Sunday, August 11, 2013

Electrical Stuff

We spent a couple of nights in Nipawin doing some socializing and I did a few field visits for Palliser/Assiniboia.  We counted ourselves lucky to get into the Nipawin Regional Park because the Premier’s Walleye Cup was on this weekend.  The Walleye Cup is a big deal for Nipawin with some serious prize money.  Its not unusual to see license plates from across Canada and as far south as Texas for the week preceding the derby as fishermen scout the river for the best spots.  I think we got the last full service site at the Regional Park.

We watched the Roughriders get shellacked by Calgary Friday night with Grace and Al.  Then we met Darrel & Tammy for breakfast and ended up seeing plenty of other folks that we knew from our time in Nipawin.  This morning we decided it was time to head out and I (foolishly) thought we could hook up in the site.  I had walked the exit route but evidently misjudged how tight the first corner was because I just barely made it and didn’t get set up in time for the 2nd corner.  Fortunately there was an escape route but I did manage to rub my curbside Ramco mirror on a power pole at the 2nd corner.  No damage was done – the mirror just neatly folded back and I was able to stand it up again once I got stopped.  Which was when I discovered the first electrical gremlin – no power to that mirror head at all.  I assumed I must have damaged something when it folded over although that seemed unlikely.  We carried on and every time we stopped I nudged the mirror closer to where it needed to be because I couldn’t do the electrical adjustment thing.

When we got to Saskatoon Austin met us at the Flying J on the north end of town to return our 30 amp electrical extension.  I had lent it to him at Candle Lake and told him to keep it when we left because they were staying the whole week.  So that was electrical item #2.  While we were waiting for him on the parking lot I opened up the dash behind the mirror controls and wiggled the wires.  The mirrors immediately started working again.  I don’t like that kind of fix but as long as they are working its pretty hard to troubleshoot the problem any further.

Once we got done with Austin we headed out west of Saskatoon to some acreage dude who has built a little campground in his front yard.  It was kind of hokey but kind of cute and we’d have probably been OK there but it quickly got too complicated.  First he offered to move his 5th wheel so we could park where it was but we assured him that one of the gaps in the trees that he had for sites would be fine.  I inquired about power and he assured me that the 250+ feet of (at the most) 14 gauge extension cord stretching out from his shop would be just fine.  I warned Marilyn that she would have 15 amp service if she was lucky despite his assurances that he had a 30 amp breaker in the shop.  Marilyn said she was OK with that but then it got worse.  When we tried to back into the closest site there was a big old dead poplar branch at just the right height to scrape some new paint off the side of the bus.  Not wanting to get even further from the breaker we suggested that Ron should maybe move his rig after all. But that got complicated because he couldn’t find his power cord and his batteries were dead so he couldn’t pull in his slides and there were used cars parked in front of the site and and and …..  Finally we just said “look, its been great visiting with you but we think we’ll go somewhere else”.  So that was electrical situation #3.

“Somewhere else” turned out to be 16 West campground north of the airport at Saskatoon, where we’ve been many times before.  They had one 30 amp full service site left – after that it would be no services or 15 amp only.  So I started hooking up and immediately the smoke came out of the end of my electrical cord.  I knew right away what had happened but I got out my VOM and checked the outlet – sure enough the hot and neutral wires were reversed in his outlet.  Explaining that to the 14 year old at the registration desk didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere so we phoned a new park that has opened up just a few miles further west and got ready to move.  When Marilyn went in to get her money back however the girl at the desk suddenly got much more cooperative and actually called in Richard, the owner.  Richard is a good guy and as soon as I explained to him what was going on and offered to fix the problem he was more than willing to have me do that.  So that was electrical situation #4 – it took about 5 minutes to pull the cover plate, pull the outlet, swap the hot and neutral wires and put everything back together. 

If you’ve followed along this far then you may be interested to know this: many RV pedestals are in fact wired backwards and most people never realize it.  If you are ever entering your rig and notice that you get a tingle when you touch the door or the frame of the trailer you need to tell the park owner to fix the problem.  And you need to unplug IMMEDIATELY.  If you touch the frame while standing barefoot in wet grass you could get killed.  In our case our power goes though our inverter in what is called pass through mode.  When we are unplugged if the inverter is turned on then our ground and neutral wires (white and green) are bonded inside the inverter.  When we encounter reversed polarity like we did today with the inverter turned on it shows a dead short to the reversed outlet so that’s why I got smoke this afternoon.  Without the inverter you’d never know unless you used a polarity tester to check the outlet before you plug in.  I should have done that today.  Sometimes I remember to do that but often I don’t bother.  Obviously today I should have bothered.

Outlet_Polarity_Tester If you RV, get you one of these and use it regularly.

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