How to: Inside Wiring for RV Converter Electrical Panel

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How to: Inside Wiring for RV Converter Electrical Panel
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(The writer of this guide is not an electrician and she really doesn’t understand all of the electrical jargon, i.e. amps, volts etc. So read on at your own risk of getting your electrical system running as well as hers does. My husband corrected my electrical terms in this thread to make it easier to read. So be very very thankful to him. ) My husband and I own a 1979 Dodge motor home. The problem first started in the front of it. My inside coach lights would go on and off, working some of the time and other times not working at all. I found myself fiddling with the DC fuse block panel on a daily basis. My fuse block panel had the glass round style fuses. I was replacing them often. Sometimes, I think that they would blow because they’d get too hot. Other times they’d blow just because they were loose. It was driving me mad. I was hoping to put this problem in an expert’s hand and let it go away and be fixed. However, the electricians I spoke with had no idea of what it was I was talking about. I found myself starting at the very basics and giving them the complete step by step tutorial of what I knew. After a good amount of time on the phone, I was left without anyone in the world who knew what I was talking about. And I called everyone. RV parts places, RV electricians, Automotive electricians, Boat electricians. Come on. I thought. This really can’t be the only one of these fuse boxes in the world. So the thought of getting professional help was thrown out the window. Although, I am not an electrician, I’ve done some minor house wiring before. This was a bit different than what I was used to, because it’s DC. And this seems to be what confuses everyone, they all know how to wire AC but are confused on DC.I did some searching and tried to ask a lot of questions to anyone who appeared to know anything about 12-volt wiring. The fuse block panel actually burned up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we took the coach battery out and left it out for a few weeks. The converter, a Magnatek 6300 series was at that time, feeding the battery that wasn’t there and I believe it came back through and fried the DC electrical fuse block panel. No one knows really. That’s what I figured happened, but have been told it’s impossible to back feed on a wire like that.I ended up purchasing another glass style fuse block from the local boat store. I was having trouble finding any fuse block panel that would work. Most of them don’t come with the 2 hots lugs and ground that I needed. So I tried to make this one work and thought my problem was fixed. It seemed to work fine while we were plugged in. When I unplugged from 110 electric, I didn’t have any power at all. So, the battery wasn’t lighting up the panel. UGGG!!!We were moving across country in the next few days and I hadn’t planned on this unexpected problem. The thought of driving 2,000 miles without inside lights and no water pump was undoable. So, I went back to the same boat store to see if they might have another panel that might work. The electrician they had on duty told me that the ATC style car fuses are much more reliable, but he didn’t have one at all in his catalogue to sell me.I was about to take it into an RV technician, the first one I’d found that seemed to know what he was doing. He said it would be about $150 to put another one in, labor. After all the headache I’d gone through, I was about willing to pay that. And since we were on a time limit, it was starting to look like an option. My husband and I considered it for a night. It was when I said, "that doesn’t include parts" that my husband said, "What?" And it pretty much goes without saying that we decided not to go that way.The angels were smiling down on me when I finally found one on ebay. It was the only one I’d found that was made for exactly the purpose I was going to use it for and it used ATC fuses instead of those stupid glass style fuses.I was elated that my RV wasn’t the only one in the world that needed this fuse block panel.I ordered it, immediately. As soon as it came in the mail, I excitedly installed it. It was so easy to hook up. I hooked the wires from each circuit to individual fuses. Then I hooked in the ground. Then I hooked up the 3 hots into 3 lugs that were specially made for them. It was a mindless wiring job and I was excited that it was so easy. I would have liked to say that it worked right away, but it didn’t. It actually wasn’t the fault of my new fuse block panel.My lights were brighter. It worked when I was plugged in, but I still wasn’t getting battery connection when unplugged.I was having the same problem as before. UGGGG!!!! But at least I had bright lights that didn’t blink on and off every time I walked by the panel and the glass fuses jiggled.Out came the voltmeter and we started testing what kind of amperage was going through the wires. Here’s what was happening.There are 3 hot lugs on the new fuse block panel. My converter has a Blue (110 Hot), a Red (Hot to the coach battery) and a white wire (negative) coming from it. And then I have a black wire coming from the coach battery, which is a hot. I tested all 3 wires while they were connected to the fuse panel by touching the hot side with the red part of the voltmeter and the ground by touching the black wire from the voltmeter to the ground wire. The Blue and the Red were both reading 12 volts. So they were okay. The black from the battery was reading 0. Yet when I took it out of the lug, dis-attaching it from the fuse block and tested it by putting the red on the wire and the black on the ground, the wire itself was reading 12 volts. I was confused. How can a wire that is reading hot, suddenly not be hot when it’s wired in?Thank goodness for Scott, the electrician. I had found his number on Craigslist.com as someone knowing something about DC wiring. "If you’d have just told me that," he said, "we could have fixed this last night." I had called him the night before to see if he could fix my problem. He called me back the next morning with a solution."A wire acts like that if it’s corroded," he said, "Go outside and see if the other end of your wire connected to the battery is corroded."I did so. And it wasn’t. Or at least it didn’t appear to be, obviously so. My husband the meticulous one is very good about keeping the battery as corrosion free as possible.Still though, according to Scott, the electrician there was really no other reason for the wire to be acting this way. So I coaxed my husband, the corrosion expert into getting out his piece of sandpaper and a screwdriver. It really did take a lot of coaxing as he prides himself on his corrosion free batteries and I, just by asking him to do this, was somewhat doubting his abilities. From the battery side, we put the voltmeter, which I bought at Harbor Freight for $3.99, on a ground and the hot going back to the fuse block panel and followed it through the several fuses and wires. Many a time, the readings were zero or 3 or 4 volts. We checked the battery again and it was 13 volts. So we knew it had to be the wires and the connectors between the battery and the inside fuse block panel that were stopping the flow from getting to where we wanted it to be. Both my husband and I were amazed, that it looked fine. But many of the wires and connectors had a light gray color and that was enough to stop the flow of electricity. It wasn’t all dirty and crumby and highly corroded like you’d expect. In fact, it looked quite clean.After cleaning and sanding the end of each wire and all the connectors on both sides until they were shiny and the gray was gone, and even lightly the screws in the terminal connector on the battery, testing each time to make sure we were getting connection and proper voltage. They finally were reading 12 volts. We did this one by one and piece by piece until it all was up to par. Sanding, wiping, cleaning and testing. This whole process took about an hour. I went back inside our motor home. "The lights are on," I yelled to my husband. It had worked. Our new fuse block panel had been installed. Our lights were brighter than ever. And we didn’t have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to fix it.Everything’s great now. My electrical is working better than ever. This is one of the best investments I’ve ever made.What I love best about this Fuse Block Panel is that it has a heavy duty steel cover, so that it is protected from water, or anything falling on it. It was easy to put in, especially after figuring out the corrosion part. Basically the fuse block panel comes with 12 ATC fuse slots, 3 hot lugs and ground. I’d recommend this panel to anyone who wants to update their system. The old glass bus type fuses are just a big headache. These ATC panels are just better. It can be bought on Ebay. This was the best investment I’ve made for my RV. Do a search for these key words on www.ebay.com : RV Motorhome DC Fuse Block Panel 12 ATC Fuses Or, If you want to go check it out, here’s the link that was active when I bought mine. http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1,1&item=4634460586&sspagename=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT
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