Monday, December 5, 2022


RV Electricity – Quick Tips #01 – Sparks


Quick Tips #01 – Turn breakers off before plugging or unplugging

Contrary to what you might think, the bright yellow and green sparks you see when unplugging an extension cord or the shore power plug are not electrons zipping around, but rather tiny bits of super-heated copper burning in the air. Where does that burning metal come from? Well, it comes from the metallic contacts of your extension cord or shore power plug when they’re plugged or unplugged under a load. That means that every time you plug and unplug your RV shore power plugs while the pedestal is powered up, you’re giving up little bits of metal from your contacts, which eventually shows up as pits in the surface. And this is a slippery slope, since these tiny pits tend to spall off more metal creating even larger pits, and so on. Eventually you’ll lose enough metal from your plug contacts that they’ll begin to heat up under normal current loads. Not a good thing since they can get hot enough to melt the plastic plugs or even catch on fire.

What to do? Well, ALWAYS turn OFF the circuit breaker on the campsite pedestal before you plug or unplug any shore power or extension cords. (The RV Doc’s been telling RVers that for years!) After you’re securely connected, you can then turn on the pedestal breaker. The bad news is that if your plug contacts are already pitted from years of plugging or unplugging under power, there’s really nothing you can do to restore the surface. Sure, you can use a little emery paper to brighten up the copper surface, but deep pitting means that you must replace the power cord. Make sure you get all the connections wired correctly though, as an improperly wired shore power or extension cord can create a dangerous hot-skin condition. So check with the manufacturer or get a certified RV technician to wire on a new shore cord. Nobody wants to be shocked (or worse) from their RV. 

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.


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5 years ago

Mike, Good discussion. I always plug in with the breakers off. Two reasons, one: SAFETY. Many times we set up in the rain or in wet conditions. I don’t want to be handling a wet plug, with wet hands or shoes with the breaker on and the socket hot. Second, I plug my surge suppressor in first, turn the breaker on and let it analyze the circuit to make sure there are no faults. Then turn the breaker off, plug in the RV cord and turn on the breaker again. A little convoluted but I believe this is the safest way to hook up.

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