Totally clueless newbie - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-28-2017, 04:58 PM   #1
AKS
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Name: Amanda
Trailer: 1977 Boler '13
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Totally clueless newbie

Does anyone know of any good 'wiring for dummies' resources? My Boler has 20amp (?) power. I know nothing, but I need to learn! My reading lamp wires are not working, nor does the porch light or exterior outlet. I would love to figure out how to fiddle with these things, especially the reading lights. Those of you who have learned, tell me your ways! I could get a local guy to look at it eventually, just not in the current budget so I would love to see how far I can get alone. I am pretty handy and a quick learner. I guess my more specific questions would be - how do I know what kind of system I have? This is impossible to Google, since I get no results for "theres a black box with switches and wires under my sink" secondly, how does one "rewire" or run new/replacement wires? How do I know where the "problem" is, at a junction (where two wires are connected in a plastic cap, is that correct term?) or the wire, or some other issue? I actually think the wires are not even connected to the black box currently. They come through the cabinet and meet under and run through the metal tube. I realize this is a terrible thread, but any help is much appreciated...seriously, any at all!
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:32 PM   #2
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12 volts DC and 110 AC

Basic is two different systems in the camper. One is the 12 Volt Direct current (DC) and the other is 110 volts Alternating current (AC) Don't know how basic to go, but if you want to read some things, I would start with wikipedia on basic wiring. there are a number of books out there, but I would start with the free stuff. 12 V DC is like the car stuff, 110 V AC is the house stuff. They come together in the camper since they are both used at different times. The 12 V DC to the break lights, turn signals, etc. are usually a part of the tow vehicle connection. Most campers also have that system charge a battery that runs a few lights, perhaps the water pump, and perhaps a fridge. In addition there is a connection for running 110 V AC that you plug in when in a campground (shore power) and that also may run things in the camper, like lights, heater, charger for battery, A/C etc. What may be a little confusing is the difference in the wire size and color between the two systems. Once you are familier with the two systems, you can begin tracing out what is the power for the lights that are not working, and then where does the power come from, and the possible places that it breaks down.

Then you are one the way to fixing it, and there are a lot of people here who can help. Remember -- Pictures Help!
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:35 PM   #3
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What I should have also ask -- is the reading lamp 12V or 110V? It could be either, but the outlet is 110. Check in the box to see if a breaker is tripped, that might be the case -- or if the ground fault system tripped, those are easy fixes. reset them and see if that helps.
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:57 PM   #4
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Rule number one, whatever you do, is safety. Don't be afraid to do what you can so safely, but NEVER do what might be unsafe. If you don't know that its safe, then its not.
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:40 PM   #5
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I would suggest that you don't try to mess with electrical systems. As Gordon say safety is important. Messing with electrical systems without full knowledge is NOT safe. My biggest worry is fires. Just because 12 Volts won't shock you doesn't mean it's safe to mess with. People will weld with just a 12 volt battery.
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:46 PM   #6
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Eric THANK YOU! This is helpful. I don't think I have a battery, do I have to? Surely I would know where it was. So I have both types, AC and DC. That was very confusing to me when reading posts! The reading lights are labeled 12V. Is that the problem? I am now seeing what you mean...because it could be shared with the outlet, so maybe it needed to be 110? I really really appreciate it!

Gordon and Byron - thanks for the reminder! I definitely plan to do nothing more than maybe replace a faulty connection or wire, no adding new pieces or anything! I appreciate the point, I am so new I hadn't thought about it enough!
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Old 08-28-2017, 11:17 PM   #7
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If you have 12V systems -- like a light, there generally is a battery usually in a case of some sort. If you look in the cabinet where the wires terminate, you might find a box with one in. In a cabinet you might also find a steel box, which has a front that you can open, and will have 2 or 3 circuit breakers, and you might find one is slightly offset from the other, this usually marks it as tripped. If you flip it off, then back on that will reset it. In ground fault outlets, you can push the "test" button, and it will pop out the circuit breaker. You then need to push the reset button to get it active again. If you have the steel box, it usually means you also have a converter, which will mean that it will charge the battery. If you can't find a battery, but do find a empty plastic box with 2 heavy cables coming in, it probably means that the Previous Owner (PO) took it out because it probably was not holding a charge any longer.
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Old 08-29-2017, 03:39 AM   #8
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Hi Amanda, I'm a lifelong dedicated DIYer and after 65 years I've only called in the cavalry (help) 3 or 4 times. Growing up around RVs and having friends in every area of building including air planes (no rockets though ), I have to agree with Gordon & Byron. As you stated you have no experience nor knowledge of what you're asking info on it seems very risky to me for you to do anything at this point. Everyone starts the learning curve on X at some point and this looks like your time . Just a couple suggestions for you. Are there any neighbors around you that have RVs that you could ask to give you a basic rundown of how things work, give you locations of the battery, converter, tanks and such? If not, call an RV shop, supply, repair or sales to see if you can bring it by to get a working tour of how it supposed to work. An egg is no different than a stick built for how it works. A 6 pack may be an icebreaker for that too . Have someone put eyeballs on what YOUR TT has or doesn't before you do anything. OK, off the soap box now. Let us know how it goes for you.
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Old 08-29-2017, 05:03 AM   #9
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give us some pictures, of the black box, of the light fixtures, under each bench or cupboard where you see wires with nothing connected.

