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Old 10-06-2015, 07:15 AM   #1
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120 Volt Electrical Heads Up

When we purchased our used 23b the microwave oven was plugged into the cabinet face receptacle. When I was poking around inside the cabinets looking for water leaks/damage I discovered the microwave receptacle mounted underneath. I plugged the microwave oven into it. Everything worked fine... for 2 seasons.

Yesterday the microwave oven quit. I checked the "Micro" labelled breaker as ok, but cycled it off/on just in case. I then removed the drawer to access the under counter receptacle and wiggle the wires... that is a tried and true professional technique. No joy.

When I pulled the plug and moved it to the front receptacle everything fired up fine. I returned the plug to the dedicated microwave receptacle figuring on further testing in the morning.

A bit later curiosity got the best of me. I removed the single recessed screw in the power panel cover and popped the cover to check loose connections. As I put my screwdriver near the neutral bar I noticed a tiny spark. The microwave oven was again powered.

So... the entire problem was a loose neutral bar screw. Probably never properly tightened at the factory. All the other connection screws checked tight enough, but a couple of them did turn in a bit. Fortunately the copper wiring is more forgiving as to poor workmanship than would be aluminum.

The point of this post. If you are being bothered by intermittent power problems be certain that the panel connections get checked.

vic

P.S. - Always assure that the power is off before removing any power covers. I risked life and limb because my wife was watching the The Voice.
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Old 10-06-2015, 09:03 AM   #2
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Vic, An excellent catch!
Congrats and thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:24 AM   #3
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Actually, I think you should add this to your preventative maintenance list if you have one, and if you don't please start one. There are a number of electrical and battery tests you should do annually and every time before you hit the road.

Good preventative maintenance would have avoided this problem for you as it will do for a lot of issues.

Also, before wiggling wires and sticking a screw driver around, please turn off your source power and disconnect, before you apply those professionally tried and true methods of yours. "As I put my screwdriver near the neutral bar I noticed a tiny spark."

With all due respect and kindest.
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Old 10-06-2015, 11:26 AM   #4
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Verifying tightness of your breaker panel connections should be a regular thing on a checklist. Even the ones in a house come loose at times ant they are not rolling down the road.
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Old 10-06-2015, 01:17 PM   #5
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With all due respect and kindness.

From my original post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VicS1950 View Post
...

P.S. - Always assure that the power is off before removing any power covers. I risked life and limb because my wife was watching the The Voice.
Ok. I'll bite.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RodgerS View Post
Actually, I think you should add this to your preventative maintenance list if you have one, and if you don't please start one. There are a number of electrical and battery tests you should do annually and every time before you hit the road.
So you are suggesting that every electrical connection should be checked for tightness? Why stop at the panel? Every receptacle should be removed and tested?

Perhaps that sounds a bit overboard, as your "PM List" suggestion of including panel connections sounds to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RodgerS View Post
Good preventative maintenance would have avoided this problem for you as it will do for a lot of issues.
Again, how far do you take this? Are you suggesting that unqualified owners hire someone to do these checks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RodgerS View Post
Also, before wiggling wires and sticking a screw driver around, please turn off your source power and disconnect, before you apply those professionally tried and true methods of yours. "As I put my screwdriver near the neutral bar I noticed a tiny spark."

With all due respect and kindest.
Have you seen the design of the Cutler Hammer panel in my 23b? Actually there are very few exposed live parts. There are times when troubleshooting live systems provides feedback. I wasn't fumbling around willy nilly.

All the screwdrivers from my pouch have insulating sleeves on the shaft and plastic handles. I was visually inspecting the panel and testing the the neutral bar screws for tightness. The neutral bar is at 0 volts potential to ground. I was on a insulating vinyl floor working without touching any metal parts. The torque of my screwdriver caused the neutral bar to move, which changed the contact of the loose conductor to the neutral bar resulting in a tiny spark which I observed. A dead panel would not have provided that feedback.

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Originally Posted by norty1 View Post
Verifying tightness of your breaker panel connections should be a regular thing on a checklist. Even the ones in a house come loose at times ant they are not rolling down the road.
I have not seen that there are always new posts on RV forums related to loose panel connections constantly causing problems and needing re-tightening.

Any time I am in an electrical distribution panel I always run down the connector screws to verify tightness. Sometimes there are a few loose ones, but not always so my experience is that panel connections loosening is not an unavoidable eventual thing.

If you are qualified, then checking your connections on some regular basis may make sense. To get people nervous and worked up to the point that they would hire someone to do such a PM check... I haven't seen any data which supports that being necessary.

To me it is just fine to leave well enough alone until there are reasons to start checking things.

Just my opinion. vic
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Old 10-06-2015, 02:17 PM   #6
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There is a bit of an art to preventative maintenance, as well as lists and classes. The RVIA has a very good text on the subject.

