Power distribution time 83 holiday rambler

Started by Eyez Open, August 05, 2022, 09:21 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

Eyez Open

I've been avoiding this part of this restoration,Ive very little experience with RV wiring and from what I've seen so far that may well cost me a few brain cells.

The issue's, on shore power the ac/dc circuits work well, the over head lighting is dc and that works well. Now the issue's center around the kitchen wall dc wiring and the cabinet light wiring living room only. They are dead most of the time.. W%

I've checked the fusing that is fine, the converter just hums softly and uniformly. And the salesman switch has no effect aside from operating the steps. So I took a look in the battery compartment, no batteries I pulled them long ago. Below a picture... am I looking at a 12 volt bus bar that distributes power? Is a replacement as easy as it looks? And then there is that solenoid what would be it's function. This is my first experience with such matters any hints/tips would most appreciated.


OK, time to do something back. Let's save some of your braincells.

You've reacted to my post regarding my coach wiring. I don't know if you've read it all but I also had my doubts about some things. Your multimeter is your best friend here. It also will be a great help if you have a coach wiring diagram so you can match colors.

With or without a wiring diagram, the best place to start is your powerstation. This is the place all the power in your RV is distributed from. As most wires will disappear in the walls chances are low the previous owner changed them.

If you are not comfortable with electricity and AC and DC is combined I would advise you never to be working at your powerstation with shore power connected to avoid burning up your multimeter or blow fuses, or worse electrocute yourself.

Now, your fuses are on the powerstation and should represent DC plus. If you open it up, you will reach the wiring. If you look at the picture below you see the wiring from the fuses (1) go to connectors (2), from were the power is distributed to the different areas in your RV in different colors to identify the wiring (3), The wires from the fuses to the distribution connectors all have the same color as the wiring of your ground/minus. Of course when you don't have distribution connectors the different colors of the wires will be connected to the fuses directly.

Put your multimeter on 12V DC and put the red pole on one of the wires at the fuses and the black on one of the wires from the different color. The multimeter should now show 12.XX without a minus in front of it. If there is a minus it means that the polarity is wrong but as chances of that should be zero, let's not dig into this yet.

Write down the color of your DC+ and DC-. Next to this number your fuses from top to bottom or left to right and follow each wire from the fuse to the connector. Look at the other side of the connector tho see what color wire is on there and write that down as well.

Then switch everything that is on 12 volt on and start removing the fuses one by one. All appliance/lights connected to the fuse will go off. Write the appliance/ light after the fuse/colorwiring you wrote down before.

Now the pictures you've sent scare me because they show you have a wiring magician touching the electricity of your RV as well, without respecting colorcoding or fuses as far as I can see. First thing you need to check is if those distribution blocks are also fusible links. If not, that needs to be addressed INMEDIATELY because this is a fire hazard waiting to happen if they are not!

I think that one of three wires on the right side of the solenoid on the picture is the DC plus feed. This will mean that the solenoid is used as a kill switch to everything connected to the distribution block.

So if I were you, I would first determin were all the wires are going to, one of them should go to the coach battery. Really check were all the wires are going to.

Then you should determin what switches the solenoid. the wire for this is the purple or pink one on the small connector.

Now the next thing that I see is that the solenoid is hanging upside down. there is a wide discussion about that on the internet but thinking logically, the poles on the left and right of the solenoid should be connecting when the solenoid is on, so in my humble opinion should move up and not down so gravity or driving over bumps can connect the poles too, so in my RV the solenoid hangs straight. Better talk to somebody about it with more knowledge about them then me.

Now as the wiring seems not to be colorcoded, I don't know what your DCminus is. This you Will need to find with your multimeter.

And as last, the lighting working of and on.

Is this happening to the complete section on a specific fuse or just one light? In the last case it can also be the lightfixture itself (switch or bulbholder)
If it happens to the complete section, check if the clamps of the fuses are not too loose or the wiring behind it. It can of course also be you have a grounding problem due to corrosion.

