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American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120702 04/29/05 06:02 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
Here's an interesting mixture of American and British wiring. This also has to be the first time that I've posted a photo of an American load center on ECN! [Linked Image]

This is the electrical installation in a small American RV which has been modified (badly) for use in Britain. It's a Coachmen camper conversion on a Chevrolet van chassis, dating from 1980.

The original system as fitted uses a 2-wire 120V 30A hookup with a QO load center, installed at the rear of the coach under the stove:

[Linked Image]

You are all far more used to seeing QO panels than I am, so here it is:

[Linked Image]

The main C/B is 30A, and the two branch circuits feed the power converter/charger (left of panel), the fridge, and three duplex receptacles. The spare Romex bundled on the right is marked as being for an optional air-conditioner to be wired to the spare half of the tandem breaker if needed.

The only thing I find curious about the wiring arrangement here is that the kitchen receptacle is on one half of the regular tandem breaker while the other recepts and the charger are fed via the GFI. From the labeling on the panel, that does seem to be the way it was wired originally.

Anyway, now we get to the bad conversion part.....

The original 10-3 type ST hookup cable to the QO panel has been rerouted into an adjacent under-seat locker into which a step-down transformer has been fitted to allow for connection to our standard 240-volt 2-wire hookups:

[Linked Image]

The small white box is a British Wylex brand 2-way distribution panel, fitted in this instance with two 15A fuses, one feeding the transformer and the other feeding two British-type receptacles, mounted on opposite sides of this compartment (you can see the back box of one on the lower right).

A new British hookup cord runs from the original inlet (more of which later) to this panel, although why it's clipped down in such a strange way is anybody's guess. [Linked Image]

About that transformer:

[Linked Image]

I can't help feeling rather uncomfortable at the use of an auto-transformer in this application. Just think about what happens if the hookup cord's neutral is bad.

Tools for Electricians:
Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120703 04/29/05 06:05 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
If you look closely in this next picture you can see that neither the American 120V cord nor the British "T&E" (Romex-type) cable are clamped or protected by grommets where they enter the casing. They're just threaded loosely through the knock-outs:

[Linked Image]

Although whoever did this wiring used lugs on the current-carrying conductors, it seems he didn't extend that to the ground connections.

[Linked Image]

The only crimped terminal on that ground bolt is the short link going down to the transformer frame, which would have been supplied with the unit. Both the green wire from the American ST cable and the ground from the British feeder were just badly twisted and wrapped under the nut, without even a washer. Both were so loose that I was able to pull them right out.

Back to the incoming 240V hookup cord. This is how much extra cord was bundled up behin the QO panel when I pulled the surplus through into the locker:

[Linked Image]

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120704 04/29/05 06:07 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
As for the power inlet on the outside of the camper, this isn't quite the original flap:

[Linked Image]

It was actually a piece of vinyl which had been stuck to the remains of the original cover, which soon came off as you can see below. The plug is the standard CEE type used for campsite power over here:

[Linked Image]

Note how the back of the original inlet housing has been hacked out to give room for the bulky British plug to push back into place: [Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Still, whoever did this put a 240V sticker over the original, so I guess we can't ask for too much! [Linked Image]

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120705 04/29/05 10:58 PM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 894
NORCAL Offline
So,how did you get involved in this Mess?

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120706 05/04/05 05:47 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
I actually acquired this vehicle myself to work on as a project now that summer is on the way.

It was close by and cheap, and for a 25-year old RV it's in pretty good shape body and mechanics wise, only 49,000 miles on the clock, engine and transmission run lovely, new brakes just fitted, good interior, etc.

It's just the electrics which have been messed up, but hey, I know someone who can fix that, right? [Linked Image] Should be able to have some fun and then make a little profit once everything's redone properly (if I don't decide to load up and head off to France once winter is just around the corner again, but I don;t want to think that far ahead yet!).

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120707 05/05/05 01:32 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
By the way, the 12-volt wiring has been messed around with as well in places, so I'll gradually work my way through anything which is not original electrical equipment to see how it's been done.

