By Mike Sokol
Don’t let loose or corroded connections stop your party in its tracks
I’m often getting questions like this one asking about why shore power plugs can get hot and melt. Here’s a basic tutorial on what to watch for, and simple maintenance steps you can perform to help keep your shore power cords and connectors happy (and not melted down):
RULE #1: Don’t leave your shore power cord ends exposed to the elements. That is, when you’re done with your shore power cord, wrap it up properly and put it in a dry place. Don’t leave it out in the weather to corrode the contacts.
RULE #2: Clean your shore power plug contacts at least once a season, and more often if you’re in a brutal climate. And I always give a quick squirt of contact cleaner in any pedestal I’m plugging into. As far as I’m concerned, the best contact spray made is DeoxIT D5, which is a little pricey at $15 per can. But you only need a little squirt each time, so a single can of it should get you through several seasons. You can buy it at many pro-audio stores or HERE.
RULE #3: You can use dielectric grease on shore power connectors to help reduce corrosion and reduce friction. I know that a non-conductive grease on an electrical connector seems counterintuitive, but the wiping action of the contacts will allow direct metal-to-metal connections, while the extra grease will eliminate corrosion on the bare areas. I know that some of you swear by conductive grease, but I only use conductive grease on terminating screw connections that won’t be pulled apart like a portable cord plug. Buy it at your favorite automotive store or HERE.
RULE #4: If it ain’t tight, don’t use it. Campground pedestals take a beating, and I’ve found many of them so loose from abuse that your shore power cord tends to fall right out. Don’t be tempted to plug into one of these since it will likely burn up your shore cord plug or your expensive EMS Surge Protector.
RULE #5: Always turn off the circuit breakers before plugging or unplugging from shore power. If there’s no circuit breaker at the pedestal, then it’s best to turn off the main circuit breaker inside of your RV. Those pretty sparks you see while plugging in under load are actually bits of your contacts super-heating into tiny meteorites. Of course, you can’t control what everybody else has done to that pedestal, but don’t contribute to the problem.
RULE #6: Feel the heat. You’ll want to occasionally place the back of your hand on the rubber plug to make sure it’s not getting hot. If it’s appreciably warm, then a meltdown is possible. If you want to be really geeky, get an infrared meter for this sort of testing, but the back of your hand is just fine for basic checks. Best to get the campground to replace the pedestal outlet before you do damage to your own cord or surge protector. And no, don’t replace the outlet on the pedestal yourself. That can kill you if you don’t watch what you’re doing.
Mike Soko’s excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com.