Issue 853 • February 21, 2018
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RVing Tip of the Day
Care and feeding of your shore power connection – Part 2
By Mike Sokol
Okay, so you’ve pulled into a campground with your full-size coach that needs a 50-amp/240-volt outlet on the power pedestal. Or maybe you have a small RV with a TT-30 shore power connector and can only find a 50-amp or 20-amp outlet to plug into. How does this work, and is it safe to do?
First of all, there are two basic varieties of adapters: dogbones and plugs. And these allow you to adapt from a 15- or 20-amp outlet to a 30- or 50-amp cordset, or a 30-amp outlet to a 50-amp cordset. Be aware that none of these adapters actually give you any more power than the outlet can supply. That is, no matter what kind of adapters you may plug into your RV’s shore power cordset, if you’re plugging a 50-amp cordset into a 15-amp circuit breaker, you still only have 15 amperes available to power your RV, even though you’re connecting to both sides of your RV’s 50-amp plug.
Now, I much prefer dogbone adapters over an adapter plug for the following reasons:
On the left, you see a “dogbone” adapter, so named because it resembles a cartoon version of a bone you might feed your dog, with a black connecting wire and two bulging ends. They come in all varieties. I like these because the wire hangs directly down from the outlet and doesn’t create any twisting force. Plus, these can have high-end plugs on the end with a good strain relief and quality contacts.
On the right you see a “plug” adapter, so named because it connects directly to the end of your RV’s shore power cordset. I don’t like these as much since they create a twisting force on the pedestal outlet from the weight of the cordset. Many of these are built very inexpensively and may not have the best contacts.
Next is a quick lesson on 15-amp versus 20-amp outlets and plugs. As far as the amount of current the contacts in each outlet can carry, there is NO difference between the two – it’s simply a keying thing.
Note that the 20-amp version (right) has a sideways blade as a key to keep you from inserting a 20-amp plug into a 15-amp keyed outlet (left). But normally most 15- or 20-amp “USA” receptacles are keyed for 20 amperes of current, and most “USA” plugs are keyed with the 15-amp straight blade so they’ll plug into either a 15-amp or 20-amp outlet.
Here is a quick overview of the three most important dogbone adapters you might need in your road kit.
If your RV uses a 30-amp/120-volt cordset, then you probably only need a 15-amp to 30-amp dogbone adapter like this one. Remember, even though this is listed as a “15-amp” adapter, it’s actually rated for 20 amps of current and will plug into any 20-amp outlet on a campground pedestal.
If your RV uses a 50-amp/240-volt cordset, then there are two possible dogbone adapters you need: a 15-amp to 50-amp adapter for when you plug into a 20-amp outlet on a pedestal, or a 15-amp outlet in your garage. A properly wired dogbone like this will jump the single hotline from the pedestal to the two hotlines going into your RV. So both sides of your RV should receive 120-volt power, but you’re still limited to the 20 amps from the outlet.
Plus, you’ll want a 30-amp to 50-amp adapter for when you plug into a 30-amp/120-volt outlet on a pedestal. Again, a properly wired dogbone like this will jump the single hotline from the pedestal to the two hotlines going into your RV. So both sides of your RV should receive 120-volt power, but you’re still limited to the 30 amps from the outlet.
You really don’t want to stack a 15- to 30-amp adapter in line with a 30- to 50-amp adapter if you can avoid it. Remember that every electrical connection creates another potential failure point as well as increases your voltage drop, and you don’t want to lose any extra volts in a campground that might be low on voltage to begin with.
Come back next Wednesday for Part III on the care and feeding of your shore power, when I’ll go over specialty Y-cables and reversed 50- to 30-amp adapters. See you then …
In case you missed it: Care and feeding of your shore power connection – Part 1
Read yesterday’s tip: It’s winter and batteries are dying.
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Microwave cover collapses for easy storage
When heating your food you don’t want to spend 10 minutes later cleaning the splatters inside the microwave. Here’s the solution — and perfect for RVers: it pops down flat for easy storage. Lid perforations allow steam to escape to keep food moist. Doubles as a strainer, too! Learn more or order at Amazon.com
Make sure your sealant is sealing
Check sealants around windows, doors and roof vents often. Sealant does “dry out,” and cracked sealant can lead not only to air leaks (making it harder to heat and cool your rig), but worse, can allow water in that can lead to expensive damage.
Buy these wire cutters for easy, precise cutting!
With electricity expert, Mike Sokol
For you DIY types out there who have to cut and strip wires, there are few things more frustrating than nicking the copper or pulling the insulation off. What you really need is a great pair of wire strippers. But not all wire strippers are created equal. I’ve gone through dozens of them during the 50 years I’ve been working on electronics and power wiring, and these Greenlee Grip P10 strippers are simply the best and what I keep in my own toolkit. They’ll strip anything from 10-gauge wire (for electric brakes and TT-30 wiring) all the way down to 24-gauge wire (for electronics and control wiring).
Use big enough leveling blocks
Got leveling blocks for under the tires? Make sure the blocks are big enough that the tire sits completely on the block — not overhanging it. Dually rig owners, BOTH the tires must be supported, not just “one or ‘tuther.”
HOT TOPIC AT RV TRAVEL.COM
Can you both get the rig home?
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How to find true North without a compass.
Whether you’re lost in the woods or you’re trying to install a sundial in your yard, this website demonstrates several ways to find true north.
City and U.S. maps
A GPS is great, but there’s nothing like a folded map to plan a trip or guide you where you’re going once you’re underway. Just about every folded map you would ever need is here. Most sell from about $2 to $6. Check ’em out or order.
Why install a diesel engine fire suppression system
If you drive a diesel-pusher motorhome, watch this. David Bott explains how he installed a fire suppression system in his engine compartment, and why he did it. Anyone who ever watched his/her RV go up in flames because of a rear engine fire will wish they had this system in place to quickly extinguish the fire.
See all of our videos on our YouTube Channel.
Don’t toss away good batteries!
Most RVers rely on battery-powered devices while on the road, whether flashlights, radios or cameras. But sometimes you just can’t tell how much life a battery has remaining so you toss it to “be sure.” This small, inexpensive tester will alert you in an instant to the condition of a battery, saving you money from needlessly tossing ones with plenty of remaining life! Works on AA, AAA, C, D, 9V and button-type batteries. Learn more or order.
MORE QUICK TIPS
Correct RV tire pressure saves tires
Keeping RV tires at the right inflation saves them. Too much pressure — uneven tread wear. Too little pressure — risk ruining the tires from overheating, plus uneven wear. Tires give off air even without actual “leaks,” so check them before you start out on a trip, and at least weekly on the road.
Need to charge your batteries but the “water level” is low? Wait until after you’ve charged them, then fill. Exception: If the level is below the top of the plates, fill to just cover the plates, then charge. After charging, complete the “fill-up.”
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Protect yourself from intruders, bears and more!
The BASU eAlarm lets us explore, sleep, and adventure with confidence! This tiny device emits a 130-decibel alarm which scares away intruders, burglars and wild animals, and will call for help if you find yourself stranded. Used by the RVTravel staff, you can count on this alarm to keep you safe. Watch the video to learn more or click here to order for about $10.
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RV Daily Tips Staff
Editor and Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern. Staff writer: Emily Woodbury. Contributing writers: Russ De Maris, Bob Difley, Gary Bunzer, Roger Marble, Deanna Tolliver, Mike Sokol, J.M. Montigel and Andrew Robinson. Advertising coordinator: Gail Meyring.
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