Issue 19 • June 2, 2019
Brought to you as a public service by RVtravel.com. Support comes from our sponsors, advertisers and the contributions of readers, who believe that an educated RVer is a safe, happy RVer.
Subscribe to one of our many online newsletters (including this one) about RVing.
Read back issues of this newsletter and many other articles by Mike Sokol on RVtravel.com. Warning: There is a lot to learn here.
By Mike Sokol
Well, summer is almost in full swing, and so is the camping season. Plus my RV Electricity seminars are picking up steam. But the big news is that my new RV Electricity Facebook group is a huge success. Now at more than 2,400 users, it’s still growing by 30 members a day. And the questions are ranging from the most basic ones such as “Is it safe to use a 10-amp fuse instead of a 15-amp fuse on a water pump circuit” to discussions on multi-phase power distribution from the power company’s generators to your house or campground.
Plus there’s lots of practical questions (and answers) on topics such as inverter generators, soft-start controllers for RV air conditioners, and dog bone adapters. Like any proud parent I couldn’t be happier, so keep up the good work. You don’t have to join to visit my RV Electricity group as long as you have a Facebook account. If you want to make comments or ask questions, you do need to join.
My desktop videos are really coming along, and even though there were a few hiccups with my Internet Service Provider (they’ve been under DDoS attack for the last month and we’ve lost Internet connection hundreds of times with occasional outages every hour), now all seems stable. Plus I’ve added a cellular 4G LTE modem to my office network so I can do my live video streaming over a cellular connection if need be. It costs more to do it this way, but at least my live webinars won’t die in the middle like they did several times last month. Gotta love technology. See links to what I’ve been producing below.
Who’s coming to Hagerstown, MD, on June 8 for my seminars on RV Electricity? I’ll be doing a 1-hour basic electricity seminar in the morning beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 3-hour troubleshooting clinic in the afternoon starting at 1:00 p.m. Lot’s of fun and learning will be had by all.
While I wish we could offer these seminars for free, unfortunately we can’t get any of the RV manufacturers or trade organizations to sponsor them at all, so the vast majority of these seminars are being done on my own nickel and there are just not many nickels left in my discretionary funds purse. So these special seminars will cost you a bit, but no more than an hour of shop time by an RV technician who doesn’t have 1/10th of my background in electrical troubleshooting. So find out more or register for either seminar HERE and I’ll see you at the Funkstown Fire Hall on June 8, starting at 10:30 am.
Also, my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) sessions seem to be doing well. We’ve moved them into the Monday RV Daily Tips newsletter, as well as the Saturday RV Travel newsletter. And, of course, you’ll find all of them from the past month listed below.
Finally, you’ll see that we’ve fully implemented my difficulty “trail” rating system for how advanced my articles are. While many of my articles and videos will be basic and easily understood by nearly everyone, some of these topic will get pretty involved. And a few of them will be downright crazy-hard to understand unless you’re already an Electrical Engineer or Technician. So please, just like when you’re out hiking, pick the “trails” best suited to you.
Certainly if you want to take a peek at what we’re discussing about 3-phase power for campgrounds, go ahead and look over the edge. And at some point I’m going to create a qualified “advanced skiers only” slope where we’re discussing concepts that could be very dangerous for anyone without technician or electrician training.
Remember, electricity in any form can be dangerous if mishandled, so my job is to educate you about it while keeping you safe. If I say, “Kid’s, don’t try this at home,” I really mean it. Most of my demonstrations and diagnostics involve live voltages and tests that can be dangerous if performed incorrectly. So NEVER dive into a live circuit unless you’re technically qualified to do so.
See you at an RV Electricity seminar or in a video soon. In the meantime, let’s play safe out there…
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.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to join
my new Facebook group, RV Electricity.
(More than 2,400 members and counting.)
Pedestal maintenance after a flood
What to watch out for with flooded campsite pedestals
After seeing all the pictures and videos of a flooded campground recently, a single image stuck in my mind. One of the news feeds had a video of a campground where the water was deep enough that many of the pedestals were completely underwater, possibly for days. But soon after the waters receded, there were notices from campgrounds that they were back in business. But, were they really…?
