / bare does not normally carry current ,it is there for safety

Grounded conductors and grounding conductors are only allowed to be connected / bonded together at the service entrance not at a sub panel such as is in your trailer
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Old 07-17-2016, 07:32 PM   #6
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Hmm, my wiring is a mess... the three prong plug has a green, white, black, and the black goes to the breakers. The white is tied back to the green in the block.

They used red wire to extend some short runs so the whole thing is a mess. I have enough wire on hand to just pull this and re-do it all.

Dan

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Old 07-17-2016, 10:37 PM   #7
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Just found a thread that i thunk explains my issue. http://repairingyesterdaystrailers.yuku.com/topic/4476. They emphasize keeping the Commons away from the grounds, and the last post describes my exact issue. Instant trip of the gfci breaker.

I am going to pick up a new breaker box and separate the commons and grounds, then will double check that my box is grounded to the frame. Guessing this will solve my issue at the campgrounds and be safer in the long run besides.

Thanks to all for helping me figure this out. Will post pics of the updated wiring.

Dan

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Old 07-18-2016, 12:30 AM   #8
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Wow Dan, that pic is scary . I agree with starting over and not mixing colors.
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:39 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Curbfeeler View Post
Just found a thread that i thunk explains my issue. How To Wire A Load Center Correctly in Vintage Trailer Discussion Forum. They emphasize keeping the Commons away from the grounds, and the last post describes my exact issue. Instant trip of the gfci breaker.

I am going to pick up a new breaker box and separate the commons and grounds, then will double check that my box is grounded to the frame. Guessing this will solve my issue at the campgrounds and be safer in the long run besides.

Thanks to all for helping me figure this out. Will post pics of the updated wiring.

Dan

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Your trailer frame is not the grounding source for your panel
The equipment grounding conductor in the service cord is connected to your metal panel enclosure , branch circuit equipment grounding conductors and is also connected to the trailer frame. Just running a wire from the panel enclosure to the trailer frame bonds the panel to the frame but does not ground them.
It appears you do not really understand "Grounded " --"Grounding"--"Bonding" --"Neutral" -- "Equipment grounding conductor"
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Old 07-18-2016, 01:21 PM   #10
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Once you get the wiring straightened out in your trailer then I would also revisit the GFI in your house. Your trailer failing the GFI test at several campgrounds opens up the question why it didn't fail at home if there was a real problem. An improperly wired GFI is not protecting anyone.
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Old 07-18-2016, 03:22 PM   #11
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Which only begs the question...Is there a GFCI outlet at home when plugged in, or is it just a standard (non-protected) outlet? If it is not a GFCI, then it won't recognize a current imbalance and probably wouldn't trip.

But that being said, I agree, that many people (wrongfully) equate a system ground wire with a system bonding wire, and yes, they are different. Your GFCI will tell you so by tripping, (if you have one.) Electrical circuit grounds and appliance/frame bonds are not one and the same.
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Old 07-18-2016, 03:30 PM   #12
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I do have a gfci outlet on the outside of my house, yes. I don't know why it's not tripping when the campgrounds trip immediately. It's not a gfci breaker, just a store bought gfci-enabled drop-in box with a rain cover.

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Old 07-18-2016, 05:10 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Curbfeeler View Post
I do have a gfci outlet on the outside of my house, yes. I don't know why it's not tripping when the campgrounds trip immediately. It's not a gfci breaker, just a store bought gfci-enabled drop-in box with a rain cover.

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Newer GFCI receptacles are required to have a self testing function and if the GFCI fails the internal self test you cannot reset the GFCI
The older style GFCI did not have this self test function and you could reset the GFCI even if the GFCI was not functional and provided no ground fault protection.

There was a period of time several years ago when several of the big box home improvement stores were selling GFCI receptacles made in China that were just standard receptacles with a test / reset button on the front but the GFCI circuit board was missing.
The UL label on the GFCI was a forgery.
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Old 07-18-2016, 05:36 PM   #14
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Start with the easiest thing you can do for troubleshooting, a little plug in idiot light tester that cost under$10.00. Go to the hardware store and buy a 3 prong outlet tester. Get the one that will test GFCI. plug it in at your house and see what it reads. They test for 6 conditions with LED readout lights.

There is such a thing as coincidence such as running into 2 campgrounds that have receptacles not properly wired.

The tester is worth having around and you can take it with you on the road. You can check all the 110v outlets in your home and your RV.
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:33 PM   #15
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Once you get the wiring straightened out in your trailer then I would also revisit the GFI in your house. Your trailer failing the GFI test at several campgrounds opens up the question why it didn't fail at home if there was a real problem. An improperly wired GFI is not protecting anyone.
Depending on the age of the GFCI, it is possible that it will not trip for all faults. Older GFCIs only tripped with a hot to ground (or anywhere besides the neutral) fault. Newer ones added a neutral to ground fault detection circuit.

