Polarity

posted in: Electric Systems, Tips | 0

What is polarity?

Polarity is when an entity contains two distinct and opposite poles that can either attract or repel each other. The term is commonly used in electricity, magnetism, chemistry and electronic signalling to describe the flow of electrons…. OK, but what’s that got to do with Campers I hear you ask?

What does polarity have to do with campers?

When you connect your hookup lead to your campsite socket, we are connecting our van’s live input to the campsite’s live output. If everything is OK your Consumer Unit, RCD or RCBO will be happy and electricity will flow into the van from the Campsite and start your mains charger.

In some European campsites, they suffer from a condition called reversed polarity. This means the Live wire from the Campsite is connected to the Neutral wire in your Van. In this state, the Consumer Unit, RCD or RCBO will then trip as the electricity is effectively trying to flow backwards.

It usually happens when you arrive late, it’s pouring with rain, you’ve just had a long drive, you are tired, you just want to connect your van and make a nice cuppa. Nothing works! and you just can’t think what’s gone wrong… it was all OK the last time you used it.

So, how do we overcome this?

A quick fix is to unplug your hookup lead, open the cover on one end of your hookup lead, and swap the Blue Neutral and Brown Live wire positions over. You can then replace the cover, and plug the hookup lead back in again. You should then be able to reset your Consumer Unit, RCD or MCBO device and electricity will flow into your van correctly.

Hang on that, sounds a bit dodgy…

We all like to be well-prepared Campers, so you can make life easier for yourself, by making a polarity reversing plug.

Polarity Reversing plug
Polarity Reversing Plug

You will need:

  • a set of IP44 16a Plug and Sockets.
  • a short length of cable (matched to your hookup lead).

Let’s make a start. Connect the end with the cover the correct way around (Follow this procedure, but put the Brown, Live wire into the L/+ Connection.

Making a Plug Step 1
Making a Plug Step 1

Slide the Cover onto your Stripped-back lead and prepare the wires as shown (the earth is usually a little shorter as the connection is higher in the plug

Polarity Reversed Connections
Polarity Reversed Connections

Here I’ve connected the Blue, Negative wire to the L/+ (or Live) Connection.

Just to be clear, inside the plug on the other end of this cable the Brown, Live cable is connected to the L/+ (or Live Connection) ** If we change both ends of the cable we achieve nothing ** we only connect one end the wrong way around.

As the picture says, the L/+ connection should be the Brown or Live cable, we are making a conscious decision to put the wrong cable in here and this is what will switch the poliaty for us when we need it.

IP44 Plug Tension Clamp
IP44 Plug Tension Clamp

Tighten up the tension clamp so there is slack on the cables, this stops the connections being pulled out if anything pulls on the cable.

IP44 Plug Aligning The Outer Cover
IP44 Plug Aligning The Outer Cover

Align the outer cover and reconnect the screws.

On mine, I’ve labelled the new device “Polarity Reverse” and also labelled the end where the L (Live) and N (Neutral) cables have been reversed.

Polarity Reversing plug
Polarity Reversing plug

Now, your IP44 plugs might look slightly different, but the theory is the same. Put this in your kit bag with your European adapter plug and your ready for any problems polarity may throw at you.

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