Anytime there’s a flood, there’s a lot more in the water than just “H2O”. It’s full of all kinds of oil and gasoline from vehicles, sewage from waste treatment plants, every kind of mud and sludge possible, and heaven only knows what else. And if the outlets and circuit breakers in the campground pedestals have been sitting in it, you really don’t want to connect your shore power plug into one that’s not been properly cleaned and tested. Now, getting the campground owners to test every pedestal outlet might be asking a bit much, but perhaps we can at least get the pedestal outlets and breakers cleaned up.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
New & interesting finds at Amazon.com
See what really cool stuff Amazon is featuring today. It’s a whole lot of fun just browsing through all these great items. The selection changes every day, so check back often. You never know what you will find, which is part of the fun of visiting here. Check it out.
Watch Mike’s one-hour recorded webcasts
•All about portable generators. Recorded May 19, 2019
•RV power pedestals: what you should know. Recorded May 10, 2019
RK Beacon for RV roadside emergencies
PHOENIX — Photo Ballistic Systems introduced a new safety beacon for RV use at the Escapees Escapade in Tucson, Ariz.
The RK Beacon uses high-powered LED lights and solid-state electronics to alternate flashes back and forth to get the attention of other drivers when used as an emergency safety device. The device is manufactured in the United States and includes a two-year warranty.
When in use, the laser-cut lens makes the RK Beacon visible from more than a mile away at night, and almost as far during the day, owner Stan Fikel told RV Daily Report. The device is powered by a 12-volt DC plug that can be inserted into any cigarette lighter outlet.
The unit includes a 20-foot double-jacketed power cable and up to two 30-foot extension cables can be added at additional cost. The RK Beacon features double moisture protection, outside housing and an acrylic coated printed circuit board. Its dimensions are 11.75 inches long, by 1.25 inches wide and 1.25 inches deep. For more information or to place an order, visit PhotoBallisticSystems.com.
Do you carry a digital multimeter with you?
Curious minds want to know. Please take the 30-second survey.
Klein Tools Electrical Test Kit — Essential!
Every RVer should have this aboard their RV. The highly rated, updated electrical test kit contains MM300 (manual-ranging digital multimeter), ncvt-1 (non-contact voltage tester) and the RT105 (receptacle tester). The ncvt-1 automatically detects standard voltage in cables, cords, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, outlets, and wires. The RT105 detects the most common wiring problems in standard receptacles. Learn more at Amazon.
Last month’s survey results:
Do you have a preventive maintenance list you check prior to your first RV trip of the season?
Interestingly, only 28% of you who answered the survey admit to having a formal maintenance checklist that you follow. But 41% say you look things over carefully. That’s good if true, but with the dozens of things to check on an RV before heading out (lights, tire pressure, generator oil level, smoke detector batteries, etc.) it would be pretty easy to forget something important.
While I am pretty careful with maintenance, I admit to not having a formal maintenance/preflight checklist most of the time. If any of you are pilots who actually use a preflight checklist before taking off into the wild blue yonder, please contact me to confer on what you think a useful checklist would look like. I have my own thoughts, but I would LOVE to hear your ideas first.
Tools and Other Devices
Don’t over-torque those electrical connections
You’ll notice in my Q&A below that a loose screw on a neutral bus allowed a wire to overheat. The fix is to re-torque all electrical screws perhaps once a season. But you have to be careful not to over-torque some of these screws, especially on your generator transfer switches which call for 25 to 35 in/lbs of torque. That’s INCH pounds, not FOOT pounds. I was warned by the manufacturer that you really should use a calibrated torque screwdriver to make sure the connections are tight, and that simply giving it a “good twist” can break off the terminal strip on the relay. OH NO!!!
The fix is to invest in a torque screwdriver that can operate between 20 and 50 in/lbs of torque. Now, these things aren’t cheap, and the one I was sent to evaluate for my seminars costs around $150. But I found one on Amazon for 1/3 of the price that looks like it should work well. More on this later when I make a video showing how to re-torque your bus connections. But in the meantime, here’s where you can get the proper tool to do the job at Amazon.
Last Month’s RVtravel.com Posts
These articles are rated Moderate to understand for most RVers.
• How much generator do I need?
• Can I plug my 50-amp RV into a 240-volt generator?
• Hot-skin voltage recap.
• RV Electricity updates, plus: Power principles – 50-amp shore power.
