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Daniel the Texan 12-05-2016 12:48 PM

Trouble shooting DC Electrical problems
 
Hi all,

I'm new to this forum and to the world of travel trailers. I just bought my first trailer, a UHAUL ct-13 and I am trying to diagnose my electrical problems. I've been reading alot, but still pretty over my head. Anyways here is where I've gotten.

First, when plugged into AC power, the 110V outlet works, but none of the house appliances work which makes me think the converter is shot.

Second, I put in a new deep cycle battery (tested with analogue multimeter reads fully charged 13v), but still none of the house appliances work. I then checked the fuses and replaced one that was blown, still nothing. With the battery plugged in, I checked the voltage going to the fuse box and the voltage from where the wires are attached to the fuse box for each circuit and got a voltage reading (around 8-10v). Is that low? Should it be 12? So that makes me think there is power going out to the appliances, but still nothing works. Could be that each one of the circuits has bad wiring, but the likelihood of that seems slim? Also strange, I left one fuse for the vent fan out and got voltage readings from the other circuits, but when I put a 20 amp fuse (it requires a 6 amp fuse I think just didn't have one), I got no readings from the other circuits at all....completely stumped.

Any ways sorry for the long posts. Any thoughts out there?

steve dunham 12-05-2016 02:57 PM

First thing , the standard receptacles in your trailer are 120 VAC.
The lights in your trailer are 12 VDC. The 12 VDC system in your trailer is separate from the 120 VAC system . In other words your 120 VAC receptacles can work and your 12 VDC appliances may not or your 12 VDC may work and your 120 VAC may or may not .
Your 12 VDC circuits should work whether you are connected to shore power or not.
If you have 13 VDC at the battery , you should have 13 VDC at the converter / fuse terminals , if the battery is properly connected.
Is the battery properly connected , correct polarity , terminal connection tight , fuse between battery and converter / DC fuses good ?
With the battery disconnected and the trailer connected to 120 VAC shore power is the converter putting out approx 13 VDC.
The 12 VDC loads in your trailer should work off the battery or the converter ( Assuming you have a converter)

mary and bob 12-05-2016 06:44 PM

Does your trailer have the original orange box power converter. If so, it may be bad. Ours would drain the battery. I replaced it with a modern converter that has a smart charger for charging the battery, a dozen 12 volt circuits, and space for some 110 breakers.

Byron Kinnaman 12-05-2016 08:48 PM

Safety rule no. 1. If you don't understand electricity and wiring, take it to somebody that does.
Safety rule no. 2. See No. 1
Safety rule no 3. See no. 1

Just because 12 VDC won't shock you doesn't mean it's perfectly safe to mess with. See Safety run no. 1.

Daniel the Texan 12-05-2016 09:22 PM

Thanks for all the advice and words of caution. I didn't know much about wiring until about two days ago, but I'm learning and moving slowly.

First thing, my trailer does have the original red converter box with Uhaul printed on the cover. My guess is that it is dead because none of the DC appliances run when plugged into shore power. That being said, I haven't checked it out with the multimeter yet and will do so tomorrow. I plan on charging the battery with solar, so really I don't really care about the converter for now.

Upon tightening the connections at the battery, I found I did have 12v of power at the fuse terminals and all the fuses are good, so I know there is power going out of the fuse box. I guess the next thing is to move further down the line and see where the power stops.

Its just hard for me to believe that all the circuits individually faulty, but then again the trailer seems to have sat around in disuse for some time. Also anyone know anything about all the minute circuitry in the lights. I just look at it and feel my brain exploding.

mary and bob 12-05-2016 09:43 PM

did you check for good connections and continuity on the negative side of the circuits. Before I replaced the converter I tossed the original and saved the fuse panel to operate lights off the battery. Used a battery charger to recharge the battery. Did not use 110 power at that time

Gerry 12-06-2016 05:12 AM

Just a sugestion, Try takeing out one fuse at a time, for the 12 VDC and checking things out. You may have one appliance that is bad (ie bad motor in a fan).
Electricity can bite when on shore power so be careful.
#1 death of a Plumber is Electricution.... not drowning.

Daniel the Texan 12-06-2016 10:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gerry (Post 618943)
Just a sugestion, Try takeing out one fuse at a time, for the 12 VDC and checking things out. You may have one appliance that is bad (ie bad motor in a fan).
Electricity can bite when on shore power so be careful.
#1 death of a Plumber is Electricution.... not drowning.