How far one goes depends on ones knowledge and tools. One very good idea not commonly talked about, just to throw in an intriguing idea, is to have a laser thermometer and take a reading from each outlet while running a hair dryer from the outlet once a year. The value is that if a wire is loose, the outlet will probably be warmer or hotter than usual. Removing and testing every outlet every year doesn't make sense to me and I would not recommend it.

Actually, checking panel connections yearly for tightness and also looking at the coloring of the white wires to see if they are turning yellow or brown is an excellent preventative maintenance idea.

When I do extended warranty inspections I take a quick look at those wires. I also do hot skin testing since many owners want their motorhomes tested at their home. I have found owners using ungrounded home outlets and extension cords that were not rated high enough for their home hookups that caused a voltage drop to their motorhome components. Running their A/Cs on low voltage is a good way to damage their air conditioner, as one example.

I truly don't know you and wasn't there to watch you, but I responded to your writeup based on what you said. Often writers, including me, don't write clearly.

Actually, since I read a variety of forums, I have read about owners who never checked their electrical connections on their distribution panels and suffered major electrical damage as a result.

Similarly, many "newer" owners tend to not use surge and low voltage protection and some of them have also suffered major damage to their motorhome electrical systems.

Actually, I think it is very fair and reasonable for owners to access their motorhome technical knowledge. Some gain it after years of ownership experience and trial and error.

After my retirement I took quite a bit of classes, qualified as a registered technician and spend several months working at a rental RV dealership to get hands on experience. I have read far too many posts across forums from owners who suffer a lot of problems, but seem unwilling to expand their diy skills, and strive for simply fixes from fellow owners...sometimes appropriately.

Preventative maintenance is designed to help avoid problems and add life to various items in your motorhome. For example, draining an Atwood heater annually, to include the last 1 or 2 pints of fluid that often needs a flushing out rather than a simple draining out should add years of life to a water heater.

As to the electrical side, the RV is constantly subjected to something of the effect of regular earthquakes. So, that is why it usually pays to do things like checking grounds and distribution panels to be sure they are clean, dry, and tight. It also pays to use something like silicon dielectric on the appropriate connections as well.
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Old 10-06-2015, 02:30 PM   #7
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I probably should have added that a good multimeter, a simple plug in polarity tester, etc. are great tools for checking outlets. I took one set of leads and replaced it with a regular plug...what that does is turn my multimeter into a temporary voltage monitor. I also have a simple killawatt voltage reader as well that sometimes I use to monitor voltage or read voltage. Both ways are very positive and I tend to prefer that to pushing in leads for outlets.

Another great tool is a power probe III for 12vdc, but time to stop writing.
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:45 PM   #8
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I see we are going to stick with anecdotal evidence and not provide data.


That's ok. I can appreciate the value of experience.

I've been providing maintenance on commercial and industrial power distribution systems sine 1970. The systems included DC, 25 Hertz (2 phase and 3 phase), 60 Hertz, 400 Hertz and variable frequency systems as relates to furnacing operations, chemical processing, commercial office building, things like that. DC system voltages have ranged from 12 volts up to 250 volts. I have no high volt DC experience as to distribution, just as relates to some instrumentation. AC system voltages ranged from 120 to 230KV. If you want to swap stories about poor connection disasters I'd prefer to do so over a beer or three.

My experience in taking over poorly maintained systems was that the first couple years included fighting fires and fighting to get initial station PM shutdowns for my newly implemented maintenance schedules. At one plant I was told that they never did and wouldn't shut down any substations for anything 2300 volts or less because those were done hot. That tradition/SOP died a quick death when I took over.

At every facility after we successfully completed the first round of substation P.M. the schedule went to every 5 years. That provided excellent reliability even in a chemical plant environment.

So yes, a pre-purchase inspection which includes checking/tightning the distribution panel connections is an excellent idea. I can see some merit in perhaps a first 2 or 3 year verification being worth the money and effort. A yearly panel inspection? Nope. Not unless someone can provide some data.

Mentioning owners using undersized cords or doing other dumb stuff is a red herring. Panel inspections don't prevent that from being a problem. A typical general panel inspection will also not necessarily reveal a hot skin condition either.

As I said earlier, I don't think that it is productive to suggest maintenance schedules which are not cost effective. That is my point.

Just my anecdotal evidence and opinion. vic

P.S. - Your multimeter is likely not designed for, intended for, nor UL approved for continuous duty service.
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:57 PM   #9
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This feels like it has degenerated into a ******* contest. I'm just not interested. Cheers
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:12 PM   #10
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Nothing I have read indicated paying anyone to pm work. I'm only saying that I do often look at my ac panel and when I look at most any electrical connection, it does not take any time to verify that the connections are tight.

If a owner wants to do it any other way, it is fine with me.

Many of us here have extensive experience maintaining various electrical systems. Only problem with rv problems is when they occur, I am trying to enjoy myself and certainly would rather find and prevent any problems that would ruin my camping trip before I leave the yard and that is what I do.

We all do what we can do.

Don't get to exercised if someone else wants to wait until it fails.
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