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Old 12-19-2015, 10:50 AM   #1
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Electrical problem

We have an old 1988 Fleetwood 5th wheel that we use for weekend getaways. We went to use it a couple weeks ago, and discovered a problem with the electrical. Ive checked what I can without going inside the walls so far. When the battery is hooked up or the power plugged in, I use a test light or multi meter to check things. When touching ground on the battery, and positive probe to the trailer frame, there is 12 volts running thru the frame. There is no signs of a short, no burning wires. The radio works until a light is turned on, then everything goes dead. The light comes on for a split second then everything goes off. Any ideas from the electrical gurus here?? Thanks
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Old 12-19-2015, 10:58 AM   #2
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Sounds like a bad ground wire. Radio uses little current. Turning on dc light may be seeking ground through bulb. If you hook another wire from negative on battery then connect to frame then see if light works ok.
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Old 12-19-2015, 12:10 PM   #3
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You need to either clean the terminal on the battery, clean the spot where the cable hooks up to the frame, or possibly replace the ground cable and clean everything up before installation. You have a real poor ground connection you need to find.
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Old 12-19-2015, 04:37 PM   #4
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If you are truly touching ground and the battery negative, then the problem is a bad ground connection battery ground cable. This is far more common than you think.

A more likely scenaro is you have your + and - terminals on the battery confused.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:42 AM   #5
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Thanks for the advice, but I knew the grounds were all ok. That was the first place I checked. Being a diesel mechanic, I do a knowfew things to check first. I knew there had to be a direct short to put that much voltage thro the ground system. After a couple hours of testing multiple things, I found the problem. The previous owner had installed a can capacitor behind the fuse panel. Evidentally, it went bad and shorted inside. After removing it, everything works great. Again, thanks for the advice.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:55 AM   #6
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The capacitor sounds like a noise filter. IF you have 12 VDC between the frame and the negative post on the battery you do not have a good ground jumper between the frame and negative terminal. 50+ years of pushing electrons for a living taught me that much... ;-))
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Old 12-20-2015, 01:44 PM   #7
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Though not quite as old as... Check that.. I got started in Electroincs in my mid teens. I'll be 65 next month. that IS 50 years...)

I agree with nothermark... The only way you can have voltage between the chassis and the battery negative terminal is if:

1: You have a positive ground system (They do exist, but not in any American Made RV)
2: The cable or at least one end connection is bad (Battery negative/ground)

3: You are pulling several times the maximum current carrying capacity of that cable and a fire is about to break out in your RV.

Since your RV did not catch fire (Takes less time to start than it would to read the voltage) we know it was not #3.

Being cross trained in several areas.. I HAVE worked on positive ground systems by the way.. NOT made in the USA however.
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Old 12-21-2015, 08:08 PM   #8
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"Being cross trained in several areas.. I HAVE worked on positive ground systems by the way.. NOT made in the USA however." John, you wouldn't be referring to some Lucas systems, would you?
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Old 12-21-2015, 08:21 PM   #9
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Think of it this way. If one end of the negative battery cable is truly making a good connection to the battery and the other end is truly connected to the frame. Then you measure 12v frame to battery, that cable would be bright red going up in smoke! You have nothing more than a bad ground connection.


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Old 12-21-2015, 08:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmmech View Post
We have an old 1988 Fleetwood 5th wheel that we use for weekend getaways. We went to use it a couple weeks ago, and discovered a problem with the electrical. Ive checked what I can without going inside the walls so far. When the battery is hooked up or the power plugged in, I use a test light or multi meter to check things. When touching ground on the battery, and positive probe to the trailer frame, there is 12 volts running thru the frame. There is no signs of a short, no burning wires. The radio works until a light is turned on, then everything goes dead. The light comes on for a split second then everything goes off. Any ideas from the electrical gurus here?? Thanks
Well, I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.
What you said (I highlighted) about your meter/test_light connection IS the same connection points for the regular ground cable. So "IF" you really had a ground cable which connected the battery (-) to the frame, that is the same as shorting out your meter leads....so the voltage would be zero.

One other point which helps in thinking about this is that voltage NEVER goes "Through" anything, it is the "Current" Which travels through the wire, the voltage is the pressure. Same as water flowing through a pipe. PSI is the pressure, and gallons is the flow.

If you had a shorted cap, there would be a short between +12 and ground.
An open cap does no good, but does not harm the circuit.

You might want to confirm a solid ground connection.

Have fun,

Dan
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