Trailer House Electrical Nightmare

My neighbor called me yesterday and said that their trailer house had been without power in half the house since a lightning storm about 4 days ago. He said he flipped all the breakers, and used a neon tester to check for voltage at each breaker.
I checked and found each breaker also working, but over half the lights and outlets not working. That's when I discovered the nightmare. They use some special outlets and switches that I have never seen. They use no box. The wires come from the wall and right into the outlet or switch itself. But the rear of the outlet is covered with a plastic cover, so it sort of is it's own box. Pulling it apart, (and gettting off those plastic snap in covers is a major pain in itself), I found that the wires are not even stripped, just pushed into metal snaps. Some of the wires were loose, and worse yet, when I tried tu take the wires out of these snaps, several of the outlets or switches just fell apart. In other words, there is no way to really trace anything without a huge hassle.
I have never seen these devices before, and hope to never see them again. I was in the electrical business for several years but worked on only a few trailer houses, older ones, and those had standard outlets in shallow boxes. At least that was pretty normal despite the lack of box space. But these new contraptions are total garbage.
Normally to trace a problem like this I just remove cover plates and test from outlet to outlet, but not on this job. And each outlet seems to have 3 or more cables, and all crammed into those snaps, where many are not even pushed in far enough due to too many wires.
After 5 hours of screwing around, I finally got the idea to shut off the breakers to the two lines that were not working and back feed from a working outlet to the bad ones, using a long extension cord. That way I found that there was power at each fixture, but nothing back to the breakers. Of course, with no wiring diagram, it's like finding a needle in a haystack. Also, when I applied this backfeed power, we heard pops and cracks in two switches. I opened both of them, and found loosely clamped wires, but that did not solve the problem.
I finally told the guy there might be a few sparks. I placed a direct short across one of the outlets, and backfed my power. There was a large surge, but the breaker did not trip. Note: I had a jumper wire directly across the hot and neutral.
OK now for the totally rediculous. I was hoping that direct short would blow a few sparks and indicate the problem device, before tripping the breaker. Instead it fixed the problem...... (your guess is as good as mine). All I can figure is that it "welded" whatever wire was loose back to the clip. Everything is working again, except for two lights and one outlet bacause the clips broke, and I just wirenutted the wires together temporarily, eliminating the outlet and 2 switches.
However, I did warn the owner that this problem is not only going to reoccur, but I feel they got a fire hazzard, and told them I really think every outlet and switch on both of those circuits should be replaced, and told them to not connect any heavy appliances to any of those outlets. They already agreed to have me replace all of them. (That will be a pain too, because all the cable ends are very short, and the wall cutouts are all too small for boxes).
I am posting this to ask if anyone else has ever run across these totally junk outlets and switches? What are they even called? Are they something made just for trailer houses, because I have never seen them anywhere else? Do they make any sort of boxless replacements that use actual screws to attach the wires? There are 16 outlets and 8 switches on these two lines, and with those short cable ends, I'd like to do this as easily as possible and still be safe. Even if I could get replacements of the same type, I would not use them.
Mark
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Really common in older mobile homes. Our state outlawed that kind of construction a few years back. megger every conductor from point to point.
It is going to be a long process.
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They really should outlaw it. Should have never allowed it in the first place. I agree about long process.
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Prep lots of pigtails and get decent outlets etc..
Careful: Be sure the wire isn't aluminim! That'll make it a whole 'nother story.
Doing any work there sounds to me like a huge liability - are you sure you want to do that?
HTH, PopS
: My neighbor called me yesterday and said that their trailer house had : been without power in half the house since a lightning storm about 4 : days ago. He said he flipped all the breakers, and used a neon tester : to check for voltage at each breaker. : : I checked and found each breaker also working, but over half the : lights and outlets not working. That's when I discovered the : nightmare. They use some special outlets and switches that I have : never seen. They use no box. The wires come from the wall and right : into the outlet or switch itself. But the rear of the outlet is : covered with a plastic cover, so it sort of is it's own box. Pulling : it apart, (and gettting off those plastic snap in covers is a major : pain in itself), I found that the wires are not even stripped, just : pushed into metal snaps. Some of the wires were loose, and worse yet, : when I tried tu take the wires out of these snaps, several of the : outlets or switches just fell apart. In other words, there is no way : to really trace anything without a huge hassle. : : I have never seen these devices before, and hope to never see them : again. I was in the electrical business for several years but worked : on only a few trailer houses, older ones, and those had standard : outlets in shallow boxes. At least that was pretty normal despite the : lack of box space. But these new contraptions are total garbage. : : Normally to trace a problem like this I just remove cover plates and : test from outlet to outlet, but not on this job. And each outlet : seems to have 3 or more cables, and all crammed into those snaps, : where many are not even pushed in far enough due to too many wires. : : After 5 hours of screwing around, I finally got the idea to shut off : the breakers to the two lines that were not working and back feed from : a working outlet to the bad ones, using a long extension cord. That : way I found that there was power at each fixture, but nothing back to : the breakers. Of course, with no wiring diagram, it's like finding a : needle in a haystack. Also, when I applied this backfeed power, we : heard pops and cracks in two switches. I opened both of them, and : found loosely clamped wires, but that did not solve the problem. : : I finally told the guy there might be a few sparks. I placed a direct : short across one of the outlets, and backfed my power. There was a : large surge, but the breaker did not trip. Note: I had a jumper wire : directly across the hot and neutral. : : OK now for the totally rediculous. I was hoping that direct short : would blow a few sparks and indicate the problem device, before : tripping the breaker. Instead it fixed the problem...... (your guess : is as good as mine). All I can figure is that it "welded" whatever : wire was loose back to the clip. Everything is working again, except : for two lights and one outlet bacause the clips broke, and I just : wirenutted the wires together temporarily, eliminating the outlet and : 2 switches. : : However, I did warn the owner that this problem is not only going to : reoccur, but I feel they got a fire hazzard, and told them I really : think every outlet and switch on both of those circuits should be : replaced, and told them to not connect any heavy appliances to any of : those outlets. They already agreed to have me replace all of them. : (That will be a pain too, because all the cable ends are very short, : and the wall cutouts are all too small for boxes). : : I am posting this to ask if anyone else has ever run across these : totally junk outlets and switches? What are they even called? Are : they something made just for trailer houses, because I have never seen : them anywhere else? Do they make any sort of boxless replacements : that use actual screws to attach the wires? : There are 16 outlets and 8 switches on these two lines, and with those : short cable ends, I'd like to do this as easily as possible and still : be safe. Even if I could get replacements of the same type, I would : not use them. : : Mark
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wrote:

Not aluminum nor copper clad. I have run across a few of those in the past. This is a newer trailer with copper wire, and the crappiest outlets and switches I have ever seen. It wont be a liability once they are replaced with proper devices, just a lot of work. I already talked with the owner about the dangerous setup that is there now, and he has been helping me by removing them from the wall, and can see just how bad they are. We're only going to replace all the devices on those two breakers at fault (for now). I already told him they should ALL be replaced in the whole house. Everything except the breaker box and light fixtures which are ok.
I guess these pieces of shit outlets were a means to save money since they could not save any using aluminum wire. Just like the door hinges in there, they are only half a hinge, or hollow in the middle, thus less metal, so they saved a few bucks in the process. This is actually one of the nicer looking trailers I have been in, but poorly built. I can't understand where the few dollars of savings pay off when building something that way. I'd rather pay an extra couple hundred and end up with something decent in the end. I'd tend to think that standard outlets and common boxes would cost less for the parts, but take a little more labor. And for those lousy door hinges, they probably saved $10 on the whole unit. What's the point?
Mark
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On Sat, 24 Sep 2005 15:08:28 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

My manufactured home is scheduled to be delivered in one week, on the 3rd. Reading your post, now I'm concerned. Can you find out who the manufacturer is of that house? I'm really hoping it's not the one we're using. We did our homework as well as we could and ours is highly rated, but the more we can learn, the better.
Good luck with the repairs. I hope it all works out okay. Let me know if you can find out anything about manufacturer and model. Did your neighbor buy it new or used? Many thanks.
Maxi
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On Sat 24 Sep 2005 03:37:40a, wrote in alt.home.repair:

While waiting for the completion of our new home, we are currently renting a brand new manufactured home. This house has the very same type of switches and outlets you described. I don't know the manufacturer of this house, but I do know it was built in Cananda.
We discovered this the first week we lived here as I removed the coverplate to the diningroom light switch to install a dimmer. Since we don't own the house, I didn't want to mess with it and simply replaced the coverplate.
Since then we've begun to have problems with the kitchen light switch. It now works intermittently. These are "dacor" style switches. If you flip it in the on position the light momentarily comes on, then goes out. If you leave it in the on position for about half an hour, you can tap it again and the light stays on.
I haven't reported it to leasing company yet because we don't want them in here until after we move out. I let them know then.
If I were you, I wouldn't want to be responsible for the replacement work.
--
Wayne Boatwright **
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.... : If I were you, I wouldn't want to be responsible for the replacement work. : : -- : Wayne Boatwright ** : _____________________________________________________ : : If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport.
That's the real problem with trying to be a good samaritin for some things. You do your best and everything you do turns out perfect, and it's all to 100% code. But, should the place burn down and the insurance companies/fire investigators get into it, someone might have to take the rap for having done possibly uninspected work, or worse, for violating the law that says if you fix one thing substandard, you have to fix them all, and then the problem can get even worse. I'm making things up here obviously, but those people aren't making things up. There's a reason for licenses and bonding, etc etc etc.
Chances of that happening are probably pretty slim and I might do the same thing the OP did too, but ... damn, it can turn into a heck of a liability.
PopS
--
If assholes could fly, THIS place would be on Mars by now! :-}




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On Sun 25 Sep 2005 10:24:03a, Pop wrote in alt.home.repair:

hehehe!
--
Wayne Boatwright **
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Pop wrote:

There is no such law. -- Tom Horne
"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous for general use." Thomas Alva Edison
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....
: : There is no such law. : -- : Tom Horne :
Huh? Is there something relevant in that comment?
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Pop wrote:

I believe he's questioning the existence of the "law" you mentioned earlier regarding requirements for "fixing all substandard if fix anything" (my paraphrase)...
I wondered about that myself as I'm unaware of any such actual law in place, but wouldn't say there isn't something that might be applicable in some certain instances--but I'd think if there were they would ordinarily only be for commercial or public structures, etc., ...
Perhaps you could/would amplify on the basis for the previous...
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: Pop wrote: : > : > ... : > : > : : > : There is no such law. : > : -- : : I believe he's questioning the existence of the "law" you mentioned : earlier regarding requirements for "fixing all substandard if fix : anything" (my paraphrase)... : : I wondered about that myself as I'm unaware of any such actual law in : place, but wouldn't say there isn't something that might be applicable : in some certain instances--but I'd think if there were they would : ordinarily only be for commercial or public structures, etc., .... : : Perhaps you could/would amplify on the basis for the previous...
Ah, I see, I think. "Law" wasn't the correct term, and though I don't recall using it I probably did. I looked and didn't see it, so ... . Anyway, you have to keep in mind that I was making generalizations about things that -could- get in the way, not that -would-. I probably meant that the local codes in some places can require that if you upgrade one part of a grandfathered installation, especially residential, you have to upgrade the whole thing if it doesn't meet current codes. I live in one of those areas. It's not as strict as I make it sound and other things come into play, but I'm no guru on the subject by any means; sorry if I gave that impression. A few years back I helped a neighbor put in a new entrance box. We were pretty disappointed to discover that a new entrance box also meant that everything connected to it had to meet the current codes, which meant the old knob & tube stuff in the attic had to go, a new run was required to a sub panel in the basement, gfci's had to be installed, wire pulled out of old gas pipes, and so on. We tried to argue it, but lost. It was quite a pain getting through some of the plank siding. Like I said in my post though, I was making references to possibilities, not saying those things would occur or be required.
PopS
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Pop wrote:

From your previous post...
"But, should the place burn down and the insurance companies/fire investigators get into it, someone might have to take the rap for having done possibly uninspected work, or worse, for violating the law that says if you fix one thing substandard, you have to fix them all, ..."
....
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