Eyez Open

Thank you for the reply, you have cleared up a few things. I now am reasonably sure that picture is a shows a secondary dc power source distribution center..aka batteries. Hence the lack of color coding, I have used a cheap power light to determine what is hot and where the or how the system is grounded..all those wires are hot. They merely route power, I will replace the bloc with one that is fused it is a mess.

I pulled the genset a few yrs ago it will be replaced with a battery/solar system but that is a yr away. When I pulled It iwas quite careful with the output wiring, there was just one heavy a.c. line  that runs back to the rear bumper and that is where one one plugs the shore power cord electrifying  the entire RV...A mobile AC power source...At the time I believed things were just that simple, the AC was the source of all power, I now believe the house battery which are not there actually power the DC to the kitchen wall. What I'm saying is there are two dc circuits in this RV...well maybe.

I've been inside the power supply and fuse block, it is color coded and even labeled...all the fuses are transferring powering correctly. So where does that power distribution mess get is power supply? I am about to isolate the engine battery from it..if power remains then I know the house power supply provides the power. The line supplying the kitchen wall would be the fundamental cause.  Maybe lol

Update: I have cut the engine battery and that power block still retains power. The only source of power is the converter, so i have a connectivity problem somewhere on the kitchen wall. The problem is strictly a dc issue, all the ac lines work correctly..Perhaps when removing the AC genset 
i somehow cut a DC line. The only DC line cut was the starting lines...Odd problem. Mlw you were correct a butcher was in there, it spliced red wiring to black wiring for that solenoid.
Two positives on a solenoid...is that right?  Let me once again take the time to thankyou for your time and input, i went back and traced each step in the power stream all is working in harmony. I believe there is a hidden broken line someplace in the system, this RV has the power lines hidden under the flooring and then they shot foam covering the lines up and insulating the floor.

The DC power days are now numbered...Unless it is that ancient rusty old solenoid/switch...im really not liking that right now.

That solenoid would anyone know a part number? All the numbers have vanished with time.

Eyez Open

Well there are times when you just need to breathe, this is one of those times. I've been trying to wire a new hot water heater and replumbing the the old grey lines thru out the RV. Needless to say that left me stunted a bit it seems.

I had gone to ace hardware to pickup new power lines, color keyed of course..lol that's when I realized the negative battery cable was just laying there..no batteries who cares. Upon returning I created a shiny new ground point on the battery box and bolted it down.. The RV now has dc power on the kitchen walls..first disbelief...and now still more. A floating ground system on a RV power supply network?


:)clap :)clap :)clap

Congratulations in "solving" that problem. By the way, I'm guessing the white wire hanging loose is a grounding wire as well but do identify before connecting. But are you saying that this cable officially is connected to the negative pole of the battery? Because if it is, you have a grounding issue to the area(s) not working and you are right that it shouldn't work this way. It's nothing you can't fix, but it will need to be addressed. The easiest way will be to make a new cable from the negative pole from the battery straight to that line, but it will always be an emergency fix not addressing the real problem.

when a floating ground cable makes contact with a bare part of the chassis it creates an extra way for ground to flow even when not bolted down. It will be a minimum contact and that why the working of the lights was on and of as the RV will shake when you move around connecting and disconnecting the ground wire. IT is EXACTLY the reason why I hate Chassis ground because it really can make you go nuts wondering what the hell is going on in a case like this. Next to this you CONSTANTLY need to be vigilant and never touch live wires with bare metal because you Will have a short circuit immediately with sparks flying.

Now what I would like to advise you next time you going to work on this. Let a second person switch the AC power to your RV on and off. You should hear a clicking sound which means you have a solenoid that switches from the coach battery to the converter as soon as you plug in your RV to a live AC socket.

Now I was allready giving you the answer below yesterday, but I was really tired and literally falling asleep typing your message, so I went to bed before I could finish.  :-[ Sorry ;)

At first when you don't have a multimeter, I strongly advise you to buy one. a cheap one from Wallmart like in the link is good enough. It's simple and has all the features you ever going to need in your RV. It really makes working on your RV electricity so much easier.

