April 28, 2019
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By Mike Sokol
It’s spring (finally) and time to get ready for a fun season of traveling and camping. I’m super excited to be presenting a number of RV Electricity seminars this summer and fall, which began with the RVillage Rally 2.0 last month in Florida. I’ll be in Goshen for the Ramblin’ Diesel Pushers Group maintenance clinics on May 4th, going over transfer switch and cord reel maintenance. Then on to Alumapalooza (yes, the Airstream Factory) at the end of May
REGISTER NOW FOR MY JUNE CLASSES
The big news is my June 8th troubleshooting clinics for RV owners in lovely Funkstown, MD (literally a few hundred yards south of Hagerstown). If you plan to attend, you can now reserve your seat. The morning seminar will cover the basics of RV electricity ($15 for our members and $25 for others). The afternoon session ($100 for members, $125 for non-members), will be longer and cover more advanced troubleshooting topics. RVtravel.com members should have received a discount code in their member edition of yesterday’s newsletter so be sure to use that code. Seating is limited, so please make your reservation ASAP. Click here to learn more and/or register.
Please join me via a live video chat tonight (Sunday) at 9 p.m. Eastern time (6 p.m. Pacific). Click here to watch (you will need to be a member of the Facebook RV Electricity group to join in the live chat).
Below you’ll find Part 2 of my article on RV Hot-Skin Voltages. This is starting to get into the complex theory of troubleshooting them, so if you’re a beginner this may not be for you. However, be sure to show it to whoever works on your RV’s electrical system.
A RATING SYSTEM FOR ARTICLES
I’ve also begun a knowledge “difficulty rating system,” just like you would find on hiking trails. So if you see a Green Circle at the top of a page, it’s an easy-to-understand article. A Blue Square is Intermediate Technical Level, a Black Diamond is Advanced Technical Level, and a Double Black Diamond is Expert Technical Level, so proceed at your own risk.
My plan is to use the Easy Tech Level topics in my JAM (Just Ask Mike) Sessions, reserve the Intermediate Tech Level for the weekly RV Travel Newsletter, and publish the Advanced Tech Level articles in my monthly RV Electricity Newsletter (what you’re reading right now). Don’t worry if you don’t understand the Advanced article right now, but keep studying the Easy and Intermediate Tech Level articles and you’ll get there.
Also, I’m having a kitten (actually, a bunch of kittens). Read more about it in my Road Signs column at the bottom of this page.
P.S. Be sure to join my new (and very popular, I might add), RV Electricity Group on Facebook, moderated by yours truly and hosted by RVtravel.com. Lots of great questions from our members and important electrical information for your RVing safety.
P.P.S. And just a quick note that this newsletter is made possible by the voluntary pledges of the readers of RVtravel.com. We could not bring this to you without their support. If you deem what we provide to you here and at RVtravel.com to be of special value and would like to be a part of our effort, please consider pledging a voluntary subscription. More information is here. We will include you in special emails, articles and videos exclusively for our supporters.
What is an RV Hot-Skin Voltage? – Part 2
As promised, this is Part 2 of an article series on Hot-Skin voltage. If you haven’t done so already, please read about the basics of Hot-Skin voltage in Part 1 HERE, so we’re all at the same starting point. You’ll also need to read my RV 101 article in magazine format which was linked to last week. Read it HERE. Once you read all that, you’re ready to proceed with advanced troubleshooting concepts of RV hot-skin/contact-voltage.
Ready… Set… Go!
This article is rated as Advanced Tech Level since it involves complex troubleshooting concepts with potentially dangerous voltages. Do NOT attempt to perform these tests on your RV unless you’re properly qualified to work around live voltages.
Today’s Deals at Amazon.com
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I had at least a half-dozen emails and text messages last week from readers saying they couldn’t get ahold of Progressive Industries on the phone, and their website appeared to be down. Indeed, I couldn’t load their website for a few hours. Of course, everyone is worried about companies going out of business, which is understandable.
So I just talked to their customer support department this morning, and they are alive and well. The support person said their IT department had technical problems last week, which affected their web page and probably took their phone system down as well. But all is well, so not to worry. Here’s a LINK to their main webpage in case you need it.
Do you have a preventive maintenance list you check prior to your first RV trip of the season?
Curious minds want to know. Please take the 30-second survey.
Last month’s survey results:
How many of you take a boat along on your camping trips or swim around boat docks that have electrical power?
So it appears that 15% of you (1 in 7) do have a boat or use boat docks for swimming while you’re vacationing with your RV. I’m finishing up Part 2 of my article on ESD (Electric Shock Drowning), which I’ll publish in the RVtravel.com newsletter next week. In the meantime, be aware that even small electric shocks can be life threatening around water, and it’s an invisible killer. Here’s a story from just last week about a teenager being electrocuted in a small drainage canal while trying to rescue a dog. The metal walking bridge over the canal became energized and when he touched it to get out of the water he was electrocuted. Read the full story HERE.
