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Why Does My RV Keep Tripping GFCI Electrical Outlets?

by Anonymous

I have a 2003 Flagstaff 23 fbs trailer

All electrical appliances are turned off.

Plug into house electrical outlet and trips house GFCI. Works fine when plugged into campground outlet. I read somewhere that the problem is trailer electrical ground.

Where is the ground? On the tongue, electrical box? Camperland want mucho dollars just to diagnose problem.

ANSWER: Greetings thanks for submitting your question on our Ask An RV Question Page.

You are correct in stating that a bad ground or even reversed polarity in your travel trailer could be tripping the GFCI Receptacle. GFCI Receptacles look like normal 15/20 amp plugs except that they have a built in circuit breaker. The GFCI plugs are very sensitive to bad grounds and reverse polarity in electrical systems. They will blow when a normal circuit breaker will not.

First I normally do not recommend that a do-it-yourselfer mess with the 120 volt electrical system of an RV. However, in these economic times it has become apparent that a lot of RVers want to tackle these problems themselves, so I am going to give you some suggestions on what you need to properly diagnose and possibly repair your trailer's electrical problems. These are the two items I recommend you get.

1. The first item you are going to need is a Greenlee Polarity Tester Cube. You can plug this simple tool into your RV electrical outlets and it will let you know with easy to read light sequences; whether the circuit you are testing has a bad ground or a polarity problem.

You want to use this to check all of the outlets in your Travel Trailer, so you can isolate the problem circuits in your travel trailer. This tester can also be used to test GFCI outlets for proper operation.

2. Since I cannot tell you exactly where the ground is on your Travel Trailer and you still want to repair the problem yourself, I am going to recommend that you get a copy of the book RV Electrical Systems: A Basic Guide to Troubleshooting, Repairing and Improvement by Bill Moeller. This book is very well written and covers the following topics:

* How to troubleshoot electrical problems of all types.
* How to recognize and correct dangerous wiring practices.
* How to safely use a campground hookup.
* How to increase battery charging efficiency.
* How to take the pulse of your AC and DC electrical systems.
* How to upgrade your RV from fuses to circuit breakers.
* How to calculate your electrical needs and upgrade your system to meet them.
* How to select the most effective components--batteries, alternator, regulator, coverter, charger, generator, solar panels.
* How to recognize phantom electrical loads that can drain your batteries.

In order for this book to be effective you should have knowledge of basic hand tools and the skill to use them.

This is probably the most cost effective way of diagnosing and possibly repairing your Travel Trailer's electrical problems. Let me reemphasize however; that if you get into the situation where you don't feel comfortable in repairing this problem yourself; that you spend the money to have it diagnosed and repaired by a qualified RV Technician.

Happy RVing

RVing Al

Comments for Why Does My RV Keep Tripping GFCI Electrical Outlets?

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Temporary Fix
by: Airstream Owner

My old Airstream has this problem. Works fine on non GFI outlets, and the 30A 240v trailer plug, but instantly trips GFI breakers. If you have no other choice and need to use a GFI outlet, then remove the GFI outlet and switch the LINE/LOAD connections which will disable the GFI portion of the outlet and give you power. If you don't know what I am talking about regarding LINE/LOAD then you should not attempt to do this.

Why Does My RV Keep Tripping GFCI Electrical Outlets?
by: Anonymous

The suggestion is to remove the white wire that goes to the Hot Water Heater. I have no white wire. I've got 3 wires together: blue, red and black. Where is the part that should be replaced?

Tripping GFCI
by: Jim Hoffman

Oh my gosh, I have been trying so many fixes to this with no luck. I grabbed my computer entered the above title and it brought me to your article. I unhooked the white wire on my water heater and it did the trick. My local rv dealer will be so pleased with the solution as he had no ideas. Thank you for the helpful posting!

by: Nancy

Can you use regular breakers from Lowe's for a travel trailer?

From an electrician
by: Anonymous

Take note of these few things to help narrow your problem. A gfi can not be plugged into a gfi, in other words your bathroom gfi receptacle will trip the house gfi. So turn that breaker on the trailer off. Next a bad ground will not trip a gfi, either the line(hot/black) or neutral(white) must be touching ground, line and load are reversed on the gfi(these will be labeled on the back, caution when checking), you are doubling up on your gfi as stated above, or your gfi is done. To isolate the issue turn all breakers in your trailer off, plug in to the house gfi and then turn the breakers on one at a time. When you turn on the troube causing circuit the gfi will trip. You will quickly isolate the circuit with the issue. This is not a "ends all" but it will help you find 99% of problems quickly. After you find the issue some experiernce using a meter to ohm out grounding issues and reveresed wiring is needed, never ohm out live lines.

Why Does My RV Keep Tripping GFCI Electrical Outlets?
by: Anonymous

I had this problem 2 years ago...I have a GFCI outlet on the carport at home...pluged in the first warm Spring day and the GFCI tripped...decided to change the outlet with a new tripped again.

It could be the camper at the camp ground didn't trip because most are not GFCI...Moisture in the 30 amp feed cable will cause the GFCI to trip at home. This is what caused my problem...We lay our RV cable on the ground and in the mud and rain every weekend for 8 to 10 years...the protective insulation cover begins to dry out and it starts to get small fine cracks in it...before you know it...the moisture attacks the wires inside.

Moisture had worked it's way into the white ground wire...I stripped all the outside cover off and found a burn spot on the white neutral wire. Replaced the RV 30 amp cable with a new one...problem solved. I learned it pays to keep our RV's inspected.

Travel Trailer Trips GFCI Source
by: Tony The Electrician

If it was working before and suddenly started tripping a GFCI source, and if everything is fine when you are not on a GFCI source, it is most likely the electric element in your water heater.
An easy check is to see if you can make hot water with the gas off.

When water heater elements fail, they cause a neutral fault to ground wether they are in use or not. Turning them off at the switch or breaker changes nothing because the problem is a correctly sensed neutral to ground fault, not a voltage or load fault. This is the primary purpose of a GFCI device, to detect said faults. Remove the white wire from your water heating element and tape it off. Now try plugging into a GFCI source. If electrical system now works, go buy a new heater element, and a new heater tank cathode and change them (flush the crap out of the tank too).

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