It all began at the air conditioning unit. We were in for a few surprises on the 110V electrical system.
First, you need to know that Travcos have two rooftop openings, on wich can be installed an air conditioning unit, a fan or a simple vent. Inside the motorhome, located on the ceiling beside each of these openings, is a standard 110V outlet. I figure they are designed to power their respective A/C units.
The Blue Whale is equipped with a simple vent on the rear and a standard RV rooftop A/C unit at the front. It is a 110V-powered Coleman unit. But instead of being plugged into the nearby ceiling 110V outlet, a power cord has been run from the side of the unit, hanged across the ceiling to the cabinets over the table. The cord passes over and behind the cabinet, then in a corner where the plug just hangs there. Nothing really fancy as you may guess...
The A/C was powered by this makeshift cord because there was no power in the nearby ceiling outlet. Instead of trying to figure out why the ceiling oulets had no power and then fix it, the previous owners simply ran this cord behind the cabinets, not without causing some damage to them.
Since the rear outlet wasn't getting any power either while circuit breakers for both outlets were ON, we decided to carry out a little investigation.
First, after taking off the ceiling cover of the A/C, we found a 110V wire who's job is probably to power the A/C unit. This wire wasn't connected to anything, and wasn't powered either, being fed from the same circuit as the nearby ceiling outlet.
These two ceiling outlets were the only two inoperative outlets of the entire motorhome. All other outlets were working fine, as all other 110V appliances: power converter, microwave oven, water heater, 110V lightning, etc.
Another issue: on the circuit breaker panel, located in the wardrobe, is a pair 40A circuit breakers labeled "MAIN", wich should cut the power to the entire motorhome when switched to OFF. Well, switching them off had absolutely no effect, the motorhome was still powered and everything (but the ceiling outlets) still worked! And that's not all: when switching OFF the other circuit breakers (lighning, appliances, water heater), their respective circuit were still getting power! What was going on??
We found the answer quite rapidly. The first thing we did is remove the circuit breaker panel cover. That's where we got our big surprise...:
For those of you who don't know much in residential wiring, I'll give some explanations. But first, don't believe for one minute that the connections we found in this panel were from factory. At some time the Whale's wiring has been messed up by someone who didn't seem to know much about electricity and safety. Here's what we found (click on the picture to enlarge if required): the black wires, joint together with the blue connector, should instead be wired to their respective circuit breakers. Speaking of circuit breakers, if you look closely, you'll see that except the two in the lower right, none of them was actually wired to anything. In fact, all of the motorhome power was wired directly, without the use of the breakers, as they were completely bypassed. There was NO overload protection, and NO way of shutting off power anywhere beside unplugging the entire motorhome! When I think that this vehicle can be plugged into 50Amp outlets, this was rather scary.
This explains why turning OFF a circuit breaker wouldn't shut power to its circuit: power wasn't even even go through the circuit breakers!
The two circuit breakers on wich wires were still connected were, ironically, the only inoperative circuits of the motorhome: the ceiling outlets and A/C power. These circuits were not powered simply because the breaker panel itself had no power: the big black wire on the picture should have fed the panel, instead of powering directly the individual circuits.
So we decided to rewire everything correctly, wich was simple enough. We had a few issues due to the fact that the outlet where the motohome was plugged on Dad's house had a reverse polarity problem (neutral and hot wires reversed), wich was unknowned to us. Such an problem is not a dangerous issue but causes all sorts of problems when it feeds a secondary circuit such as an RV with its own breaker panel. Dad's friend Gerry quickly confirmed the reverse plarity problem with his small electronic tester.
Once we got the motorhome plugged into a good power source and all the circuit breakers wired like they were when the motorhome left the factory, everything was working normally, including the ceiling outlets and the A/C wiring. The "MAIN" circuit breakers were now acting has they should, as all the other breakers.
Dad happily tore the ugly A/C power cord off the cabinets and rewired the A/C unit on the provided line. The A/C now works great. Now we just need to find a new ceiling cover for a good price to replace to old cracked one (unless Dad decides the old one can be fixed!).
I don't have a clue why someone messed the Travco's wiring like that. Maybe someone worked on it for some reason, then couldn't remember how to rewire it, and finally decided to bypass the cricuit breakers entirely. All I can say is nobody was impressed, to say the least.
I agree that the Travco's wiring schematic is somewhat different from a standard home wiring, due to the fact that it uses a 220V breaker box for on a 110V circuit (both sides of the box have to be fed with the same single phase). But that's nothing a DIY electrician can't figure out, especially since the original scematic is available on www.mytravco.com...
This electrical work is probably (and hopefully!) among the last big jobs done on the Blue Whale. After many hard working months, Dad has gone through pretty much everything... Among the things left, are the genset, and the dashboard restoration/repairs. Once this is done, the only remaining things will be some finishing details, add-ons or minor repairs. As usual, your comments are welcome!
3 months ago