Alison pocket Muiltimeter

When you really not familiar with multimeters
Multimeter basics for automotive use

Now you are absolutely right in thinking that the RV's we own normally has one 12 volt system with only one life feed from the coach batteries. to power the system thru shore power there is a solenoid that switches between Coach battery power or AC to DC converter power. That is the block you see in the middle of the picture I send you with my last message, so you are also correct that one AC power cord should feed everything in your RV. The 110/120 volt sockets installed your RV and your 12 volt system thru your converter. The AC system is protected by a breaker that is in the powerstation or in the cabinet where AC power enters the RV.

About the second distribution block,  I have one as well in my battery compartment so it can be that it was there but with me they are fusible links.  My guess is that these blocks are for appliances that needed 12 volt but has his own AC power supply like the fridge and control units.

Now, when there are no coach batteries there and the AC is not connected, there shouldn't be power to the 2ND distributionblock. If there is, it's coming from you Chassis battery, something you really shouldn't want.

But lets not make this to difficult because I think identifying where the power is coming from shouldn't be to difficult.

Like I said before first find the switch for the solenoid and make sure it's off, but also try to identify what it's used for. When the solenoid is off you need to identify where there is power on the wires. I allready explained about power on the 3 wires to the right, but it can also be the other way around and that power is on the single wire on the left side of the solenoid in your picture the power is coming from the distribution block. Then it's easy. The upper side of your distribution block is what feeds everything so power comes from the black wire which is fused by the single fuse seen in the picture. This works but does mean the whole block is without power when the fuse blows.

When the power does come from the other side with the three wires then all I can say is that without a proper wiring manual it really becomes tracing wires. Even much so when the PO changed colors of the wiring as seen in you picture. There is a red wire in your picture coming from the distribution block changing in a black wire via the yellow connector. This really makes things complicated.

I think you've read all the problems I've had in my Betsy, so no need to repeat things here as the message is long enough allready. If you want I can tell you how I ended up identifying every wire. But let's first tackle the power to the distribution block and go from there.

Eyez Open

Well ive succeeded in only establishing a ground, any type of load put on the house battery system and it goes dark. I was able to trace down a junction that i have wanted to cut off long ago. It seems to be a the source of my issue's...and its days are numbered. On the bright side i was able to find wiring diagram of sorts, it is a place to start a detour around a expensive bandage. Below have a read, quite interesting to a point..soley due to late timing of a engine.

Aside from that you were spot on with that wire splice, it once was wired to the power strip and someone cut it and spliced into that solenoid...lol im sure they thought they were brilliant at the time. For now ive just ran a power line to the fuse box for the igniter on the hot water heater...I am quite sure after a few long hot showers and time to mull over just what i need to do things will be fine.

That whole circut was setup to deal with hot starts, due soley late timing. I am beginning to believe almost 30% of a cylinders charge burned up in the exhaust manifolds..ever wonder how much heat that might create...lol incredible.



Eyez Open

quick reply and posting a pic is taboo i see. Oops not a cell phone however.

Below one can see the power distribution coming into the entire starting circuit and house battery system.

Diagram 2 show more detail. Creating a ground to chassis made a circuit, any load cuts it out. That solenoid in the in the house battery supply is highly suspect.


I already thought that solenoid was there for Hot wiring purposes. But I'm not familiar with you RV and looking at it, it sure doesn't look like a Hot wire system right now.

On the forum I helped several people out with their electrical issues, all different type of RV's. Seeing wiring diagrams and communicating with the owners, whatever the make, the coach wiring set up of at least all the USA RV's is in my experience identical and differs in extra setups like generators and appliances.

Let's not speculate any longer, making things only more difficult for you, because I'm guessing you will have, like me, a lot of work to do. But electricity is logical, transferring power from point A to Point B. To do that you need cabling. The more power you want to transport the thicker the wire must be.

The formula you can use for RV cabling is simple Amps/4 = MM. Use a conversion cart to convert it in gauges.
To calculate your amperage Watts/12

What you need to do is calculate what the powerconsumption will be when everything is on at once. This will probably never happen, but nowadays we do use a lot more power than back then because of computers, TV's higher powered radio's, mobile phones etc. If you have an estimate, you'll know how thick your wires from the house batteries need to be and I'm guessing it will be around 16 mm. As far as I understand this is Gauge 0? This is the wiring I am using now from the house batteries to my powerstation and the distribution block in the battery compartment.

