<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Electrical Tips for RVing in Mexico
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.




By David Eidell

An overwhelming number of Mexican RV parks do not have the familiar 30 amp "Y" connector that we're used to here in the states. Instead you'll find the common 15 ampere receptacle as found in your home or business. This should give you a clue that most hookups in Mexico cannot support air conditioners, plus electrical space heating and refrigerator operation. When I check into a Mexican park, I also check out the electrical connection before I plug in. A simple crossing of wires in that plug can lead to a nasty shock or even worse. Use a grounding wire to protect against this:

Before you leave home, round up a fifteen foot length of flexible, insulated wire. 12 gauge wire is about right for this task. Connect a large and aggressive spring clamp at each end. You can find these clamps at any auto parts store. They're used to replace damaged battery charger
clamps. Make sure that you have a good shiny connection at both ends. Coil it up, and stick it in the same compartment as your power cord (so you don't forget to use it). When you arrive at a park, you'll need to connect this wire first, before you plug in your electrical power cord.
Attach one end to a metal pipe or stake sticking out of the ground (make sure the pipe isn't plastic), then attach the other end to a bumber or other shiny metal part, that's connected to your vehicle's frame. Sometimes the only way to reach metal is to clip the wire on to something underneath. Use a screwdriver and wire brush to shine up a spot on the frame or bracket. Aluminum or steel wheels make good connector points. Now, it's safe to plug in your power cord. Hint: If you plug-in and immediately blow the park's fuse, check to make sure your AC is off. If everything's off, then you caused a short with your handy jumper wire and possibly saved your life. Tell the park manager to fix the receptacle. If he refuses, either try another space, or exit the park. If the safety wire causes a tripping hazard, use duct tape to affix it to concrete, and rocks, or whatever to hold it flat on grass or dirt.

You'll need an adapter to convert your "Y" connection, to the standard two prong plus a hole, house-hold Mexico connection. You should have a spare in case the first one fails (often, from overheating). Mexico's electricity generation is quite good, but the distribution system (power lines and transformers) are often cobbled together. If the RV park is in the suburbs, and on the end of a rather long extension line, then you can expect very low voltage in peak operating periods
(after work and on hot days). If you notice your lights blinking, it may be caused by power levels that are fluctuaing far out of normal range. I'd recommend disconnecting from the park's service until things quiet down. For the most part R.V.'s are rather immune to wide voltage swings. Air conditioners, however do not like to be operated on less than 110 volts. If you insist on having air conditioning, prepare before you leave home by purchasing a plug in AC volt meter gauge in your local hardware store.

Air conditioners and heaters can cause overheating of the adapter plug and park electrical receptacle. You will need to periodically check the temperature of these parts by carefully touching them after the electrical loads have been on for 5 minutes or so, and thereafter every few hours (I'm sorry, but this is the only way to prevent a connection fire). If you detect even a slight warmth through the insulation, the load is too great and must be reduced. "Slightly Warm" can evolve into "Fire! Fire!" after just a few hours of overloading. Remember, the only parts that you need to touch and feel, are the adapter plug, receptacle. You don't need to probe the entire length of your power cord.

Hint: If you plan to stay in a park for longer than a couple of weeks and plan on using your air conditioner a lot, you can carry your own high amperage receptacle, and have management install it for you (but don't plan on getting it back). Your local hardware store can special order a "twenty amp" receptacle for you. The standard plug will fit this high amp device, and will reduce the risk of a receptacle fire or outage. This may sound like a lot of trouble, but if your stay extends into the spring or summer, you'll be gald that you provided a more secure connector.