The morning after we arrived at our RV park in Mesa, AZ, we discovered that none of our electrical outlets were working. All other electric appliances were functioning. We were plugged into the RV park’s 50 amp service. I went through all of the (limited) troubleshooting that I could think of: checked all circuit breakers and reset the GFCI outlet. No luck.
We went to the pancake breakfast that is held weekly at the park and asked the park staff if there was someone on-site that might be able to help us troubleshoot this problem. They gave us a phone number but I wasn’t able to immediately reach that person. We went for a walk around the park and on the way back we met our neighbors. This park is a mix of RV spaces and permanently attached “park models”. This neighbor owns the park model just behind our RV space. While chatting with them, they mentioned that they had experienced some electrical problem overnight and that they had contacted the park maintenance staff to check it out. This sounded like too much coincidence.
It turns out that there was a broken wire connecting the electrical pedestals along the row we were plugged into. Now I don’t understand enough about electrical wiring to understand how this could lead to ONLY our outlets not working but once they fixed it our problem was solved.
However, in the process of troubleshooting our problem, we thought it would be instructive to unplug from the power pedestal, start our generator and see if the outlets worked. It seemed that if they worked while on the generator then this would seem to point to our external electrical connection as the source of our problem. Well, we couldn’t get the generator to start. The starter would engage and then immediately disengage. After consulting the generator documentation this would indicate that the batteries didn’t have sufficient power to crank the generator. This is not surprising since the motorhome is now 4 years old and we recently had to replace the engine battery. So we decided to go ahead and replace the house batteries.
We don’t do much “dry camping”, ie. parking without connection to utilities, but we had previously discussed the possibility of adding additional batteries beyond the two we currently have. We decided that this was not the time to do that since some engineering and fabrication would be needed and this is beyond our DIY skills. So we went shopping for replacement batteries. Deep cycle batteries are different from “cranking” batteries used for starting a vehicle engine. One of the characteristics of deep cycle batteries is their rating for “amp hours”, which is an indication of how much load they can sustain over time. The batteries we chose will give us a little over 200 amp hours which is a modest amount but sufficient for our occasional dry camping needs.
After shopping around we chose EverStart batteries from Wal Mart. Generally, all deep cycle batteries are 12 month free replacement and the EverStart batteries, made for Wal Mart by Johnson Controls have favorable reviews. And the price compared very favorably to other alternatives. Given our minimal dry camping time, we felt this was a good solution. The batteries are located beneath the entrance steps and are fairly easy for us to access to do the replacement..
With the park electrical issue repaired and our batteries replaced, we were once again fully functional.