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Old 05-30-2013, 12:01 AM   #1
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Ground has voltage

Ok...I bought this camper last fall. (Fall of 2012) This is my first camper that does not smell like the 70's. When I bought the camper, the owner said that the power cord had been cut by a scrap thief, and he had just finished putting on a new cord. (I now think he lied, as I never made him plug everything in) We went camping once, and the campsite breaker kept tripping. I looked at how it was wired, it looked right, but I disconnected the ground, and everything worked. Now, I need to fix it. The entire outside of the camper shocks me when its wet out.

First, I have an ancient multi-tester...like...ancient. It measures my house voltage at 173. Just clarifying. I obviously have power going through my ground. So...I turned off all of the breakers in the camper, and measured the voltage across the grounds (between my plug ground and my camper ground) It measured 0. I then turned on one breaker at a time, to see what is bleeding power back through the ground.

Two of my breakers show voltage across my grounds. The first is "Conv/ WH". (converter and water heater...im guessing) The second is GEN. (according to previous threads...im guessing this is GENERAL and not GENERATOR) Reason would tell me that both of these lines must have a bad outlet or a staple through the lines somewhere. Here is the kicker. My ancient multi-meter...shows exactly 1.8 volts across the ground on both of the breakers. This has to mean something. If there was a staple through a wire, there would be more than 1.8 volts going through the system. I am confused. I am no electrician, I just know enough to be dangerous.

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Old 05-30-2013, 01:20 AM   #2
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First, pitch the VOM and buy a new one, maybe even a good one but certainly one that can give accurate voltage and resistance. My guess is there is no ground connected from the power cable. There should be continuity between neutral and ground and 110 to 120 between both and hot. Another good purchase would be an outlet tester from $5 to $15. This will let you test the campground before hooking up as well as telling now whether your connected properly between one end of the power cord and the camper.
Good luck
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:50 AM   #3
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You are correct...the multi-meter should have a burial. Even IF my house and the campground have no ground, there should not be any power going through a ground...right? I will test my shop tonight to make sure that there is a ground. Thank you for your response.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:55 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by cvilleluke View Post
You are correct...the multi-meter should have a burial. Even IF my house and the campground have no ground, there should not be any power going through a ground...right? I will test my shop tonight to make sure that there is a ground. Thank you for your response.
The hot and neutral wire are reversed, it can be a fatal shock under the right conditions. Invest in new test equipment and better yet get help from someone who really, REALLY understands how to troubleshoot and repair the system. You're playing with fire until you get this fixed.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:59 AM   #5
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There should be continuity between neutral and ground and 110 to 120 between both and hot.
Neutral and Ground are connected only in the pedestal so there will not be continuity in those unless you're plugged in.

To OP: I think you should get an electrician to fix this. This is serious stuff.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:19 PM   #6
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Thank you everyone for your concern and responses. My first thought was reversed polarity. Black to common is hot, black to ground is hot, common to ground is neg. (While all breakers off)(Common is White) I tested the plug wires while not connected to camper, and while connected to camper. Everything good. This brought me to believe that the reversed polarity is past the breaker in my camper. The colors are correct in my campers box, but must be crossed at the appliance or outlet. I would believe this, but two different breakers bleeding back is just too strange.

I have contacted my local electrician, he is going to stop by tonight to take a look.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cvilleluke View Post
Thank you everyone for your concern and responses. My first thought was reversed polarity. Black to common is hot, black to ground is hot, common to ground is neg. (While all breakers off)(Common is White) I tested the plug wires while not connected to camper, and while connected to camper. Everything good. This brought me to believe that the reversed polarity is past the breaker in my camper. The colors are correct in my campers box, but must be crossed at the appliance or outlet. I would believe this, but two different breakers bleeding back is just too strange.

I have contacted my local electrician, he is going to stop by tonight to take a look.
Let us know what you find out. It may help others with problems also.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:45 PM   #8
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Mike Sokol is a member of our forums and he has some great advice and videos on RV electricity......especially on testing.

There are some links to his site and videos from a forum last week:

Loose Wire or Security?
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Old 06-03-2013, 05:56 PM   #9
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Fixed!

Sorry it took a while to get back. My electrician and I first checked my shop wiring to make sure it was fine. After that, we entered the camper. Only this time...nothing would work. We checked voltage at the 'main'. It was 127v. Once we flipped on a breaker, both the main and the breaker dropped to 60v. We then did a bumper test with each breaker. They all were sending 60v to the ground. After checking many connections, we found a neutral problem. The neutral at the cord was braided, and the neutral at the camper was solid. The connection felt solid, but my electrician explained that when twisting a solid and a braided together, the solid gets pulled in and pushes the braided away. So...very few of the braids were touching. Enough to make a circuit, but not enough for the return flow. Somewhere...probably at an appliance, the circuit tried to find more of ground. After making better connections...we connected my ground wires, tested everything, and so far so good. He is still wanting me to keep an eye on it. Thank you everyone for your help. Yes, I did get a new meter, and yes, it did pay to get more professional help. wmtire ...thanks for your post...those links are very informative!
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:20 AM   #10
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The neutral at the cord was braided, and the neutral at the camper was solid. The connection felt solid, but my electrician explained that when twisting a solid and a braided together, the solid gets pulled in and pushes the braided away. So...very few of the braids were touching. Enough to make a circuit, but not enough for the return flow. Somewhere...probably at an appliance, the circuit tried to find more of ground. After making better connections...we connected my ground wires, tested everything, and so far so good. He is still wanting me to keep an eye on it. Thank you everyone for your help. Yes, I did get a new meter, and yes, it did pay to get more professional help. wmtire ...thanks for your post...those links are very informative!
Two other things to consider. If there indeed was a neutral return path via an appliance chassis ground, then there must be a neutral-to-ground connection somewhere, perhaps inside one of those appliances. To confirm this, unplug your RV from AC power and measure the resistance between the ground and neutral contacts on your shore power plug. It should measure a very high resistance, perhaps hundreds of thousands to a few million ohms. Any connection between the ground and neutral wires inside your RV is both dangerous and a violation of NEC and RVIA code. There's a lot of reasons for this, but primarily because plugging a RV with this condition into a reversed polarity pedestal outlet without a safety ground COULD energize the RV with a hot skin voltage. If you measure anything in the thousands of ohms or lower, then you need to unplug each appliances one at a time until your G-N resistance goes back up.

The second thing to know is that an open neutral in a 50-amp/240-volt connection is VERY dangerous since it will defeat the normal division of 240-volts into 120/120 volts. This will allow your internal RV voltages to go crazy, with perhaps 40 volts on one leg and 200 volts on the other leg. This tends to blow up all kinds of appliances such as refrigerators, inverters, television, etc... So always double check all neutral connections when doing any electrical maintenance.

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