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I Learned The Hard Way Why an RV Should Have a Surge Guard

by Randy Hobbs
(Wilson, TX)

This story was submitted on our
RVing Tips And Tricks Page.

I’ve owned my 2011 KZ Sportsmen Classic now going on 3 years. I’ve used it several times just locally using the campsites 30 amp connections with no problems at all. I’ve used generators as well and still no problems.

I recently let my battery drain down too low I guess so it died. Just recently a family friend who oversees a pasture lake/reserve type place had electric lines run down to the spot where I have set up a place to camp.

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This area is near an old lake site that is mostly a salt bed type lake but with adequate rainfall, it can have a nice blue lake bed for several weeks. It’s very quiet and away from any public road. It’s basically the same as having a hunting lease out in the pasture or prairie.

She advised me that the local electric company had installed everything needed along with an electrician who has installed and connected all the necessary hookups I’ll need.

I drove down there one day to check it out and sure enough there it was, meter base with meter, circuit breaker box with 50 amp, 30 amp and 110 hook ups with flood lights and light switch. Great! --- I’m in camper heaven ….without the pine trees, a lake to swim in and fish in. That’s okay; this is only a 15 min drive from the house and a great overnight or weekend get-away. So, Sunday evening I hooked up the camper and away I go ready to use this new site the first time.

Remembering that I don’t have a battery I kept in mind that I may need to keep the trailer connected to the vehicle for 12v items to stay working while I cleaned off some ground until I hooked up to the 30 amp connection. (Small trailer – 1 AC and just a few lights)

After leveling the trailer and disconnecting from the vehicle, I pulled out the power cord from the camper and connected it to the 30 amp box. I heard a pop/click/thud sound coming from the camper. My stomach turned a bit and then I quickly unplugged the cord from the outlet.

I went inside the camper and noticed the two 15 amp and 1 30 amp circuit breakers on the power converter were tripped. All I could say at this point was … oh crap. I reset the breakers then pulled out the fuses one-by-one and checked them. None of the fuses were blown. So I hooked up the camper to the vehicle 12v electrical system again and I had lights and refrigerator came back on. Somewhat relieved I disconnected from the vehicle, and hooked back up to the 30 amp again.

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I went into the camper and discovered anything 12 v was not working – lights, water pump, and antenna booster. There goes that sinking feeling again in my stomach. A little frustrated I dug around and found my electric cord adapter for 30 amp to 110 AC and connected to that receptacle – thinking that might work. Nope! Same result – nothing 12v working.

At this point I was getting very upset and beginning to see dollar signs flying by at the rate of $100 per hour at least. I am not an electrician but it was very obvious to me that I had just plugged my trailer into what possibly could have been a 220 volt connection that should have been 110.

As I am making my way back home with the rig I was thinking why I didn’t use my trusty volt meter and check that hookup before plugging it in. So, if you go to a brand new camping site someday and you are the very first person to use the electrical facilities, a word of caution ---- check the juice first.

I now wished I had bought one of those power surge things to plug into first as that may have saved me a lot of frustration as well as money. I’ve called my local dealer’s service shop and discovered labor would be approximately $115/hour just to check out the problem then at least $185 to replace the converter.

I’m glad I love camping or else someone would be selling a camper pretty quick. I think I’ve zapped my microwave too. Maybe in a year or two after spending a few hundred dollars replacing the power converter, microwave and buying a new battery, I can afford to go camping again. This reminds me of the Hee-Haw group singing, “if I had no bad luck I’d have no luck at all ……. “

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