Last Month’s JAM (Just Ask Mike) Session posts:
These articles are rated Easy to understand for beginners.
• Avoid being hit by lightning while hiking.
• Is a Hot Skin possible on a fiberglass RV?
• Burned shore power plugs.
• How much does it cost to run an electric heater?
Best way to fill your batteries
Fill this container with distilled water, insert the nozzle into the cell of your battery, then push and hold. When the battery is at the proper level, the water will automatically stop. Then move to the next cell, etc. You won’t over- or under-fill your batteries this way, helping extend their lives. Learn more or order at Amazon.
Q&A’s from my Facebook group
I’m getting a lot of interesting pictures and questions on my RV Electricity Facebook Group. Here’s one that’s a very dangerous situation that had a happy ending due to an observant reader. Be on the lookout for loose screws in your RV.
Q: Found the hot water heater had a loose neutral from factory… suggest EVERYONE open their panel and tighten EVERY screw. It would have been embarrassing that an owner of a fire protection company died in his own camper fire… Has anyone else seen something like this? —Brock Mitchell
A: (from Steve Lawhead) Good catch Brock! I found several loose wires and connections. One of the grounds was not even captured under the screw, just kinda sitting there.
A: (from Mike Sokol) I’m writing a yearly maintenance procedure on RV electrical systems. It will include testing screw torque in panels.
A: (from Jerry Treat) When our Attitude was new every crimped connection I could find got soldered to prevent a problem. Factory crimping was poor in most places.
A: (from David Rogge) Please advise all to disconnect shore power and turn off generator and inverters before opening any AC electrical panel for maintenance. If you’re not sure if power is completely disconnected call a licensed electrician.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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
Mike’s Video Quick Tips
• How to test for Hot-Skin/Contact-Voltage – 5 minutes
• How to measure AC volts with a digital meter – 4 minutes
• Voltage drop under load – 2:30 minutes
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 (Elvis) Sokol
A tale of Elvis and Airstreams
Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Say Elvis-Aluma-Palooza three times fast and you’ll find it quite a mouthful. Well, by the time you read this Road Signs article I will have just finished doing an RV Electricity Seminar for Alumapalooza® (the Airstream factory rally in Ohio) on Friday, and run sound for my first Elvis Presley show on Saturday. No, I’m definitely NOT dressing up like Elvis and singing Hound Dog – I’m simply setting up all the microphones, speakers and other sound gear needed for a small concert, and I’ll be mixing the King for a non-profit event. However, I WILL be dressed up as Mike Sokol for the Alumapalooza rally on Friday and teaching my full RV Electrical Safety seminar to owners of all those shiny silver Twinkies.
Why am I writing about my parallel but seemingly unrelated activities? To me, Elvis and Airstreams have a lot in common.
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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..
Mail us at 9792 Edmonds Way, #265, Edmonds, WA 98020.
This website utilizes some advertising services. Sometimes we are paid if you click one of those links and purchase a product or service. Regardless of this potential revenue, unless stated otherwise, we only recommend products or services we believe provide value to our readers. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. RVtravel.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
This newsletter is copyright 2019 by RVtravel.com.
Another torque screwdriver to consider is “Wheeler’s FAT Wrench,” that’s “Firearms Accurizing Torque Wrench.” It is marketed toward firearms users, but does the same task for a little less money. It is $40.24 with free shipping on Amazon as I write this. I have one of these and find it simple to use. It also comes with its own hard plastic case and an assortment of bits.
Mike, I planned on making your seminars in Hagerstown, but alas, I ended up making a trip to TX to fix some repairs. Thanks for all you do for the RVer’s out there!
I agree with Ran. Your information is teaching me a lot about RV Electricity and how to safely test, troubleshoot and use it. I’m up this morning and want to get to my RV to check torque on all electrical panel screws, check all connections for solid connectivity and do a Hot-Skin test.
I look forward to your emails every time they are released. If you have a book on all the info you produce, let me know.
Thanks, again, Mike!
Thanks Mike, for keeping us all safe out there! Your articles keep us on our toes and a safe reminder on How-To’s!. Love your video clips!
mike, add one of your paid for sessions before or after RVillage Rally. i”l be first to sign up.
I’ve not been invited yet. When and where is it?