Mobile Home Electrical Basics

Manufactured home electrical basics.

Mobile Home electrical systems are designed to the same code and use the same parts as a site built home.

You may find this helpful in locating wires and troubleshooting problems because the fundamental strategy in finding and fixing electrical problem is to find a place where there is no problem and then keep splitting the distance between that point and the problem point. That is the approach taken on the links from this page but it won’t work if you are unable to visualize how the wiring is laid out in your home.

When working with any electrical problem, maximize your safety by taking simple precautions. Turn off breakers to any area in which you are working. Use an outlet tester to verify that the power is indeed off before touching wires.

Electrical repairs are more fun during the day. Trying to squeeze in an electrical repair in the late afternoon can make for a long evening of juggling flashlights, extension cords, ladders and tools. Waiting 18 hours to start the next morning is probably a good idea.

Especially when installing a switch, make sure it is on the proper conductor. You do not want to install a light fixture with a switch on the neutral wire. If you’re lucky, when you switch the breaker on, it will trip and scare you.

Replacing existing parts is generally straightforward – put things back the way you found them and you should be ok.

Adding new equipment can be more challenging. Be particularly cautious with any wires that are not white, grey or green.

In one home with some very strange electrical work (probably done by a previous owner and not an electrician), I had the nasty surprise of finding cut (but not capped) black and red wires. I think they were intended for a hot tub installation. I probed them and found that they were indeed live at 220 volts. Yikes!

If you have questions on this topic, at least visit a bookstore and buy (or read and memorize) the NEC guide for residential wiring. An electrician may cost you some money, but a ‘cheap’ repair could cost you your home and/or life.

{ 50 comments… read them below }
Ed Damron
I have a 14×70 mobile home. I filled a hole on the outside of the trailer, the size of a squirrel. I have pluggins in the rear of the trailer with, 59 to 60 volts on the meter. I have a dead-leg somewhere. I would really rather not tear-out ceilings & walls. If I had the electrical layout for a, 1983, sunm, (make), sunm, (model), body style (mfghm). I would know where to cut to fix the problem. sunm is the make and model according to the title.
Respectfully,
E. Damron
Paul
Mobile home wall outlets are wired by running a wire from the box, along the outside of the wall studs before the exterior sheathing is put on. They cut a notch at the right level so the wire doesn’t make a bump. If you test the outlets you should find a place where one nearer the box is good but the next one is bad.

Nick P.
i have the same exact problem. same size house… 2 in the living room, 2 in the first bed room, and 2 in the master bedroom. I am suspecting it was a raccoon that did the damage when i first moved in. under the house it pulled alot of the blanket down, guess it was a female, babies… each socket that is out, isnt totally out. Its like its shorted. its at 50%, i think its supposed to be 100-120%… its amazing i found this site because some time this week i plan on going under and take alook. check each socket for the voltage. its just mite be a short, you also mite have wiring under your house. good luck

barbara navarre
i have a 1984 skyline single wide. 2 bed 1 bath. i’m looking for a wire diagram so i can fix the bad wire without taking all the wrong walls out. thank you, barbara
Paul
I get asked about this every so often, but doubt they exist outside the manufacturers factory. In general, if something has a dedicated circuit , like a stove, I would expect a wire to go from the main electrical box, through the belly and up into the wall out let where the stove is. For general purpose wiring they cut notches on the outside of the wall studs at the level of the outlets and fasten the wire there.

