This Week’s Tip

A customer who has a 2004 Fleetwood Bounder called for help with a major electrical issue that included extreme breaker panel heat and master and A/C breaker tripping. Upon inspection, it was apparent that the heat had gotten so high that the insulation was burned off most of the neutral wires in the panel, and there were several places where the plastic components in the panel were melted. He very clearly had narrowly avoided having a fire break out in or near the panel.

Long story short, the problem had been caused by the neutral lugs being too loose! Is that not a scary thought??

Turns out, every electrical panel has manufacturer-prescribed torque requirements for the lugs, depending on the wire sizes being used. Those requirements will be in plain sight either imprinted in the metal of the panel box or cover or printed on a sticker.

In this case, the 10-gauge wire associated with 30-amp breakers prescribed a torque of 30 in-lbs. By the way, that is pretty tight! The only way to know for sure that the correct torque has been applied is to use a Torque Screwdriver, such as this one made by Klein Tools and available from Amazon:

There are less expensive tools available, such as this one:

Whatever tool you acquire, keep in mind the following BEFORE tightening the lugs:

  1. Kill power to the panel before removing the cover that exposes the wiring, ideally by un-plugging your shore power cable from the pedestal.
  2. Make sure the generator (if you have one) will not come on automatically when shore power is disconnected. You don’t want ANY source of 120v AC power to the panel!
  3. Use a non-contact voltage tester to make sure there is no AC power to the panel, preferably one like this, available through Amazon:

If you are NOT COMFORTABLE performing this maintenance on your rig, please call a qualified professional to do it. Even at $50 service call plus one hour at $110, the cost is minimal compared to the cost of a fire, and most Certified Technicians would have time to torque the lugs in your breaker panel plus perform many other inspections on your rig.