Why I was Receiving Electrical Shocks From My RV

The other day while I was puttering around the RV I noticed a tingling feeling when I touched some of the exposed metal parts. It felt just like a mild electrical shock, but my RV wasn’t plugged into shore power. In fact, it was in a storage yard. Weird.

I decided to test for the presence of electricity so grabbed my Fluke multimeter and Klein non-contact voltage tester and checked things out. Sure enough, the Klein tester lit up and beeped like crazy then held close to the rigs metal frame and attached components.

Next, I jammed the multimeter’s negative lead into the earth and touched the positive to the RV frame. I was flabbergasted to see a reading of 148 AC volts. What the heck? No wonder I was feeling some tickles when touching metal. Even though I couldn’t come up with any explanation how they could cause the 148 volts. I turned off all the circuit breakers in my battery, solar and inverter circuits. No dice the voltage was still there.

The Mystery Voltage is Solved

As I sat there bewildered, I started to look around the storage yard for something to explain it. Once I took a gander skyward, I had my answer! Almost straight above the RV are three high tension power lines. I learned later they are at 110,000-volt lines. They were causing the voltage to be induced into the frame of my fifth wheel trailer.

Maybe it’s due to the aluminum frame. I checked out a few other RVs in the storage yard. Class As and Class Cs and my truck were OK, no voltage but another fifth wheel and a travel trailer set my tester off as well.

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Video Footage Showing My Electrified RV

I’m still amazed how the power was being transferred at such a distance. It’s a good lesson on how an RV frame can become energized. BTW, it’s always a good practice to check out the RV with a non-contact voltage tester when hooking up at a campground. It’s always possible for a miswired power pedestal to cause just what I was experiencing called an RV hot-skin condition.” In some cases, it can be deadly.

For in-depth RV electrical information, I recommend the No~Shock~Zone RV Electrical Safety eBook

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  • John DelphiaIII

    Goes to show how much energy gets misdirected or wasted just in transmission.
    Is this where to park to avoid insect infestation?

  • Steven Langridge

    Thanks for the safety information about high power lines and RVs. I own an
    Airstream, I will avoid high power lines when I boondock or in RV parks.
    I am concerned about induction devices; like Nu-Wave cooktop, induction
    cell phone chargers. Would these induction devices activate and be a safety
    hazard?

    • Your welcome, household items like that won’t be a problem, they don’t radiate enough power.

  • EastMarrowstone

    Same thing happened to me when using the RV Pit Stop water and dump in Quartzsite which also has high tension lines directly overhead. Trailer was hitched to the pickup truck with only the rubber wheels touching the ground and I got a tingle while connecting the water fill hose.

    • Interesting, I’ve used that place as well, I’ll have to check the rig with my tester next time I’m there.

  • Scott Van Artsdalen

    Holy cow! I hope you had them move your RV to another location. Can the power company be notified? This is a hazzardous situation.

    • The shock delivered is extremely mild. I’ve done some research and this isn’t as uncommon as you would think. The power lines are in a right away and line height is in the rules. Easiest thing to do is ground the RV with a small wire or chain. If I had my metal jack feet on the rig, it would have never occurred. I think the only really hazardous thing about it is if one was working with fuels. If enough vapors were present, a small arc could ignite them.

      • Scott Van Artsdalen

        True, and it’s the I that gets you, not the E. I just wonder what that voltage would do to someone with a pacemaker. Any way, glad to hear you are none the worse for wear for shaking hands with St. Elmo.