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Old 08-29-2017, 07:44 AM   #10
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To admit you're clueless is a good place to start. Underestimating your skills is far better then overestimating. I believe I've read something like a third of all RV fires are caused by faulty 12V wiring.

Everyone has to start somewhere. You could ask someone to help, but without some reliable basic information, it's hard to evaluate whether that person is even competent. There are plenty of shade tree hacks out there.

I'm wondering if there is a good beginner's manual out there on RV 12V systems, something written in plain English for non-professionals, but thorough and code-compliant. A quick search turned up a number of titles on Amazon. Can anyone recommend a good one?
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Old 08-29-2017, 10:17 AM   #11
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12 V Sytems Info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
To admit you're clueless is a good place to start. Underestimating your skills is far better then overestimating. I believe I've read something like a third of all RV fires are caused by faulty 12V wiring.

Everyone has to start somewhere. You could ask someone to help, but without some reliable basic information, it's hard to evaluate whether that person is even competent. There are plenty of shade tree hacks out there.

I'm wondering if there is a good beginner's manual out there on RV 12V systems, something written in plain English for non-professionals, but thorough and code-compliant. A quick search turned up a number of titles on Amazon. Can anyone recommend a good one?
This covers just about all you need to know about 12V. Here's Part 1 of 2. There's a link at the end of this one for Part 2. Lots to learn.

The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
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Old 08-29-2017, 10:21 AM   #12
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When I was in trade school ( Pre Apprenticeship) studying to be an electrician we used a book from Delmar .
It was pretty basic , with code references and lots of pictures and diagrams.
Talk to someone who is a trained licensed electrician and have
him / her explain things and can inspect your work.
I was an electrician for over 40 years and I still had to have my work inspected . A second set of eyes looking over your work is always a good idea .

Remember wired to code just means it met the minimum standard and does not mean the installation is adequate for the intended purpose.
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Old 08-29-2017, 01:24 PM   #13
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Most of what is done with electrical connections is basic common sense. Shut off the source before working on something, make sure connections are correct, (double check) then turn things back on. Finding the basic information is often the difficult thing, but you won't be doing a lot of the complicated stuff, just basic -- make sure the connections are tight, use the right size wire, and think everything through. For most stuff you will encounter, you will be fine with careful work. Knowing that you knowledge base is limited, simply means you read more, think more, and look closer. I've done electrical stuff since I was a kid, never had "formal" training. While there are a lot of things I wouldn't tackle, I have rewired my house. It was inspected, and everything was good. Code differs by area, even within a county, and that is the thing you really have to know for most stuff. Read, learn, and don't be afraid to get info, and tackle the stuff you know. You can do it!
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Old 08-29-2017, 01:43 PM   #14
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If you can make it, King of the Wild Frontier Fiberglass Egg Rally Come join us for a few days of relaxing camping and fellowship in beautiful eastern Tennessee. We will be meeting at David Crocket Birthplace State campground October 11th - 15th. You would get more instruction, advice, and help than you could absorb.
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Old 08-29-2017, 02:07 PM   #15
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I would have to agree with the previous posts, SAFETY FIRST!
Some years ago I was boondocking in the back country. The guy camped next to me had his unit lit up like a Christmas tree. Said he installed the lights himself. Then we saw the smoke pouring out his windows!
Most trailers have three electrical systems. One, a 12 volt DC system is for the running lights while the unit is being towed. It is powered by the tow vehicle.
The second is also a 12 volt DC system that operates the lights etc. inside the unit. It is powered by an RV battery and/or the tow vehicle. It may incorporate solar panels, an inverter etc.
The third system is likely 110 volt AC for use when shore power is available. It allows for use of AC appliances like a toaster, coffee pot etc. It will charge your RV battery and operate your AC, microwave oven etc.
Anyone can check the breakers, fuses and bulbs.Unless you know what you're doing it is likely best that you don't work on the circuits.
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Old 08-29-2017, 04:42 PM   #16
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My 77 scamp didn't have a place for a battery. All power for the two 12 volt lights was supplied by the 7 pin plug to the tow vehicle. Once I wired a 7 pin bargman plug into the tow vehicle and replaced the 4 pin plug on the trailer that previous owner had spliced on I had lights but only if hooked to the tow vehicle and plugged into it's battery.