Theresa
I have a 1997 Oakwood Doublewide Mobile Home that has no power to the master bath, master bedroom and half of living area. Have replaced the breaker, but didn’t solve the problem. Found 2 outlets that were melted on the back very bad. Both on outer wall of master bedroom. Have narrowed the problem to one plug that shows to have a direct short in the wiring that goes out back towards the breaker box but can’t figure out where it goes to. Have checked all other outlets back in the direction wire seems to run but nothing. Having no luck in finding an electrician in our area that knows about mobile homes either. I need help here. At wits end with this.
Paul
Were the burned outlets on the half of the house without the breaker box? Doublewides will have a box/plug on the marriage line, under the home where power is connected from one side to the other. I would be looking for problems there.

tony
Trying to help a lady who lives in the park where I live, she has a 1984 Fleetwood mobile home, single wide. She has no power to her master bedroom ceiling light or any of the outlets, bathroom right in front of her bedroom no power to ceiling light but outlet works, in the hall outside the bathroom and leading to her bedroom no power to ceiling light or outside light, the switch for the hall light and outside light are both on same wall opposite breaker box. breaker that feeds these lights and outlets (acording to her) was replaced, wire coming off breaker is running down thru breaker box. All outlets and switches were replaced with new. Any ideas? Thanks.
Paul
I really hate electrical problems. At the risk of being obvious, have you flipped the breaker(s) off and then back on? Sometimes it isn’t as easy to see that a breaker has tripped as it should be. “according to her” is a giant red flag. Do you have any way to test the breaker?

Yes flipped all the breakers, she said a former electrician tested the breakers. I have a multimeter and the breaker she says controls the rooms that are out was replaced. I can check for output coming off the breakers. Going to pull the working outlet in the bathroom tomorrow to check it. Also want to figure out which breaker controls it to verify it is on the same circuit as the rooms with no power.
Paul
Be aware that much of the wiring, like that to wall outlets, is in a notch on the outside of the wall studs.
Electrical is not my strong suit so suggestions are welcome.
Darrel
Try lloking at your outside electrical outlet had similair proble with mine same model and make . shorted out outside electrical line for external plug in underneath the hot water tank its factory
for a heat tape

Derk
Re torque all the neutral lugs in the panel and check for a loose neutral at the first switch in the branch cuircit. If outlets work and lights do not, usually a lost neutral

Misty
I have a moble home that I just wired to the poll this week and the wire that home depo gave me was 600v wire way to think but we worked around that and put it all in… the power does not work very well and kicks the brakers is it too high of voltage for my home?
Paul
You need to get an electrician out to take a look at it.

Ray Flores
I have a 3-light switch receptacle in the hallway of our double-wide. It works the exhaust fan and light and the light in the study all at the same time. Is there a way around this? Can I rewire the switches separately so each light and the fan work independently?
Paul
I would think so, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable being more specific without seeing it. There are to many ways something could have been connected wrong at the factory or it may have been attacked by a do it yourselfer

Christine Peary
I have 2 bathrooms in my 1985 Pine Grove mobile home with elec. issues. There is no electric in one bathroom with a switch and a plug in outlet on the wall near the door and another switch under the medicine cabinet that has a light. Tried the main circuit breaker, flipped the switch , no change. My brother managed to get the 2 by the door opened up and sees no obvious wiring problem.
The wiring is tied into my bedroom , the switch is not far from the bedroom outlet which works as do the other little bedroom and hall lights.
My other bathroom now has the same problem almost. The switch by the door turns on the overhead fan with light and that works but the elec. switch and the plug in unit do not work. That unit has a reset button and no lights when I reset it. I am beyond broke and can’t even begin to come up with $60 an hour fee and have no idea where to even look to find the problem.
Do you have any idea where my brother can look to find the problem. He thinks it may be in a main box but doesn’t know if it’s in the wall, the ceiling, outside or under the trailer as he’s never worked on a mobile home before.
I’m at wits end about it all and don’t know what to do as I can’t get any help financially. Any ideas you have would help.
Thank you,
Chris
Paul
I really can’t say to much from a distance because the homes are all wired differently when they come from the factory and then owners often do strange things. The repair really has to be made by someone at the home.