Not quite sure I understand. Could one bad appliance cause the other appliances to fail as well?

steve dunham 12-06-2016 10:46 AM

Make sure you have 12 VDC at the converter.
Pull the DC fuses making sure you note size and position
Turn on the DC loads in your trailer
Place voltmeter on DC volts.
Place one probe of the voltmeter on one side of DC fuses holder
Place other probe of the voltmeter on the other side of the DC fuse holder.
The meter should show approx 12 VDC
If the meter shows 12 VDC you have a complete circuit.
If the meter shows 0 VDC then the circuits are open
( Bad lamps , bad switches, broken / disconnected wires,
bad connections , no negative DC connection , bad lamps ETC
As Byron pointed out , if you lack the knowledge and are confused. ( Brain Exploding -- your words )
, it may be time to admit you are lost and find someone who understands the system .The wiring in a trailer is very basic and is not complicated .

Daniel the Texan 12-06-2016 11:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by steve dunham (Post 618977)
Make sure you have 12 VDC at the converter.
Pull the DC fuses making sure you note size and position
Turn on the DC loads in your trailer
Place voltmeter on DC volts.
Place one probe of the voltmeter on one side of DC fuses holder
Place other probe of the voltmeter on the other side of the DC fuse holder.
The meter should show approx 12 VDC
If the meter shows 12 VDC you have a complete circuit.
If the meter shows 0 VDC then the circuits are open
( Bad lamps , bad switches, broken / disconnected wires,
bad connections , no negative DC connection , bad lamps ETC
As Byron pointed out , if you lack the knowledge and are confused. ( Brain Exploding -- your words )
, it may be time to admit you are lost and find someone who understands the system .The wiring in a trailer is very basic and is not complicated .

Haha, why is everyone telling me to give up?

I agree the wiring in the trailer is pretty basic, but to a newb it can be overwhelming. I'm stubborn though and am determined to figure this out (also I don't have the budget to pay an electrician).

Upside of this, is that I am beginning to get a pretty good grasp of the system, and by the end of this will hopefully be able to do basic fixes myself.

A small victory, I did manage to get one of my lights to work, and gosh that felt good! So since I am getting 12v coming out from the fuse box, I guess that the fault must be in each individual circuit (wiring, switch or appliance).

Also I got connectivity for the other light above the closet but no power. How can this be?

Gerry Kiernan 12-06-2016 12:00 PM

Check from the positive terminal of the battery back to the frame to ensure you have a good ground.If a good ground is not indicated check from the negative post of the battery to the frame to see that there is continuity. Then, check from the positive side of each appliance to ground to ensure you are getting 12/13 volts to each appliance. Then, check from the negative or ground side of each appliance to ensure you have continuity, and the ground wires are all intact. If all fuses are good, all positive connections are good, and all grounds are good, the battery should supply 12 volts to the appliances, even if the converter is dead. With the converter plugged in check for 110 volts into it. Then check for 12 volts out from it.The battery may have to be disconnected for this check, as battery power should feed through the converter circuits under normal circumstances.
In most cases only the lights, furnace, water pump, and any other 12 volt appliances all operate on 12 volts. Usually only the 110 volt outlet plugs will be 110 volts.
In most cases, if you have a good battery, the problem will be with a bad ground.

steve dunham 12-06-2016 12:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daniel the Texan (Post 618989)
Haha, why is everyone telling me to give up?

I agree the wiring in the trailer is pretty basic, but to a newb it can be overwhelming. I'm stubborn though and am determined to figure this out (also I don't have the budget to pay an electrician).

Upside of this, is that I am beginning to get a pretty good grasp of the system, and by the end of this will hopefully be able to do basic fixes myself.

A small victory, I did manage to get one of my lights to work, and gosh that felt good! So since I am getting 12v coming out from the fuse box, I guess that the fault must be in each individual circuit (wiring, switch or appliance).

Also I got connectivity for the other light above the closet but no power. How can this be?

What is "connectivity "
I am a licensed electrician , have been for over 45 years.
I have tried to be of help as have many others.
At this point , I can see that I can be of no further help / use to you.
I wish you luck and hopefully success.

mary and bob 12-06-2016 12:27 PM

IF the wiring is original in your Uhaul (big if at this age of the trailer) there will be only one 110 receptacle and it will have a mini push button breaker on it. As I recall, the interior light wiring went back to a post on the fuse panel which was then connected to the battery, or to a post on the battery box that connected to the battery. The battery box should have a gasket on the top and be vented to the outside.

Daniel the Texan 12-06-2016 12:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by steve dunham (Post 618992)
What is "connectivity "
I am a licensed electrician , have been for over 45 years.
I have tried to be of help as have many others.
At this point , I can see that I can be of no further help / use to you.
I wish you luck and hopefully success.

