Almost had an electrical fire!!
Two summers ago on our 2005 Jay Feather LGT 27P, we began to notice a slight chemical smell in our camper. At the time I couldn't figure out what the source was.
Later we went camping for a long weekend and it was hot. We were running the living crap out of the air conditioning. We were at a state park with a 30 amp plug-in. Again we started getting a slight odor and could not figure out where it was coming from. I guessed it was toilet chemical or maybe the camper's materials giving off odors due to the hot weather.
Then finally a big clue, the main circuit breaker tripped in the camper's load center. When I went to reset it the CB, IT WAS HOT!!! In fact it was so hot the plastic on the breaker box was soft. I turned off the AC, the water heater and plugged the 12v power converter and fridge directly into the campsite's plug-in box using extension cords.
After getting home I pulled the load center and was in for quite a shock. The side of the plastic box had a hole melted through and the edge of the wooden cabinet was blackened/scorched. All the 110v common/neutral wires connected to the gang/buss bar had the insulation melted and one the copper wires was even melted in two. I figured before I made repairs, I'd better figure out what the cause was.
I came up with a few possible causes:
1) Continued, combined electrical load of AC, power converter, water heater and fridge exceeded the 110v 30 amp electrical system's capacity.
--Not likely since the odor was noted prior to that weekend and if the combined load was excessive, the main CB would have tripped sooner.
2) The common/neutral wire for the camper's main power cord was attached to the bottom end lug of the common gang/buss bar. That means 100% of the combined electric current flow was passing through the narrow area on the buss bar between the 1st and 2nd attachment positions. That could generate a great deal of heat which would transfer to the copper of the electrical wire and potentially melting the wire insulation.
3) Some sort of an assembly or manufacturing issue like a loose connector or lug screw in the load center. BTW, the wiring was not neat and orderly. It was pretty much "stuffed" into the 110v portion of the load center box.
4) A voltage drop at the state park due to high AC usage in the RV's in the campground.
I was able to locate and obtain an identical load center box. There was enough extra length of the romex electrical wiring where I could cut off the bad portions and still have adequate length to effect repairs.
The first potential problem I fixed was to connect the common/neutral lead of the main power cord to a buss bar position in the center of the bar. This would split the electric load over a wider area of the buss so in no one spot of the bar will the entire total electrical load pass through.
Next I was very very careful to route the wiring inside the load center in a neat and orderly manner like that inside of a residential circuit breaker box. As it was everything was a birds nest of wires like everything was just stuffed inside.
Then I set up the air conditioning to run off its own power cord. I bought a 20 amp shore cord male plug-in like used in a marine application. I removed the tie bar for the circuit breakers from the load center and separated the lugs for the bottom two breaker positions. The bottom circuit breaker position was unused. I removed the blocking plate and installed another circuit breaker. With the bottom two breakers separated from the others, I ran a heavy gauge romex cabling from the 20 amp shore cord plug-in to the top breaker which is connected in series to the bottom breaker which supplies 110v power to the air conditioning. I purchased a heavy 10 gauge 20 amp extension cord for use with the air conditioning.
I thought about separating the air conditioning from the main trailer circuit before hand. When you go camping and use a camp site with electrical hook-ups, it will be a 15/20 amp outlets, 30 amp outlet box or a 50 amp outlet box.
If you only have a 15/20 amp outlet, you do no have adequate power to run everything on your RV including your air conditioning. You will have to manage or ration what you want to run on 110v and what to run on gas (fridge & water heater)
If you have a 30 amp outlet box, EVERY one I have ever seen has a 30 amp outlet and 15/20 amp outlets on the same outlet box. That will allow me to run the 20 amp for the air conditioning off the 15/20 amp outlet and run it separately from the other appliances which run off the 30 amp main system in the camper.
As for the possibility of a voltage drop in the campground, I purchased a plug-in volt meter so I can monitor for that condition in the future.
So overall, I don't know for sure what caused the near fire in my camper. But with the fixes, changes and modifications I've made I think I've taken measures to positively prevent it from happening again.
BTW, when we ordered our new 2013 Eagle 28BHS, I gave the melted breaker box to our dealer so he can show it to the Jayco rep.
FAA A&P mechanic, ex-RV dealer parts dept
Retired B-52 Gunner/Flight Examiner, B-52 Crew Chief
2016 Jayco Eagle HT 29.5 FBDS w/ 15,000 BTU AC, 50 amp service, upgraded counter top, thermal pane windows, elec. stab jacks, outside grill, backup camera and MORryde pin box.
2011 GMC 2500HD DURAMAX/ ALLISON