Melting the plug

On last year’s July trip to the Salem Rally, we stopped at Goose Lake Oregon State Park and enjoyed the electric service to run the Air Conditioner during a record heat wave. Sean’s experience this year made me feel I was lucky.

Sean at Our Odyssey described two stops in a row where the park electrical service needed help. Staying dry-side at La Pine State Park, on the Deschutes river) is where he melted a plug. Just missing the heat wave at Goose Lake state park was a wakeup about electrical service at RV parks. Not everyone is going to open up the electric box to conduct a safety inspection but once burned ….

You can catch a problem before the plug on your electrical cord melts. Whenever you run a good sized electrical load, such as to run an air conditioner, there will be the potential for the wiring to get hot. This is why you don’t coil up extra cord in a tight space. That can concentrate heat which might melt insulation.

Faulty wiring will often show up as a hot spot. This is what happened to Sean at La Pine. Faulty wiring in the park pedestal caused the plug to get hot and melt the end of his electrical cord.

Rather than pull the cover and do an inspection, you can just check to see if your plug or the outlet is getting warm after a few minutes of heavy load. It is always a good idea to be skeptical about alien power sources. Here are some tips to help you prevent damage to your rig or equipment.

1) use a polarity tester to make sure that the ground, neutral, and hot are properly wired and connected. (there are 2 hots in 50 amp RV service)

2) use a voltage tester to make sure you are getting the proper voltage at the plug.

3) make sure your electrical cord goes directly to the ground below the pedestal connection and has no loops for anyone to trip on. Provide slack so that if someone does catch a toe on the cord they won’t pull the plug.

4) check the connections after you have been plugged in for a while, especially if running a heavy load. Looking for hot outlets and plugs might be another good use for an infrared thermometer. Power down and disconnect anything getting hot.

5) check the voltage inside the rig anytime you turn on a heavy load to make sure that the line voltage drops aren’t excessive. A significant voltage change when you turn on the A/C indicates some wiring up the line is eating electricity and producing heat.

No need for paranoia but a very good need for appropriate precautions. You’d think state parks would be better wired than what Sean found out. That experience only tells you that you shouldn’t take anything for granted, especially when it comes to safety critical things.

1 Comment

  1. Ground-Fault if Honda is grounded or not - Airstream Trailer & Motorhome Community said,

    May 29, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

    [...] Honda manual probably says it better than I can. For a horror story about campground wiring, see Melting the plug which describes and links to an encounter with Oregon State Park electrical systems. It is amazing [...]

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