US Leisure Electrics Conversion/Update

Discussion in 'Mech Tech' started by F_Pantos, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. My US bus' electrics are over 30 years old, so a refresh is required.

    There are a number of challenges to a conversion; nothing on a 40 year vehicle is simple.

    The first problem is what to do about the power inlet?

    You could of course, leave the existing side inlet well alone and add a commando plug underneath the bus, or inside the engine bay, but as mentioned by @matty, do be careful with the hookup cable if the socket is inside the bus where a door or engine lid could slam shut, trap it and damage it.

    However, my S072 has a perfectly functional inlet for the 120V 15A AC service. So, why not use this?

    The problem is that the socket is rated for 120V...why not put the commando plug in the inlet? Well, the hole in my US style inlet box is 39mm dia and a commando plug just won't fit, its more like 46mm and too long and too wide.

    So we need a different type of socket, one that is smaller but that is rated for 250VAC and at least supports 16A service.

    Here's the inlet when removed from the bus.


    @theBusmonkey sourced a replacement socket from the US that was rated to 250VAC, an elegant solution. However, I wanted something I could easily get a replacement or a spare within the UK.

    This is where Neutrik came to the rescue, the NAC3 series has a 26mm diameter plug and socket that is rated 250VAC and 20A and is blue, so is the same colour as a standard hookup.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
    ginger ninja likes this.
  2. Fitting the female plug to the hookup cable was simple and it conforms to UL, cUL recognized components standards and is VDE certified and SEV approved.

    There is a gland on the end of the plug and appears no more, or less, prone, to water ingress than the one on standard commando socket I took off.


    This doesn't solve the problem with me now having a unique hookup cable, I can't borrow a spare or walk into Halfords and buy a new one, if mine gets damaged. However, the NCA3 range is no more expensive than a commando plug and so having a spare doesn't seem prohibitive cost-wise. It's also quite a bit smaller than a commando plug so keeping a second one handy in the glove box, in case of damage, should work fine.

    Please bear in mind, I am no fan of doing specials, standards and regs are there to keep us safe, but in this case I feel relatively comfortable with this solution, it preserves the bus looks, means no extra holes in the body, nor any cables in the engine bay etc and the parts I used are designed for mains hookup and a used on stages and in theaters to connect various items together safely.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  3. A split pin holds the original Westy inlet's spring loaded trap door that covers the power socket itself when its not in use and helps protect it from the elements.

    You can see the pin in the picture above.

    I then drilled out the rivets holding the old US male plug in place, which netted me this.


    I drilled, cut and punched a metal plate to hold the male socket end in the Westy inlet and bolted it all back together. Et viola.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
  4. I have been following @matty's advice on wiring, but please bear in mind, as he says, the regs state you should fit double pole MCB consumer unit.

    As I understand it, this ensures that if the site you are hooked to has reversed polarity, then MCB switch is also on the reversed live (which was the neutral).

    Thinking about it, if you trip a circuit in a reversed polarity hookup, with a single pole MCB you still have a powered/live neutral wire, the current will no longer flow in the circuit and any appliance will appear to be off, but the neutral wire will remain live allowing current to flow through you to earth/ground, which wouldn't be nice.

    I found a unit on ebay that had a RCD, 10A and 6A double pole and MCB. I won't post a link as it will be out of date in two weeks, search for PO104.

    Here's the piccy to help.


    It also includes a warning light that will show if the hookup's polarity is reversed. I paid around £50 including postage, I was happy enough with that. While more expensive than many consumer units I have seen, it seems well built for the money and double pole MCB are harder to find than single pole MCB.

    The 6A MCB will power the fridge and the battery charger and the 10A will be for a 13A double socket with USB chargers. I decided on the USB double 13A socket for all those useful things like phones, tablets sat navs, games consoles, cameras etc; these can soon use up the available sockets when stopped at a campsite and the result is I often reach for an extension block which, among other things, is a trip hazard when in a confined space.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
    Iain McAvoy, theBusmonkey and matty like this.
  5. That's brilliant. I'm aware ours has a finite life so being able to get stuff in the UK is a big plus:thumbsup:
    @F_Pantos , when it's convenient could you post a shot of the lead plugged into the side of the bus, showing how you secured the female inside the Westy flappy fitting?
    Great work!

  6. OK, so...on the earlier Westy's the inlet resides in a metal case that pokes thru the side of the bus' body.


    It's off the bus at the moment so that's the best I can do to help visualise how it all fits together, sorry. Perhaps, someone has a pic of the metal inlet case "in situ"? If you look at mine, you can see a line where the freshey painted metal inlet touched/poked thru the body panel while the fresh paint was still soft; you only see the part sticking out below the horizontal line...

