By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM.
While watching the news here in northern California they were showing a RVer using his RV generator to power his and neighbors’ homes. There were power cords laying across the street and I’m not sure this happens but i would expect cars drive across the cords.
I’m hoping the cords are the proper gauge for the load and distance. Bu it would seem to me to be a bad idea to have cords unprotected from car tires like that. Shouldn’t a cord cover of some sort be used? —Tom Hart
Yes, you are 100% correct. It’s a very bad idea to be driving vehicles over unprotected extension or shore power cords, especially on asphalt or concrete. Doing so will cause the wiring insulation to collapse and begin to break the strands of copper wire. Eventually you’ll have a short circuit or a fire from overheating, neither of which is good. So protecting your cables from traffic is important.
Enter the Yellow Jackets
When I used to do rock music shows where we had to run power and signal wires through the crowd and over driveways, we also brought along cable ramps called “Yellow Jackets,” named so because they were always black and yellow for visual warning.
While these used to be terribly expensive to purchase (considering I would sometimes need 150 feet or more of cable coverage), the new generation of mid-duty cable ramps are pretty affordable, with a 3-pack of 40″ ramps (or 10 ft. worth) costing about $70 delivered.
Protect your cables from tire damage
You need to protect your cables from this sort of damage. So it’s best to get your power wires into some sort of protective cable ramp that will prevent them from damage. As you can see from the picture, the cables are nestled in their own little compartment which can be driven over with most vehicles.
These particular cable ramps are rated for vehicles up to 11,000 lbs. per axle, which should be good for most traffic. Now, I’m not recommending these particular ramps for placement across a busy highway or intersection. If that’s what they need to do, then the price goes up by a factor of 10x or so for heavy-duty versions that fire trucks and semi-trailers can drive over.
Of course there are cheaper ways to accomplish this same thing by using a pair of 8 ft. 2×4’s with a plywood cover. That’s how we used to build cheap cable ramps for theaters that didn’t have the money for the professional version. I’ll draw up a diagram later on how to make your own on a budget, but in the meantime it’s hard to beat these factory-built cable ramps which get high ratings on Amazon.
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ 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.
Join Mike’s popular and informative Facebook group.
And you don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.
For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign