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Old 01-01-2011, 10:39 AM   #1
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How to do poor wiring work and possibly burn a motorhome to the ground

03 Alfa. 60K miles. Nice like new MH, right?

...one with a fire hazard...

We discovered this in the process of redesigning the primary electrical and charging system, because of the figurative "disaster" that the system was from Alfa. There is no way to properly charge the house and inverter banks without damaging or destroying them.

In the process, we found this... (see photos)

The cable being cut is the one to the house loads (load side of the house disconnect solenoid). The house batteries are thru a 200 AMP FUSE.

to just make a SWAG at the power dissipated in such a short-circuit:

Current: 11V/0.06 ohms = 183 AMPS (fuse will NOT blow)
Power: 183 - squared x 0.06 = 2016 WATTS.

An electric hair dryer is 1100 - 1500 watts. 2KW is the total power output of the inverter.

Heat/cool and vibration are all it takes for a 2 gauge cable installed by Alfa, against a sharp metal edge on a metal plate screwed to the frame (dont know who installed it for sure, but since it has the same screws as Alfa used to install other electrical devices, we assume "them") to be cut through and short out to ground. The black convoluted tubing (improperly installed) had been cut through and a "smiley" was worn in the cable insulation. Its thick, but NOT with a knife edge pressed against it. The cable is (was) pulled tight against the sharp edge, connected just above, rigidly, to the house solenoid bolted to a plastic enclosure, the other end snakes down and forward to the battery compartment above the inverter batteries.

Made worse by the facts that:

1.) the high current wiring is near the only door (egress) in the motorhome.
2.) people regularly sleep in the other end of the motorhome
3.) the only other way out in an emergency is thru a window and 6 feet onto the ground. Falling out a window and being knocked unconscious next to a flaming vehicle with 50 gallons of diesel fuel and a propane tank next to the fire source is NOT my idea of a safe design or layout NOR is it an acceptable egress.

Its clear from the other dangerous things that Alfa did, such as:

4.) wiring the vehicles headlights through the chassis solenoid-solenoid failure or circuit disconnect at night leaves the vehicle driving with NO HEADLIGHTS
5.) running a chassis battery cable forward without a circuit breaker

that they had absolutely no idea how to design electrical systems or install them.

If you want more info or help, Email me gl1200harness@yahoo.com
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Old 01-01-2011, 11:24 AM   #2
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I'm not by nature a violent person but when I see such blatant examples of my family's safety being disregarded it makes me want to find the guys responsible and slap them silly.

Good work.

Rick
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Old 01-01-2011, 11:53 AM   #3
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This type of shoddy workmanship is all to common in the RV industry. Odds are if something were to have happened to your family due to this it would just be written off as an accident.
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Old 01-01-2011, 12:06 PM   #4
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It would appear that these were at one time attached to something that is no longer there (indentations of the wire)? You can file a complaint with NTSB and RVIA.
Good thing you found this and yes some times a good 2X4 between the ears is necessary to get their attention!
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Old 01-01-2011, 01:43 PM   #5
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Thumbs down

I have spent countless hours fixing the wireing on my 08 Rexhall both 110 volt, and 12 volt. My latest project was to redue the wireing to the headlights. If we had ever had to do any driving in snow the buildup would have unpluged the head, parking lights and turn signals. I have driven truck most of my life, and have rewired the lights to countless trucks and trailers, but the mess I cut out was one of the worse I have seen in a long time.
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Old 01-01-2011, 08:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Shadowcatche View Post
It would appear that these were at one time attached to something that is no longer there (indentations of the wire)? You can file a complaint with NTSB and RVIA.
Good thing you found this and yes some times a good 2X4 between the ears is necessary to get their attention!
Yes, they were operably connected to (into) a plastic box to two solenoids which switched the chassis and house power. The house loads are 130A max, thru a 200 amp fuse and 2 gauge cable. No good.

We'd removed the box to rewire -redesign-inspect... and in the process I saw the cable damage, so the box was removed.

The root problem is that the wiring was not installed according to National Electrical Code which requires the wire to be secured. Its heavy and hung more or less vertically, and the weight and impact pulled the cable down tight, as its anchored on top but just hangs on the bottom.

This one merits a NHTSA complaint.

I just perused NEC and found a handful of violations including battery locations. Code doesnt allow the inverter batteries to be installed in the front with the generator.

Alfa is out of business. I suppose whomever allowed this (engineer? there COULDNT have been any engineering involved in this mess) could be sued if something happened, but were out to make sure that doesnt happen.
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Old 01-01-2011, 08:38 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cj5 jeeper View Post
I have driven truck most of my life, and have rewired the lights to countless trucks and trailers, but the mess I cut out was one of the worse I have seen in a long time.
Spoken by an expert in driving. Yes, "no lights" is no good!!
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:11 PM   #8
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More in the Little Shop of Wiring horrors. The chassis cable (2 Ga) was put thru the floor, thru the solenoid, out the floor and back inside thru a firewall feedthrough.

A big loop that does nothing useful. From the firewall terminal, 4 smaller cables pressed or pinched against the firewall. possible short circuit location.