If you have a bad water heater element or 120v electric element in the refrigerator that faults to ground on the neutral end, this will trip a modern GFCI, but not an older one. Sorry, but I don't remember the date that the newer GFCI started to replace the older versions.

Since many do not have an account at RV.net, I'll add a copy of a post I made there on troubleshooting a GFCI problem:

"Actually, whether or not a neutral/ground fault will trip a GFCI depends on when it was made. The early GFCIs did not detect a neutral/ground fault - modern ones do.

The bottom line is that it should be possible to plug your RV into a GFCI protected receptacle without tripping it. If it trips, something is wrong, and it should be corrected. I know there are those that will give all kinds of reasons why it is OK, but it isn't.

If the fault is between a hot & the ground, it is fairly easy to find. Shut off all your secondary breakers, plug the RV into a GFCI receptacle & turn on the circuit breakers one at a time. If one of the breakers causes a trip of the GFCI, you have found the circuit causing the problem. Typical faults include moisture in a receptacle, a bad hot water or refer element, a bad appliance, or a loose connection (although a loose connection that causes a low resistance hot/ground fault should trip the breaker rather than the GFCI). If the problem circuit has individual appliances plugged into it, unplug all of them & plug them back in one at a time to identify the problem appliance.

If the campground GFCI trips with all the breakers off, you have a neutral/ground fault.

A neutral/ground fault is a bit more difficult to find because shutting of the breakers won't prevent the GFCI from tripping, so finding the circuit is more difficult. If your or anyone else has modified circuits in the RV, it is worth checking that the neutral & ground have not been intentionally combined anywhere in the RV. The only place the neutral should be tied to the ground is at the campground's service entrance. If you tie it in the RV, the campground (or home) GFCI will trip.

Ground/neutral faults can also happen unintentionally. Again, a failed hot water heater or refer element can cause a fault as well as water in a receptacle, a screw hitting a wire, etc. The problem is an RV will function normally with a neutral/ground fault when plugged into a non-GFCI receptacle. This may be why some feel there is nothing wrong. In a worst case situation, if the RV ground pin (or any part of the grounding system, RV or campground) fails, a neutral/ground fault will place the chassis & most metal in the RV at the neutral potential. This produces a shock hazard to any real ground such as the campground water pipe, the RV parked next to you, etc. It also causes another interesting problem - The neutral current is split between the neutral & the ground. Again, with a failed RV ground, you might receive a shock disconnecting your water line from the campground faucet!

Finding a ground/neutral fault involves digging into your breaker panel. If you are not comfortable doing this, leave it for an electrician. If you want to do it yourself, unplug the RV, make sure an inverter or generator is not powering the panel, and shut off all the breakers, including the main. Disconnect the neutrals (white wires) one at a time (don't include the main). With a neutral disconnected and all the breakers off, plug the RV into a GFCI receptacle. If it trips, the problem is not that neutral. Reconnect it, & try another. Eventually,you will find the neutral that, when disconnected, prevents the GFCI from tripping. Follow that neutral to identify the circuit, and check the circuit for the problem. Again, this may be more than a non-electrician wants to get into, but I don't know a better way to find the problem."
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:46 PM   #16
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Jon thank you for the complete follow up.
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Old 07-18-2016, 10:59 PM   #17
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Nice write up and description Jon.
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:20 PM   #18
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Check outlets with a plug tester that has a button for gfi operation. Late model GFIC receptacles have a led light on front corner and indicates power to receptacle by NECode
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Old 07-20-2016, 06:38 AM   #19
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Thanks all, this is great info.

Last night I bought a $4 grounding block and installed it using the included self tapping screws. I will wire it all back up tonight.



I will also grab one of those $10 testers and start using it any time I deal with home electrical. Long overdue purchase.

My gfci is less than a year old. I had my contractor drill the hole and install the box, but I wired it myself to a sub panel in the basement that had open spots for breakers. Something that occurred to me last night. At the 3 campgrounds where I've tripped gfci breakers, I've plugged my cord directly into the service. At home, the camper is too far away to reach, so I use an outdoor extension cord. Guess what, the ground is broken off... that explains why it doesn't trip, I think.

Anyway thanks all for this great info. I'll post a result once it's all wired up and works again.

Dan

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Old 07-20-2016, 08:34 AM   #20
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Do you have a 30 amp rated service power cord? I assume when you plug in at home you use a plug adapter.
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