Sorry I meant continuity not connectivity. I will test the fuse connections like you advised when I get home. I really do appreciate you and everyone else for trying to help me and I hope I didn't give you the impression otherwise. Best.

Kevin A 12-06-2016 12:57 PM

Sorry if you've already checked this, but are you sure your lights, fan, etc., actually work? Sometimes a bulb looks good but still won't light. I've spent an hour or two trying to fix a circuit only to find out I had a "phantom" bad bulb. Having worked on the wiring for our UHaul VT for 9 years, I know your frustrations!

stevebaz 12-06-2016 01:18 PM

No one was born an electrician. Everyone of them had to learn it. They also have to keep on top of all the changes that go with being an electrician. They are mortal just like the rest of us. What they can learn you can learn too. It just takes the time and the will.

Unfortunately they are also taught to be responsible and not to be held liable so you don't get much help from them regarding their trade. I took electrician 1,2,3, at my local JR college and it has helped me get through life without the use of an electrician but I am not an electrician nor would I want to be.

The information is out there if you look for it and you can learn it but never ask for free help from a trade professional you will get nothing but excuses about why its too dangerous for you to delve into even though the first time they ventured in they also had no experience.

These 2 books have very good information that I have used to further my studies. I buy lots and lots of books.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/rv-r...clickid=3x3485

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/mari...clickid=3x2988

Darwin Maring 12-06-2016 01:28 PM

If you dont know what you are doing concerning electricity and Gas, you need to pay someone who does to fix it. It keeps you safe and alive.

steve dunham 12-06-2016 02:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by stevebaz (Post 619000)
No one was born an electrician. Everyone of them had to learn it. They also have to keep on top of all the changes that go with being an electrician. They are mortal just like the rest of us. What they can learn you can learn too. It just takes the time and the will.

Unfortunately they are also taught to be responsible and not to be held liable so you don't get much help from them electrician but I am not an electrician nor would I want to be.

The information is out there if you look for it and you can learn it but never ask for free help from a trade professional you will get nothing but excuses about why its too dangerous for you to delve into even though the first time they ventured in they also had no experience.

These 2 books have very good information that I have used to further my studies. I buy lots and lots of books.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/rv-r...clickid=3x3485

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/mari...clickid=3x2988

Not necessarily true . I went to school full time for 2 full years before I started my 4 year electrical apprenticeship or picked up the tools.
I spent 8300 hours on the job and 1600 hours in night school before I was allowed to take the test for my state journeyman's electrical license and then I had to take an 8 hour exam to get my union journeyman's card. During my apprenticeship I was required to work under the direct supervision of a licensed journeyman.
Now as a journeyman / master electrician , I am required to take continuing education classes to maintain my license . Even though I hold an electrical license ( Master or Journeyman) , I am still required to pull a permit and have my work inspected by a state licensed electrical inspector
As a licensed electrician by law , I assume legal responsibility when I instruct people in how to install wiring.
I am under no obligation to train anyone in the art of installing / repairing electrical systems and jeopardize my livelihood / family.
If you believe that you can learn to be an electrician by reading Wiki than go for it
I tried to help the OP and soon realized he was in over his head.
A smart man knows what he doesn't know !!

getaway1 12-06-2016 04:25 PM

Troubleshooting DC Electrical problems
 
Hi most inverters just pass the 110v directly through to the outlets. The 12v circuits are stepped down and rectified to DC as in a battery charger. 9 times out of 10 the issue is the ground side of the 12v circuit due to corrosion . I assume you have tried the 110v items with your house current to verify they are working OK. They may be the culprit ! Anything can cause the outlets to fail, even just age and dirty connections. Check each thing one at a time and the problem will show eventually. Make a little check list and follow it through each area. You can buy a circuit tester that senses a voltage through the wire insulation, it emits a sound if voltage is present in 110v circuit. Sure beats getting a shock! 12v testers are available too they emit a sound as well! Apply a good source of 12v to each appliance to see if they are Ok. Some are polarity sensitive items such as a LED light. They will not work if the + & - leads are backwards. Hope this helps you some and do be careful 110v can kill you instantly. Gook luck and ask more questions here if you aren't sure what to do . Be safe ! Duane

Sandy Beck 12-07-2016 11:18 AM

I had similar problems 2ith my Scamp. Inside electrical didn't work . And my new brake system would not work. Installers at Radco would not look at it. They claimed they only installed the hitch and brakes, didn't " adjust" anything. I got a referral to an RV repair mechanic nearby. They kept my rig 2 days, charged me $375, and only got the brakes to work, said they were not grounded. They said the other problem would take " a lot longer". I went to a fiberglass meetup in Bemidji Mn, where one of the guys there took less than 10 minutes to find the problem and fix it.
This is a common story for a person who knows nothing about electrical, especially female. It's like I'm wearing a red flag on my head saying " sucker here". I have read a lot online, but it's like reading Greek...I just don't get it.