Then they ran the 2/0 house battery cable from a 200A fuse into the inverter compartment, into a 2 Ga cable (must be magic cable to accept a 2/0 into a 2 Ga..., I guess the excess electricity just falls off the wire??) back out, thru the floor, house solenoid into 2- 6 Ga cables...

We cant see the 4 wires clearly where they are pressed towards or against the sharp metal edge of the firewall, but Murphy says "it aint safe" (see photo). Three of the four wires leave the stud and go down/left below the cable marked "LO"
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:51 PM   #9
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I've certainly seen my share of wiring messes in the marine industry and would expect the same or very similiar in the RV industry. It's important to understand the two different and distint functions of fuses or other circuit protection. One, and the one that appears to be described here, is to protect against wiring failure. The circuit protection must be sized just that it will provide protection before the wiring fails. Depending on the wire/cable, 2/0 cable can support upto 195 amps before failure. So, a 200 amp fuse is too large. The circuit protection should also be installed as close as possible to the voltage source. In the marine industry I believe the spec is 6 inches. Where you have bi-directional power sources, like a battery and battery charger, you must install circuit protection at each end of the cable.

The mention of 2/0 being run to the inverter where it connects to #2 wire is okay. In fact, depending on the length of the cable run, 2/0 may have been selected to manage voltage drop rather than current carrying capacity. If you are using larger cable to manage voltage drop rather than for current capacity, the circuit protection should be matched to the lower currect load. Also, it must be sized for the lower current carrying capacity of #2 when #2 and 2/0 are both used in the common run, as I believe described.

The other way circuit protection can be sized is to protect the electronic device, as long as doing so would not result in the use of circuit protection devices larger than the capacity of the wire/cable. In the inverter example, if the 2/0 cable ran all the way from the batteries to the inverster, without the short extension of the #2 wire described, then it would be reasonable to size the circuit protection to the lower current draw of the inverter. Based on it's use of #2 wire, the inverter should not draw more than about 100 amps. So, a 100 amp fuse installed at both ends of the 2/0 would make sense. If the inverter required external protection, then the 100 amp fuse would be required.

Wiring doesn't have to be difficult, but it seems to be a common area of deficiencies by a lot of manufacturers.

Gil
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:57 PM   #10
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"
The mention of 2/0 being run to the inverter where it connects to #2 wire is okay."

It does not run to the inverter, it runs into the inverter compartment (flammable box made of plywood and paint), back out of the inverter compartment and upstairs to the house circuits, which can draw a max. of 130A. thru 2 6 ga wires (also troubling...)

Theres nothing OK at any time having a 200A fuse on a line with 2 ga cable....regardless of where it goes or what it powers.

NEC/ NPFA service entry cable service for a 2 ga is max 130A. This is a motor vehicle, different application, granted, but at least as NEC goes, its not safe.
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:47 PM   #11
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PS according to SAE wire current capacity standards, the wire sizes (2-0, 2) are OK for general loads.
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:47 PM   #12
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I bought my Rexhall from a RV lot and when the service tech went through the RV he found that the previous owner had done some modifications. Some were pretty clever but one or two made him shake his head. One that sticks out in my mind was under the oven there was a bare wire that was an inch from touching the metal surface. I am no electrician but I do know a live wire that is bare touching metal can give you a good zap.
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davecampbell
"
The mention of 2/0 being run to the inverter where it connects to #2 wire is okay."

It does not run to the inverter, it runs into the inverter compartment (flammable box made of plywood and paint), back out of the inverter compartment and upstairs to the house circuits, which can draw a max. of 130A. thru 2 6 ga wires (also troubling...)

Theres nothing OK at any time having a 200A fuse on a line with 2 ga cable....regardless of where it goes or what it powers.

NEC/ NPFA service entry cable service for a 2 ga is max 130A. This is a motor vehicle, different application, granted, but at least as NEC goes, its not safe.
Dave, I never said the 200A fuse was okay...it is not. I'm not sure what the #2 is doing besides going into and out of a compartment. Where ever this wire is sourcing it's power, it needs circuit protection equal to or less than the current carrying capacity of the wire.

FWIW, I tend to look at the marine requirements when I change anything in the RV. The marine requirements use voltage drop as a critical variable, either 10% or 3%.

Gi
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:16 PM   #14
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The "rat's nest" shown in the second photo is very disconcerting IMHO. When I was looking for a used DP, I looked closely at how the wiring was organized, protected and equally important...properly terminated with ring tongue terminals crimped in the proper tool.

From what I learned, many/most RV manufacturers let the electricians terminate the wires with whatever crimping tool they happen to have in their tool belt. This tool is usually a cheap single indent crimper intended for only un-insulated ring tongues. The result is torn/broken insulation and a poor connection before the unit even leaves the factory.

I encourage all in the market for a new or used coach to inspect how the wiring is terminated. For all the mixed opinions on Fleetwood, I can attest that they standardized on one manufacturer's ring tongues and splices + the appropriate application tooling (aka crimping tools) 20 years ago.

Dave
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