Shawn W.
I have a ’71 Sahara double wide mobile home with the porch side electricity off on outlets and porch light, ceiling fans,lights. It seems to be split exactly doen the middle. The kitchen side works perfectly. I had a computer and the monitor melted down and I heard a zap in the wall and that’s when the lights and recepts stopped working. I just had a real electrician look at everything and he said it is just like a regular house if he had access to the attic or a diagram. Is there a box at the marriage line as indicated in an above post? How can you trace a short without a diagram? Thank you for your time and help. I very much appreciate.
Shawn
Paul
There should be a connector at the marriage line. As far as tracing shorts, the wire all stars out from the box. The wall outlets, for example, no doubt have several in a row on the same circuit.

Ron m.
I had a similar problem in my mobile home . Ceiling lights in living room , kitchen , and porch light were out . Ended up running new wire under belly from panel to light switch at front porch where 4 switches were wired in series . New wire fixed it all .

Shawn W.
Thank you. I will pay someone to go under the home and inspect that box. My friend said you might find two wires disconnected there. The zapping sound did come from close to the center of the home so that might be a clue. Thank you again, I’d like to access your knowledge later if I may. Have a good day.
Shawn

Gayle Bittle
My husband is doing a complete remodel on our 2091 double-wide Redmon Motor Home. He’s going to be removing several interior walls and needs a diagram of the electrical wiring and also what size studs are used where. Is there a place to get that information?
Thanks so much for your help!
Gayle
Paul
I have never seen such a thing. RV’s come with an owners manual but with mobile homes you seem to be on your own.

Dale James
I am in the process of buying a 16 X 60 1991 manufactured home. I am getting it regardless. The interior lights don’t come on but will blink for about two seconds then go off. The master beadroom, laundry room works fine. From the kitchen, living room, second bedroom, and closet, the lights blink. There is a damage motion detector that we think is wired into this cicuit. I am assuming everything is ran in series. The other thing is that when you turn off all lights the last light turned off will glow dimmly. could this also be sometype of short connected to the motion detector.
Thanks, Dale J.
Paul
I am reluctant to say much about electrical issues where I haven’t actually seen the problem myself. “Handymen”& “DIY’s” do amazing things which no one with an ounce of training or experience would ever imagine. Good luck.

Bob T.
In some mobile homes, the light switch does not get it’s supply from the breaker box. They get power from the outlet circuit. If you find an outlet with wires continuing on to a “ghost” outlet, it may have turned
upwards going to a nearby switch. If the connection is lost at that point, one may find themselves with a perfect appearing circuit of plugins, with a mysterious loss of power to individual rooms.
. I hope this offers a possible solution to a non-traceable short circuit you may be dealing with.
anonymous
Which is why it’s important to trace out which breaker supplies which widget with power before something dies. Everything in my trailer that uses electricity has been labeled with the breaker that provides it with power. Some breakers should never be turned off (smoke alarm, refrigerator) but others can be to minimize the probability of something catching fire while you’re away on vacation.

Barb C
I have an 84 double wide and my outlets in my kitchen have quit working. We replaced the breaker because it trips as soon as we switch it on, the breaker wasn’t the problem, any ideas out there? It would be greatly appreciated, we’ve never had an issue until now.
anonymous
The reason why the breaker trips as soon as you flip it on is because there is a short somewhere in the line or the receptacles themselves. The breaker is not defective, it’s simply doing its job. One test you can try is remove all the receptacles, temporarily insulate all exposed wiring, and flip the breaker on. If the breaker trips as before, then the problem is somewhere in the wiring (assuming nothing else is on that line). If the breaker does not trip, then the problem is in one or more of those receptacles and you can re-install one receptacle at a time and repeat the test until you find the bad one.
anonymous
The answer I gave above is not quite correct. I assume there are a number of outlets in a row in the kitchen. Remove an outlet in the middle of the row, insulate the wires and turn the breaker on. If the breaker still trips, the problem is somewhere between the removed outlet and the breaker box. If the breaker does not trip, the problem is either in the just-removed outlet or further downstream. Repeat the search procedure until you narrow the problem down to an outlet or section of wiring.

Ryan
why can’t they outlaw pushing wires in back of duplex recpt. in houses new and old. ..especially mobile homes every time lose power to part of rooms that is the problem were they use no boxes and just squeeze wires between thin copper metal…,or they just skin and push wire in back of a switch or duplex recpt. instead if wrapping it around screw. ..been to too many that heated and melted the recpt and did not trip breaker …to much load for them kind connections and need 20amp wire and duplex to take care of them 1500watt electric heater loads and wrap around screw it save a lot of time and head scratching …it want melt switch nor a duplex recpt. so quick. … (I know it quicker to push in back but when goes out if the black wire is still hot reading to ground u can usually see what is cutting on and off with the breaker,some times but if the white wire is only there and no wire exposed underneath. ..well you are in for a long day if you don’t get lucky) just a thought sir…does it make since sir? thanks,Ryan (electrician)
Paul
I have always been astonished at what contractors will do to save a few cents per square foot. Mobile home manufacturers have engineers on staff to make sure they meet, but never exceed, HUD standards. Once the sale is made and the warranty expires its not their problem.
That is why I suggest buyers who are having trouble with a home purchased from a dealer escalate the problem quickly.

jmarkp
Hi. My dad has a schult double-wide. A month ago half the outlets on one side of home stopped working. Oddly enough the outlet on the porch — which shares the same wall as the side that went out — works. Today the rest of the outlets on the same side went out.
He’s had the electric company out. They validated the power from their line to the box on the house is working. He’s had 2 electricians out and they haven’t been able to isolate / fix the issue.
Any ideas?
Thanks.
Paul
Do the electricians he used know anything about mobile homes? Did they get under the home and check out the junction box where power connects from one side to the other? Since doublewides are delivered in two sections there has to be a way to connect power, AC & heat between the sides. If that connenction has problems you get the situation you describe.

Denise
My Mom lives in a Mobile Home park. She leases her lot. She has an issue with her lights dimming and getting brighter. The power company checked the pedestal and said they believe it so in the lines in the ground. We contacted the park management but the contend that it is her responsibility that they have none after the pedestal. Does anyone have an info as to who is responsible for the lines in the ground on a rent piece of property when you own the home?
Paul
In my experience the home owner would be responsible since the mobile home setup crew would have been the ones buying the cable and installing it.

Michele
Denise it depends on your state laws for mobile homes in Arizona 25 ft from the mobile to the pedalstal is the parks responsibility also from the pedalstal to the connection in the ground. But check your landlord/tenant laws

Campfirecat
I own a late 80′s Fleetwood Double-wide manufactured home. The back door into the utility room which is like a bonus room, only has a light by the outside door. It is a 2 switch with one light for outside the door. I bought a motion sensor light switch but was unable to install. I was told the wiring is different in a manufactured home and sensor I bought was for stick built. Where do I get a motion sensor switch that can be installed in manufactured home? Or is there a trick to installing the one I bought from Lowes? Appreciate any help I can get on this.
Paul
As far as I know your circuits should be the same old 110/120 15 amp circuits found everywhere. I think it be worth visiting a differnt store

Rod H
I’m looking to install a motion-activated porch light on my back patio. I’m quite comfortable with the installation process and wiring requirements, but for the life of me, I can’t find the Exterior circuit breakers. The one panel I have is for the interior and, of course, the main. Do I need to deenergize the main to install the light or is there a common hiding place for exterior?
I’m in a park with no power poles – everything is underground.
Paul
I never saw a home with any circuits that didn’t run through the main panel; which doesn’t mean there aren’t any of course.
Was your patio added on to the home after it left the factory? If so, who knows what they did.

Angie
I have a 1970 Fleetwood double wide. The power went out on 1/4 of the house. One day it just stopped working. I had an electrician come look at it today and he was unable to locate the junction box under the trailor. There us a vapor barrier and he doesn’t want to begin just tearing into it. He wants to try to find out about the wiring diagram. Any ideas?
Paul
I wish I did. I get asked this every so often and have never known anyone to find/have such a thing.
If you can find someone who specializes in mobile home electrical they might be able to help.
Paul

Dana Matthews
I have a 1985 single wide and am having breaker box issues….where on line can I buy the single breakers? I live in a rural area and we can’t find them around here.
Paul
I worked closely with these guys.
magicmobilehomesupply.com

Ben
I have a mobile home and I have two window units when I turn one on the other unit stops working and the lights goes dem or off, what’s going on. Can anyone help?
Paul
Air conditioners pull a LOT of power. If both units are on the same circuit there is not enough capacity to handle the load. You need to find a way to make sure each is on its own circuit.