Don’t trust a tire shop with your lug nuts!
My sister just called to tell me that her friend with a nice Nissan truck is sitting in a ditch along I-5 in California with their vehicle suspension shredded and the lost wheel mangled beyond use. Yes, they had just left a quickie tire shop and got on the Interstate. You guessed it, the kid who mounted their tires never bothered to tighten the lug nuts on at least one of their wheels. While nobody was hurt, there’s thousands of dollars in damage, a lost day (at least), and it could easily have turned into a real disaster at 70 mph.
All three of my adult kids and I carry torque wrenches in our vehicles, and we run around for a quick torque check after anyone has touched a wheel on our cars or trucks. And I’ll do a monthly check of lug nut torque if I’m doing any serious traveling. You’ll want a nice 1/2″ drive torque wrench with the appropriate drive socket for your wheels. And check with the wheel manufacturer for proper torque specs, especially if you have aftermarket alloy wheels.
Any big box store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot will have torque wrenches for sale, and many include a nice case for stashing it behind the seat (or wherever). Just don’t forget to use it, especially right after anyone has touched your wheels, and 100 miles after. It’s surprising how much they’ll loosen up after a little drive. Here’s a good choice from Teckton for wheel lugs up to 250 ft/lbs of torque.
Yes, if you have a REALLY BIG coach this isn’t the torque wrench for you. But you’ll likely have to get a truck mechanic just to loosen your wheel lugs at all and hoist a big tire into position. But since I worked in a truck tire shop as a teenager mounting semi-truck wheels, I would probably get an impact wrench and 10-ton bottle jack if I had a coach. And NO, I will NOT change the tire on your diesel pusher.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
Don’t come up short!
Sometimes your 50-amp power cord is not quite long enough! That’s when this 15-foot extension cord will come in very handy. Sure, you can use a wimpy orange extension cord with an adapter — and risk burning up the cord, ruining appliances, or maybe even burn up your rig! With this cord along you’ll be all set. Learn more or order.
Q&A’s from Forums
I spend a lot of time on dozens of other RV forums answering questions about electricity. Here’s one of them:
From an Airstream owner
Q: I’ve read your online posts in the course of attempting to answer this question: Should I drive a ground rod for my up-on-blocks 1967 Airstream?
Code calls for a separate ground to any subpanel in a separate building, which this effectively is, RV convention notwithstanding. The Airstream subpanel has ground separation from neutral but the subpanel ground is bonded to the frame and skin. I have a surge breaker in the main panel in the house, and being in a high-lightning-strike zone, I want to give the Airstream (and connected devices inside) the best chance possible. Lightning would follow ground to inside devices and back to the main panel, as well as partially following to earth proximate to the Airstream.
I’m leaning towards the local earth ground rod as the new shortest and lowest impedance path, maybe even one on each end of the trailer, as the trailer is currently dangling out on the end of a grounding invitation (like a kite, or so it seems to me). But then also thinking to add a separated lightning diversion (braided cable plus spikes) over the top as the earth-grounded trailer would then be an even more likely strike attractor relative to other objects in the neighborhood… I think. What do you think? —Christopher
A: Dear Christopher,
While a grounding rod isn’t needed for any RV pedestal or RV, it can’t hurt and is allowed by code as part of the distributed grounding system. However, a grounding rod can’t be a substitute for a low impedance EGC (Equipment Grounding Conductor) path back to the power company’s incoming service panel.
As many of you have read in my many lightning columns, the primary reason for a ground rod is to drain away currents from nearby lightning strikes, and even direct hits. Since you’re talking about a permanently installed Airstream on blocks (not wheels) then it should be treated like a mobile home, electrically speaking. So I believe it’s a good idea to add a ground rod (two is probably the best idea if your soil conditions aren’t perfect), to your Airstream’s incoming electrical system using all the installation methods and materials required by your local electrical code. Please send pictures.
The best book on RV electricity, hands down!
RV Travel contributor Mike Sokol is America’s leading expert on RV electricity. Mike has taken his 40+ years of experience to write this book about RV electricity that nearly anyone can understand. Covers the basics of Voltage, Amperage, Wattage and Grounding, with additional chapters on RV Hot-Skin testing, GFCI operation, portable generator hookups and troubleshooting RV electrical systems. This should be essential reading for all RVers. Learn more or order
Videos by Mike about RV Electricity
Camco Store at Amazon.com
There isn’t much you need for your RV that Camco doesn’t have. If you think we’re kidding, then click through to the Camco store on Amazon where you’ll find some of their best-selling products — all for your RV or for you to make your RVing better. Click here and you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.
By Mike Sokol
What I’ve learned from kittens
It’s spring and time for many animals to give birth to their young. I just happen to have a bunch of brand-new kittens to play with.
Editor: Mike Sokol. RVtravel.com publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern.
Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we may occasionally get something wrong. So always double check with your own technician, electrician or other professional first before undertaking projects that could involve danger if not done properly. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com..
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