Byron Kinnaman 12-07-2016 11:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by steve dunham (Post 619013)
Not necessarily true . I went to school full time for 2 full years before I started my 4 year electrical apprenticeship or picked up the tools.
I spent 8300 hours on the job and 1600 hours in night school before I was allowed to take the test for my state journeyman's electrical license and then I had to take an 8 hour exam to get my union journeyman's card. During my apprenticeship I was required to work under the direct supervision of a licensed journeyman.
Now as a journeyman / master electrician , I am required to take continuing education classes to maintain my license . Even though I hold an electrical license ( Master or Journeyman) , I am still required to pull a permit and have my work inspected by a state licensed electrical inspector
As a licensed electrician by law , I assume legal responsibility when I instruct people in how to install wiring.
I am under no obligation to train anyone in the art of installing / repairing electrical systems and jeopardize my livelihood / family.
If you believe that you can learn to be an electrician by reading Wiki than go for it
I tried to help the OP and soon realized he was in over his head.
A smart man knows what he doesn't know !!

The problem is professionals know what the negative possibilities and how easy it is to make a mistake that can cause something like a fire. The amateur doesn't know enough to know what can cause problems and maybe a loss of life.

Many amateurs take little bit of information and think they know it all, that's one of reason professionals don't like give out advice, including me.

Daniel the Texan 12-07-2016 12:02 PM

Thanks everyone again for the words of support and the words of caution. Moving forward, I went ahead and tested the switch on the inoperable light fixture and found that I had continuity with the switch in the off and on position, which makes me believe I have a bad switch. I also found that I had 12v of dc power. So theoretically shouldn't the light be on both in the off and on position?

Darwin Maring 12-07-2016 01:26 PM

Check both wires on the light. The one that is the return wire and the one that goes to the switch.

Check the continuity on the bulb to make sure it is good.

Check the connection at the very bottom of the bulb socket to make sure it is up high enough to contact the bottom contact of the bulb.

Screw the bulb in all the way.

Is the bulb an LED?

Barb and Alan 12-07-2016 07:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Daniel the Texan (Post 619111)
Thanks everyone again for the words of support and the words of caution. Moving forward, I went ahead and tested the switch on the inoperable light fixture and found that I had continuity with the switch in the off and on position, which makes me believe I have a bad switch. I also found that I had 12v of dc power. So theoretically shouldn't the light be on both in the off and on position?

First of all, ditto to what Darwin last said. Secondly, the number of "keep your hands of, get a professional to help" responses is somewhat astonishing and disappointing given the nature and large use of this forum. Sadly, many professionals take themselves way too seriously which is not helpful to legitimate DIYers. Just MHO. Thankfully my neighbor (architect and construction professional) gave me advice on constructing my barn despite the danger to myself and my horses if I did it wrong. :eek:

Glenn Baglo 12-07-2016 08:08 PM

A licensed electrician can lose his license and his living by giving advice. If you want help, pay him, and get it done properly.

Raz 12-08-2016 06:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deadhead517 (Post 619153)
.....'. Sadly, many professionals take themselves way too seriously which is not helpful to legitimate DIYers.

My wife had a tooth ache. My neighbor, a dentist, had the same attitude when I asked for some tips on pulling the tooth. Go figure. :shg

Gerry 12-08-2016 08:00 AM

I remember the days asking for advise and one of the big problems of asking advise on a spacific problem will get 100's of different answers and it will confuse the whole issue.
Many of these answers are pertinant and some are no brainers to one who has a bit of experiance with wireing but the technical answers can be over the top of a lay-persons head.
But this will lead the lay-person to learn alot (or and I suggest) to buy a book on basic Electrical of wireing trailers and see and read till you understand how it all works.
That way any and most problems that rise up you'll be able to repair.

Daniel the Texan 12-16-2016 08:02 PM

Thanks
 
Hi all,

Just wanted to let everyone know I sorted out my electrical woes (at least some of them) turns out I had faulty ballasts in the lights and a dead motor fan. Bypassed the ballasts to convert the lights to LED, and found a cheap motor replacement so I am good to go there. The swamp cooler and furnace are still inoperable, but I will get around to them by and by. Anyways, thanks everyone for the advice, support or caution. Best.


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