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Old 05-07-2012, 11:55 PM   #1
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Solved --Catalina Deluxe Edition trips GFI

So yeah, all this came about last week after three months of trouble free ownership. I had my trailer plugged in for a day while sitting in the driveway and on the second day the GFI breaker in my garage was tripped.

Hmmmm, must be the GFI in my garage, after all we have had no trouble up until now and it was just working 30 minutes ago (this was last thurs). No problem we will check it at the campground Friday night. Yeah, no better luck there. It tripped the 30A GFI circuit on the campsite pole and the 20A GFI too (2 different GFI breakers, 3 if you count the one at my house). Hmmm this is starting to look like a camper problem.

After several hours of pretending to be an electrician this is what I have found:

-With all breakers off the GFI trips immediately when the trailer is plugged in
-With the ground to the pigtail unwired everything works fine. Obviously this is no solution but for those familiar with the inner workings of a GFI (correct me if you think I'm wrong) this tells me the H-N loads are balanced. This is starting to sound like a grounded neutral.
-After removing all the grounds individually, then reconnecting them one at a time I can plug in safely with all but three grounds connected. The water heater, the 'non-GFI' outlet circuit (two outlets by the bed, one by the dinette, one in the entertainment center and one in the refrigerator compartment), and the 'mystery ground'.
-The 'mystery ground' is a single bare ground wire (not in romex or other cable) that is landed on the ground bus and goes through the subfloor into the underbelly area, where it can't be traced (easily, that is). It follows the main pigtail feed and water heater cable into the subfloor but it does not come back out of the subfloor where they do. The GFI trips immediately when it is connected.
-As long as the refrigerator is unplugged from its receptacle in the outside compartment, the 'non-GFI' outlet circuit is happy, but as soon as it is plugged in, you guessed it--trip city.
-When the ground for the water heater circuit is connected, the GFI trips immediately.

I don't really enjoy working on a new camper but I am less excited about letting someone work on it who knows even less about electric circuits than I do.

Looks like it will be going to the dealer, will keep you all posted.
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Old 05-08-2012, 07:23 AM   #2
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Sounds indeed like it's time for the dealer to have a look.

Here's a thought-- I believe that all outlets are GFI. One outlet is actually
the GFI and the rest are daisy chained to it. Thus all outlets are GFI protected.
I think I have heard where a flaky GFI might cause another to trip?

Maybe I dreamed that part!!
I also believe that a faulty hot water heater element can cause the
power post GFI to trip. My hot water heater is plugged into a receptacle
behind the tank. If yours is also, try unplugging it and see if you still
have the trip problem.

Good Luck!
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:48 AM   #3
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On my trailer (28DDS), there are two circuits for receptacles. One is fed from its own breaker and feeds the GFI-protected circuit (bathroom, kitchen, and outside). The other circuit shares a breaker with the 12V converter and powers the receptacles at the bed (2), the dinette, entertainment center, and the refrigerator compartment.

I think the most likely identification of my 'mystery ground' is a chassis ground. I will let the dealer confirm.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:21 AM   #4
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You may be right about the chassis ground wire.
Don't know why that would cause the GFI trip.

Try unplugging your water heater just to see what happens.

Sharing breakers-- 2 wires on 1 breaker is against code.
I'm not surprised the RV makers do this but it's illegal I believe.
If the power center was plugged into an outlet it would be legal but if
they put 2 wires on one breaker screw it's not.

Hope you find your problem.
Please post back and let us know what you find out!
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:59 PM   #5
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Yeah I would say a return trip to the dealership. I know the feeling of having someone else work on your new TT. I too am in the same boat however I didn't just drop a lot of money on something I didn't need to have it break down within a few months of having it. Keep us posted on what you find out about it.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:27 PM   #6
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First of all -- thanks for the suggestions. That's the great thing about forums. We get to use everyone's knowledge.

I took the trailer into the local dealership, who plugged it into their (non-GFI-protected) test bench and could find nothing. They were unwilling to tear into the electrical when it appeared (to them) that there was no problem. I told them that it sounds like we need to appeal to higher authority (Forest River first, prayer second) to determine what to do next, but in the mean time I took it home so it could sit in my driveway instead of their unsecured service lot.

Once I got it home, determination and stubbornness took over and I couldn't resist trying to figure this problem out.

Then, after many hours (easily 6-8 hours total) of working on my NEW camper MYSELF--aarrghhh--finally, tonight: VICTORY. I don't know if that totally conveys my satisfaction, but......

I have tested all of the circuits in this trailer numerous times from different angles and using different ideas, but I finally did find the ground problem. The main 30 amp SO cord comes into a junction box in the water heater compartment. For those of us with the 28DDS that is under the bottom bunk. From there it is wire nutted onto a piece of orange romex that runs under the subfloor and up behind the breaker panel. My wiring had a dead short between the neutral in the romex cable and the chassis of the trailer. Normally, on a non-GFI circuit, this would not be a big deal. In fact the neutral and ground in a home are usually bonded together on purpose. But turns out in an RV and on a GFI circuit, it's a problem. To test my theory I free-aired a piece of romex from the end of the SO cord to the breaker panel (abandoning the orange romex in the subfloor) and LIFE IS GOOD!

So now I have to run a permanent piece of romex to finish the drill, then I will be back in business.

In hindsight, there is an explanation for what I was referring to in my original post (rant). All of the items that were causing my GFI trips (water heater, chassis ground, refrigerator) are in some way independently attached to the trailer chassis. The water heater itself is screwed to the aluminum skin, which must have continuity to the frame. The refrigerator is the same, the part of the refrigerator frame where the incoming power is grounded must also have continuity to the frame, and obviously the chassis ground (which my 'mystery ground' has to be) is attached to the frame. So my grounded incoming neutral would show up in any of those circuits also.

I will feel much better when I have everything put back together and I am again plugged into shore power, but for tonight I am satisfied that the problem has been identified.

I'm going to drink some beer now.

Good Night.
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:20 AM   #7
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Mtusrsmith Great job! Now only if you could bill Forest River for all of the labor you had to put into it even if it was under warranty! I'm with yah on drinking some beer on that note!
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:52 AM   #8
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Scott, Thanks for the follow up!
We often don't get to hear the rest of the story.

FYI I have changed the thread title to Solved--

If something unthinkable happens and your problem turns out to
not be fixed, please let us know that too.

Great job by the way.
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Old 05-11-2012, 09:24 PM   #9
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Here's your (my) trouble.... Screw hole, and when the insulation is peeled back you can see the copper in the white conductor.

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Old 05-13-2012, 10:11 AM   #10
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Update 5/13 -- Yesterday I ran a new piece of wire (10/2 romex) for the incoming power, wired it up and we are back in business!!! I hope this was the only gremlin living in our camper, or my hair will be getting a lot more gray and my beer fund a lot more depleted. Pretty sure my dog is glad too.

Cheers!!
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