I also really hope you are not telling me that they Hot Wired the RV over that single wire that I see on the solenoid. I have that solenoid too but in my RV it is connected to a cable of 16MM, so probably as thick as the cable you now are making the ground connection with and is really the cable you need for starting thru hot wiring.

Now I thought about it longer, but the conversation with you pushed me to make a wiring diagram how I set up the system now. I kept it as original as possible. But as the charger and converter in My RV didn't work properly I ripped them out, disconnected the solenoid that switched between DC and AC put a new charger in. So now the power to the coach is always fed from the batteries, with AC feeding a charger strong enough to keep everything going when on shorepower and even charging the batteries when not full. As you are planning going solar anyway, I would advise you to look into this as well.

Now, I still need to add the colorcoding of the coach wiring, but all the wiring to the powerstation and of the AC system is complete.

Eyez Open

Well now I've had a bit of wild luck one might say....Well kinda if you add to the fact I found the power problem only due to the fact I had to fix/remove a leaky pipe fitting...along with the flooring it had ruined. This leak must have gone on for years not noticed.

The main power wire shorted/broke in the Molex wiring feeding the kitchen wall. So now it's just a small matter of patching in a new connection. TScreenshot_20230225-142441.jpg he adventure continues.

Potatochip P30

Man I feel you on the wire tracing mess ! 
So what IS that 3 pin molex connector for ??? I have the same thing and it's not hooked to anything and all my systems work.
Our chassis are identical and I have the same power strip sitting above the isolator, the outboard isolator terminal should power that strip which handles house items and the last isolator terminal should power a small segment with an auto reset circuit break that is divorced from the house strip - that I assume is protecting the chassis side ( not house) of things. I made it my mission to perform genocide on any and every fusible link and replace with manual reset able aircraft circuit breakers and or fusing when doing the 8.1 swap.

You are correct about that contactor being used to solve the starter heat soak issue, You played with boats also so you probable have seen the same thing on Mercruiser I/O motors with the contactor on top of the motor.

Now I have to go and see if my molex plug is still hot as I am installing a new heater and am going to need power there!


One year later and fixing all the images again i found this old thread.

How is it a year later?  Did you kill all the gremlins without loosing to many braincells?

 ;)  :cool:  ;)

Eyez Open

It's has been a very interesting experience to refresh this RV. speaking directly to the issue the DC power has been restored to a working functionality. To the system as a whole..it's days are numbered,today is 2023 not 1983 there will be no dc in the RV soon. I've worked out a wall/ceiling building pattern that is relatively cheap,when I do that job a.c. will run the entire system.

I've completed the suspension, power train and much of the interior. Right now I'm bring it all together. I'd really like to repaint this landyacht soon...that's the next big push for this yr...maybe it's getting hot out right now..



That is an interesting aproach.

But doesn't this mean you have to change the complete wiring in an RV that you've just build up?

I'm very interested to hear about it.

Eyez Open

Well it's quite clear to me, back in 83 they attempted to conquer many things using a very complicated methods to achieve there goals. Now I am not bitching nor being critical, how they mechanical built the frame/shell of the RV with aluminum is extraordinary.

First up the RV is wired already with AC lines, and DC lines to boot. Get this there are 6 a.c. outlets on the kitchen wall along with dc power...

The DC power distribution node is a hacked mess, it would cost money and time to clean it up. Now there is a chance some of it will remain, I need to rip out the 12volt auxiliary starting boost system..what a abortion that is. After that we will see...lol it don't look good for DC.
This Ramblers wall construction is ruboust, they built it like a stick house using aluminum studs, the foam walls do not provide the outer skin no support, just a 4x8 foam/Luan panel looking good..if you like wood paneling... so one can just pull that old panel make a new one and it perfect..oh and while the wall is exposed it's quite simple to rerun wiring, the aluminum studs are honeycomb already..Easy peasy.

A old pic of the kitchen wall..count the outlets... :laugh: Screenshot_20230715-101042.jpg


That the 12 volt wiring is a mess, that was clear already when I helped you a year ago and read your stories. ;)

What I ment was the ac voltage system you want to build in and how it's going to work.