    Looking from underneath the case, you see the flapping thing...that I think you're talking about.


    If I hold open the flap, you can see the Neutrik blue socket mounted on a metal plate.

  7. Ok
    Ok got it. Thanks for that:thumbsup:
    Looking forward to seeing it all back together.
  8. @F_Pantos , sorry to bother you again but I haven't seen these connectors first hand, but I've been doing a bit of googling.
    I gather they are twist lock? Primarily designed for audio systems.
    Is there any possibility of them arcing under load if they were disconnected whilst still powered up?
  9. The manufacturer specifies that the connectors should not be disconnected under load, personally I am comfortable with that restriction as it's a minor inconvenience, and good practice, to switch off at the consumer unit before unplugging from the hookup. Having seen roadies and porters in the audio business, I suspect this is a disclaimer: I bet they often get unplugged when loaded.

    I wouldn't expect to sell the bus in this configuration.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
    theBusmonkey likes this.
  10. It will be interesting to see how the connector performs in the real world.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  11. PS I am always surprised at how badly Shuko (spelling) plugs and sockets can arc compared to square pin 13A, nothing is perfect, well nothing compared to a 13A square pin plug and socket.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  13. This is really good news. I’m hoping this solution could be used with a late bay external flap?
  14. This is really good news and very helpful. Is there any reason this solution couldn't be used on a late bay westy external flap?

    Sent from my SM-J320FN using Tapatalk
  15. No reason it wouldn't.

    You will need to make up a conversion plate to hold the Neutrik socket, but it's not difficult. Mine cost about £14 for the plug and socket. I made up a plate to hold the socket, which should not take too long. I used a punch to make the hole and recycled a section of aluminum plate.
    ginger ninja likes this.
  16. A little care is required when disconnecting as these locking sockets are not designed to be disconnected when any appliances are switched on.

    My best advice, at the moment, would be to switch off everything on the bus first, preferably at the breaker box/consumer unit before unplugging, this really is good practice anyways.
  17. Neutrik do make an alternative connector which is rated for hot disconect

    "The powerCON TRUE1 is a locking 16 A true mains connector. It replaces appliance couplers wherever a very rugged solution in combination with a locking device is needed in order to guarantee a safe power connection.
    The powerCON TRUE1 is a connector with breaking capacity (CBC), i.e. it can be connected or disconnected under load or live."

    Although I would probably be quite happy with the other type.
  18. This is one of a couple of reservations I have as its not idiot proof.
    Yeah, I know we're all sensible yada ya, but IF a third party somehow got a shock whilst decoupling, for example in an emergency and without knowledge of the plug spec, then that's not acceptable.
    There is a breakable set in the range...
    This is it. It has a lower amp rating but higher IP.
    Secondly, the connectors are blade. Not a deal breaker but not ideal as they could come loose, particularly on the plug side which is handled, if not soldered.
    Thirdly, and @F_Pantos you may be able to answer this, can you get arctic 2.5mm 3 core flexible cable into both sides safely.
    Next, is from what little research I've been able to do it seems it 'may' be possible for a worn plug to be incorrectly inserted into its receptacle. They are a twist to connect and one sound forum member reported a heavy hand could get it wrong. Not a problem with a speaker but possibly in the rain late at night on a dark campsite. Dunno, just what I read...
    And finally, I can't find box dimensions for the inlet socket. It's tight on the late Westy behind the female inlet socket and depth is limited. That's one of the reasons its impractical to fit a conventional 60309 blue socket there.

    All that being said, I think I'll splash a tenner just to have a play to see if the black/yellow set above will work for me.
    I like @F_Pantos 's lateral thinking and his solution to his particular issue. But personally would like to be as sure as possible that in the unlikely event of someone more used to the conventional stuff has to interact with the kit, they arent put at unnecessary risk.
    matty likes this.
  19. I was looking at the various connectors in the range, but plumped for the higher current rating (and blue colour) of the one I choose. The plugs will take a wide diameter cable, I am just about to order a second plug for my jaffa hookup cable to try it out. The blue plug is screw fitting.

    The socket I ordered has tabs, I soldered it up last night using my trusty Weller TCP iron.

    I'd be surprised if someone really misinserted one of these, but if its been done all I can say is wow.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    Valveandy and theBusmonkey like this.
  20. All good stuff:thumbsup:

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