I'm always suspicious of a non-original wire tapped straight onto the battery for example:
[Linked Image]

Sure enough, there's no fusing, and the other side of the bulkhead the wire is spliced as you can see below. The brown wire has been run under the trim around the door frame to an extra cab light, and the red has been pulled loosely across to the center console for a radio. (What was wrong with using the original radio feed? It's there on the connector and working perfectly. [Linked Image] ):

[Linked Image]
Why did somebody go to the trouble of wiring direct through to the battery anyway when the main fuse panel was right in front of him?

Ditto the green wire you can see grounded just behind the vent knob (it connects to more badly installed wiring for extra lights). You can't see it in the photo, but just to the right of fuse panel and slightly above the line of the flasher unit is a ground bar securely bolted to the bulkhead with at least four spare lugs on it! [Linked Image]

P.S. I know that this wiring must have been carried out on this side of the Atlantic. Apart from having the same "style" as the 240V addition, the wire run through to the battery is a standard British/European line cord with just one of the inner conductors connected.

[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 05-05-2005).]

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120708 05/05/05 04:43 PM
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,359
Trumpy Offline
Wow Paul!,
What a hornet's nest you have there. [Linked Image]
Regarding that Auto-Transformer, I have the same concern.
I'm not sure about your Regs, but ours mention that an Auto-transformer may not be used for stepping voltage up or down, by more than 25%, for safety reasons, in case either the Neutral breaks or the Primary winding shorts.
Them 12V connections look really dodgy.
That CEE17 plug has to be the roughest solution I've seen to connecting a caravan up in a long time.

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120709 05/06/05 12:33 AM
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 394
Big Jim Offline
Vintage RV's (mine is a '77) are always fun because people have had so much time to do things badly. I spend an entire day one time in mine under the dash. I didn't add anything, just created order out of chaos.

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120710 05/08/05 06:29 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline OP
I hear you Jim. The mess of wiring for the speakers to the replacement radio certainly fell into that category and I've already spent a while in the center console straightening that out.

One particular problem you also find over here with American vehicles (which aren't all that common by the way) is where somebody has decided to try to "Europeanize" the lights and made a mess of the wiring.

I found the front side markers rewired from turn signal circuit to ground so that they acted only as turn signal repeaters and not as proper marker lights. I've already reconnected them turn-signal to parking-light as GM intended (side marker lights aren't a requirement here, but as they're fitted on U.S. vehicles I like them to work properly!).

Headlights need to be replaced for driving on the left, but many vehicles over here incorporate the parking light as a small bulb in the headlight reflector. Somebody had wired that up to the parking light circuit but completely disconnected the original amber parking lights, leaving just the turn-signal function on them. That's already fixed too!

The other external lighting goof-up is where whoever did this "conversion" fitted separate amber turn signals at the rear (combined red stop/turn lights haven't been used on British/European cars since the 1960s).

They disconnected the brake feed to the turn-signal switch to utilize the original wiring for just the turn signals, then ran a separate wire for the brake lights. It was very poorly lashed up and rather undersized for the load -- Probably not enough to overheat unless you sat with your foot on the brake for hours, but still not good in my opinion, and must have been quite a bit of voltage drop with a 4A-plus load on it.

I've already rewired that back to original combined stop/turn lights.

I'm probably making this project sound worse than it is, but it's just the electrics which are in a mess. Other than a few odds and ends like loose trim and door latches here and there, mechanically it's in good shape.

Re: American RV Wiring vs. Bad British DIY #120711 05/09/05 05:28 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 717
George Corron Offline
GEEEZ Louise,
Someone drove that thing all the way to America and STILL got a crummy wiring job???? [Linked Image]

Drive it back, Paul, we'll fix it, honest.

60 hz??? Didn't think you guys did 60 hz. [Linked Image]

BTW, you hate seeing taps off the battery? Uh, when you're here, DON'T ask to see under my hood. Remember, I'm a ham!!!

On the other hand, all my taps are fused, AND the grounds, but that starts another argument.

[This message has been edited by George Corron (edited 05-09-2005).]

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