It means changing all your lighting and 12 volt appliances and that costs money too.

Eyez Open

Ya know I am a terrible blogger, I gave some thought as to how...it is incredibly simple. This RV was setup to run on AC power be it land power or a genset. Frankly the DC power was a luxury item, overly complicated and quite frankly very low capacity.

Fast forward to 2023, batterys today are large enough to deliver full power 8/12 hours a day. Yes you supplement those batterys with solar panels. In the end you have a battery pack more palatable than a genset, it merely a matter of rearranging a few wires and new appliances. AC appliances are dirt cheap compared to RV ready appliances. If I have to move a wall or two so be it, it's about 40 a panel and a little paint.

Eyez Open


You're doing fine blogging 😜

I think the confusion is in the fact that the USA is already far more advanced in storing AC power.

In the Netherlands (and as far as I know Europe) we can't store ac voltage. Yes we have solarpanels on houses, but everything that is overdelivered by the panels go to the energy companies. You get a small compensation for that.

At night there is no sun, so you'll need energy from the companies to let your fridge run, turn on your lights etc. Of course you pay far more for this energy then the compensation you receive, even when you delivered this power to the energu companies during the day.

I guess what you are telling me you do have the possibility to store ac/power and then i totally understand why you'd want that.

Eyez Open

Quote from: Mlw on July 16, 2023, 09:44 PMYou're doing fine blogging 😜

I think the confusion is in the fact that the USA is already far more advanced in storing AC power.

In the Netherlands (and as far as I know Europe) we can't store ac voltage. Yes we have solarpanels on houses, but everything that is overdelivered by the panels go to the energy companies. You get a small compensation for that.

At night there is no sun, so you'll need energy from the companies to let your fridge run, turn on your lights etc. Of course you pay far more for this energy then the compensation you receive, even when you delivered this power to the energu companies during the day.

I guess what you are telling me you do have the possibility to store ac/power and then i totally understand why you'd want that.

Ohh no not at all, now the batteries store DC power. Then it is converted into a.c. power. Frankly I'm just getting myself up to speed, I really don't have a firm grasp on it yet to openly engage in conversation.

In short one buys very large batterys converts the DC to a.c. and sends the AC down the existing lines. I will try to post up some of the hardware. My son is talented  environmental engineer who will oversee what I am doing from a hardware point. I've been so busy with other issues I've had no time to immerse myself in the tech...ohh yes it's going to hurt but such is life my friend.


Hey Eyez Open,

When you say "send AC down the existing lines" are you talking about the existing Romex style AC lines or the existing primary wire DC lines? A lot of DC primary wire has insulation that is only rated up to 80V or so, so I wanted to make sure that you weren't talking about running 120VAC on it. Sorry if you already covered that and I missed it!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"

Eyez Open

The RV was/is wired for AC power thru out the rig, most of the ceiling lights actually all of the lights are DC driven. I will just tie in to the AC wiring.


Hey my friend,

Sorry for the late reply, busy working and CWVRV was out for a short period.

I really don't know if this is a good idea. Why would you want that?  If you are going to use 12 volt batteries as  power source it just means all equipment that normally uses 12 volts in a RV (like lighting) is going to use 10 times the amount of amperages, gaining nothing, especially when you are going to use led-lighting because then you go from 12 volt to 110 and then back to 12 again because led-lighting is fed by transformers. You still will need a 12 volt system for appliances like your waterpump.

The formula is simple watts/VAC=AMPS so a 1000 watt AC / 110 VAC = 9.09 AMPS, but 1000 / 12 = 83.33 amps and than you need to add about 10% to this figure due to loss, so hence the reason inverters need very thick wiring from the battery side as seen by this example (which is indeed a home emergency system as I mentioned earlier):

Inverter system.jpg

If I may advise you I would upgrade the wiring from your batteries to your power panel to the maximum amount of amps. that would be 30 a 40 amps. so double zero gauge wiring. You can renew the power panel too, but when it's still in good condition remember the build quality is superior by far of those plastic ones they make nowadays. Keep everything that can run on 12 volt on 12 volt. This way you will use the less amount of amps.

