For many years I have had uncanny luck with vehicles. Through benign neglect things that seem to be not quite right have healed themselves and I continue on my way mostly unimpeded by unfortunate incidents of the vehicular kind. I usually get around to fixing things at some point but I drag my feet and put it off until it seems sure to be catastrophic if I don’t. So it was when I approached the camper with the same semi-nonchalance.
Campers and trailers are notorious for wiring and electrical problems. And here I am facing my own special version. It seemed intermittent and I expected it would heal itself the way so many other things have done over the years, but, alas, no. GFI outlets tripped, battery fuses blew, and more than a few sparks and puffs of black smoke flew. Yes, these things concern me somewhere in the rational part of mind (which lurks way in the back at times) but with a little wiggling of wires and some swearing (my specialty when it comes to fixing things) it worked each time.
And then it didn’t.
A few phone calls, some rewiring (who makes the white wire positive?!), more swearing, a new GFI outlet, a junction box in the deepest bowels of the camper torn apart to no avail, and nothing. Still no obvious answer to why the plug was throwing circuits left and right.
The junction box, behind the drain, under the drawer, above the heater.
While I had cooking gear strewn all over the camper, my arms (which some may remember are freakishly long) wound into the camper cabinet, around the sink drain, over the heater, and through the drawer to reassemble the perfectly good junction box, I struggled to screw the outlet back into its protective box. Sitting on the floor between the reluctant cat, the snowshoes, and a crate of food I thought, “What have I done?!”
The good news is since I can’t plug in anywhere the chance of an electrical fire due to bad wiring is nil. The bad news is that I plan to drive across Canada without the certainty of auxiliary battery power sufficient to keep the heater fan going long enough to keep me toasty on cold winter nights.
I am now chasing an elusive connection across the continent. I will stop in the next major destination to see if they can help me work it out. And if there is no answer there, I will continue along my way to the next stop with the hope of finding someone who can fix this problem.
One of the last times I drove across Canada in the winter (as I seem to do) I was in my old Tercel. I left New Hampshire with auntie and uncle giving me a push out the driveway – literally, as we pushed the car and pop-started it. For this reason alone, I may never own an automatic. After a stop in Vermont where my sister fed me delicious homemade chiles relleños on a snowy, deep-winter night, she also helped me push the car to pop it into life the next morning.
Gas stations, the border crossing, more gas stations, I pop started the car each time. Almost 500 miles later, I stopped in Petawawa, Ontario, to visit a friend and do a little snowshoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park. The morning I planned to leave, I found my car frozen to the ground in the hotel parking lot, a night of freezing rain locking me in. I asked a trucker to help me rock it, break the tires free, and give me a push so I could pop it.
For those that don’t know, most of Ontario is flat. Hills are few and far between. My luck held; the hotel was at the top of the only hill in town. We broke the car free, pushed it to rolling, and down the hill I went. But this time the attempt failed and soon, I was at the bottom of the only hill in town and the car was not running.
I asked a couple of snowmobilers in the hotel parking lot for help; one happened to be a mechanic. He told me the distributer cap was cracked and showed me how to remove and replace it. I went back to the hotel, borrowed a phone book (remember those?), and the phone (pre-cell phone ubiquity), and called half a dozen auto parts stores in town. Finally one shop had the part and would deliver it. For free. To my car.
While I waited, at least a dozen people stopped to ask if I needed help. It seemed almost unreasonable to have so many people inquiring after my wellbeing on the side of the road. The part arrived, I installed it and still the car would not start. Another person stopped; after hearing my story of rolling, popping, installing, but not starting he thought I had flooded it and told me a trick to reset the starter. The car fired up. Just like that.
During another phone call to the camper manufacturer I’m told that it’s normal for the plug to spark when plugging in. Oh, and it will trip a GFCI outlet every time. Now my task is to find only non-GFCI outlets that are not connected to any other GFCI outlets on the same circuit. Three days, three strikeouts.
Somehow, I know that whatever the electrical issue is, it will be resolved. Maybe I’ll wait until I get to Canada and maybe some nice RV electrical specialist will randomly find me swearing at the camper… or maybe my path will miraculously be lined with only non-GFCI outlets. After all, distributor caps are delivered roadside in some places.