http://www.replicasuper.com/wp-conte...as-picture.jpg

This one shows the typical 4 pin flat and the 7 blade RV or bargman plugs.
https://www.rvupgradestore.com/v/vsp...images/z11.jpg

The red #4 plug connector is 12 volt positive that powered my lights. I have since had angle iron supports for a battery box welded to my tongue. This combined with a battery isolator allows charging the "house" battery while driving but won't allow the house to run down the vehicle battery.

Good fuse or circuit breaker placement makes for a much safer camper. And ground fault circuit protection on the AC or shore power. Although there is a more advanced version of GFI now available I think it is called GFCI. Those would be the plugs by sinks or in a bedroom of a house that keep you from getting killed by a short circuit. Doesn't work because it pops fuse or circuit breaker beats works but burned down my camper.

Most people if they ask around will find they know someone that has some electrical experience. If they have a meter and some idea of how to use it to test the circuits that is an encouraging sign. Working through this stuff with a mentor is very helpful. And I think you will find there are some very knowledgeable people on this forum to offer guidance. Pictures and specific questions will help them help you.


I'm not a newbie but I still find it prudent to either enquire here or bug the family member that is a journeyman electrician. Better safe than sorry, but well worth the effort to learn and do what you can.
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Old 08-29-2017, 08:43 PM   #17
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When I was a newbie I found the easiest to learn from and most helpful was watching videos on youtube. A lot of the RV suppliers put out great videos that teach you how to trouble shoot different aspects as well as teaching basics such as how your refrigerator is turned off and on, how to dump waste tanks and fill up the water. What the electrical hookup are, how to hook up tow and park a trailer, how to change the tire, grease the wheel bearings and so on including how to use a multimeter for testing electrical issues. Youtube university, a newbies best friend because seeing it done is much easier to understand that just reading about it
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Old 08-29-2017, 10:13 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKS View Post
Does anyone know of any good 'wiring for dummies' resources? My Boler has 20amp (?) power. I know nothing, but I need to learn! My reading lamp wires are not working, nor does the porch light or exterior outlet. I would love to figure out how to fiddle with these things, especially the reading lights. Those of you who have learned, tell me your ways! I could get a local guy to look at it eventually, just not in the current budget so I would love to see how far I can get alone. I am pretty handy and a quick learner. I guess my more specific questions would be - how do I know what kind of system I have? This is impossible to Google, since I get no results for "theres a black box with switches and wires under my sink" secondly, how does one "rewire" or run new/replacement wires? How do I know where the "problem" is, at a junction (where two wires are connected in a plastic cap, is that correct term?) or the wire, or some other issue? I actually think the wires are not even connected to the black box currently. They come through the cabinet and meet under and run through the metal tube. I realize this is a terrible thread, but any help is much appreciated...seriously, any at all!
The battery could be inside a door on the outside of the trailer. You have to have a battery to have 12V lights, run the fridge on propane if you have one, run the water pump if you have one, etc. Look for a fuse box or converter. There should be fuses in it and one could be blown. We've had some that looked good but didn't work. Ask a friend or neighbor for help especially if they have an RV of some kind.
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Old 08-31-2017, 02:38 PM   #19
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Name: Amanda
Trailer: 1977 Boler '13
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Thanks for the replies!! I took some photos. I'm still not convinced I have any 12V power other than the trailer lights when connected to my car. The main power uses would be the fridge and the a/c. Neither work when not connected to shore power. I have no water pump and the propane was disconnected years ago. From the pics my main questions are - what is the black box? There are 3 switches, are they fuses like in a house kind of? Is there a difference between the two together and the third?

Y'all are the best! I appreciate so much the thoughtfulness, patience and kindness in this forum. Truly rare on the internet these days
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Old 08-31-2017, 02:39 PM   #20
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The last photo shows the wiring going into the cabinets where I installed the lights that aren't working.
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