Then next tot this connect the VAC part of the RV to an inverter as you planned but then you will only be using it when you need 110 VAC on the road and there's no shore power available, going a bit in overkill mode in this area (so a 4000K inverter with clean sinus power) with battery banks to boot will make sure that you are not going to regret your decisions in the future, and will hurt far enough already  ;)


Eyez Open,

I want to make sure I'm following this right. Are you planning on replacing your generator with a large bank of batteries, an inverter, and a solar panel? And then, running as much as possible on 110 VAC, doing away with all (or nearly all) of the 12 VDC equipment?

1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"

Eyez Open

MLW your work and advise is highly appreciated and will be taken under consideration by myself and my son. Your illustrations really layout some of the issues ahead. It seems the amount of amperage is of great concern.  Ever wonder why all this green energy infrastructure is having so many problems? LMAO.

The current 12v design is a mess in my opinion,a large amount of wiring runs on the underbelly exposed to the environment...it's 40 yrs old to boot. And then there is a 12 volt hot start assist circut...a true abortion...someone stayed up late night thinking that up.

The AC wiring has not been exposed to the elements, the wrapping is not dried out and looks pristine. The AC outlets are poorly designed but easily replaced and cheaply at that.

My thought process was simply invest time and money into solar panels batterys and the equipment to convert DC into AC.Ive sold the genset that sale covered the panels and then some. I had planned for 6/ 8 panels to generate power,6/8 battery pack and the electronics to do the conversion. The removal of the genset left me with a very large battery area well insulated for storage. Now with that being said if the battery pack were to short out it would be goodbye Louise I'm sure.
This RV also has two distinct AC networks, one that runs on shore power and one that ran on the genset. The genset network runs the front air conditioner  and some of the kitchen AC outlets it has a 30 amp hour service system. Still functional but it to is 40 yrs old..

Modern Fridge.
2 flat screens
Mini split AC about 12000btu
Over head lighting.
Microwave of course.

The rest is propane,I have a tank that holds 60 gallons of propane, it's huge. 7' long 18" diameter

I just am to busy to really dig into yet there is a lot going on. It's a bit like the power train, a totally dumbed down 454 a 5/32 rear end to gear the rig so it will move...getting 6/7 mpg.  What a complete abortion, this was done to control emissions and all that was accomplished was doubling fuel consumption rates. But that was 40 yrs ago this is today.


I understand your problems completely, you've read my problems and I guess we are pretty much in the same boat.


Going solar is always the smart thing to do nowadays. using 110 VAC when you don't need to, is just gulping down amperages that you really need when you are off the grid for several days, because of the simple reason we still can't store VAC. You can store VDC however but as this is limited as well, you better use as less amps as possible. 

And yes, of course you can overcome that by bigger battery packs but yes, as you say yourself, the bigger your battery packs, the larger the chance it's "Sayonara Baby" when it goes wrong, but there is another thing, weight!! I have one 200 amp deep cycle battery and that thing weighs 100 pounds alone. Now think what it is when you have 4 of them, or 8!

So, for now I'm going for the 200 and change all the lighting to LED.  With me it seems that the interior wiring is ok as long as the Previous Idiot didn't get his hands on it, but we'll see when I get to fixing the roof, but if you go LED, you better make sure your wiring is up to scratch.

Now as for your fridge, as you say you still have a large propane tank you still can get RV fridges on Gas and of course they are also up to scratch on electricity:

Dometic RV refrigerators


As for your flatscreens, there are RV flatscreens available on AC/DC


Usb chargers


I know that your VDC system is a mess because the PO of your RV was a wiring magician too. Don't fret, but just rip all of his handywork out and bring it back to stock. That's what I did. I said it before, but the basics of electricity aren't really difficult. 

For example, the hotstart: All you have to do is rip the handywork of the PO out, so the solenoid is free again, pull at least a triple zero gauge wire from your starter to the solenoid, and the same wire gauge from the solenoid to your chassis battery and your hot start functions again. If the hot start button still works you should here the solenoid engage when you press it. It really is as simple as that