  • Cindy says:

    I have a 1976 14×70 mobile home, I need to do somevroof repairs and need to no howvthe wires run threw the home. Would the run threw the walls across ceillines to the lights then down each side to the outlets. Are dose the main wire run threw the ceiling then out to each out let.

  • Paul says:

    Back side of a wall switch. Power from below, to light fixture up.Hi Cindy.

    In all the homes I have seen the wire goes down from the main panel into the plenum under the house. For the wall outlets it will come up through the base of the wall. (This is being done before the siding is applied) They use a router to notch the outside of each wall stud about 18″ above the floor and run the wire through the notches. The wall outlets on the inside of the home are all attached to this wire.

    Wire to the wall switches and plugs comes up through the wall from below. If there is a ceiling light the wire continues up the wall from the switch and through the roof to the fixture.

    Paul

  • Michael Glassey says:

    I need to replace the first six inches of my t 11 walls on the outside of my mobile home on the bottom all the way around the trailer you think I could take a circular sawjust cut all the way around through it it just enough to t-111 without hitting any electrical wires only 6 inches up

  • Paul says:

    Hi Michael,

    Power tools let you get into trouble really fast, but assuming the saw is set to the proper depth, it should work.

    I think I would set the blade a little shallow so it didn’t cut all the way through. The T111 should break at the groove.

    Paul

  • sherry says:

    I’m trying to find out how the electrical wires run in my 1992 Fleetwood manufactured home. We want to take a window out to make a door but are afraid that we will cut through wires. How do we find out if the electric wires are in that area?

  • Paul says:

    Hi Sherry,

    I have never seen any wiring diagrams published. I would be afraid to trust them in any case because people do strange things to plumbing, wiring, etc.

    What if you remove the window so you can look around carefully as you slowly cut away wall material?

    Of course if you do that you are completely committed to the project. If/when you find wires that don’t have enough slack to pull out of the way you will be looking at an in the wall splicing issue.

    Good luck with it.
    Paul

  • Dianna Bilbery says:

    We have a 1995 belmont premier single wide mobile home. We started having electrical problems some month back, outlets throughout our home would quit then come back on, lights would dim then go bright then recently they won’t even give enough power to fry an egg or run a toaster. We had a friend who is a retired electrician come out. He replaced every singel outlet in our trailer and checked any and all breakers/wiring. Apparently, there is a break in a open source white wire? We have searched for the last few days with no luck. My mother is on oxygen and we have her room running off the electrical pole outside. We have absolutely no heat. Our friend says he cannot do nothing until I can find the location of this wire that runs down one wall in our living room. We do not have the money to call in a profession. Help!!

  • Paul says:

    Hi Dianna,

    In the single-wides I watched them build at the Palm Harbor factory, the electrical power for the wall outlets was provided by running a wire along the outside of the wall studs. Before the exterior siding was attached they would go all around the outside with a router and cut a notch about 18″ above the floor into each stud. That made the channel for the wire that was tied into the outlets.

    I am not an electrician, but maybe this will help locate the problem.

    Paul

  • Danny K says:

    A couple questions on here about problems like my own! Tripping breaker to a specific room? I had a recepticle burn under W/H. At the same time I had rewired a recepticle in and light switch in the room above. (Problem found) When I rewired recp. and light switch I connected all white wires togeather!!! Turned out the light was wired Power comeing in to light fixture-BLACK- power going down to switch was “WHITE”! So connecting all white wires to geather in box created DEAD SHORT! Wired Box problem solved! The burnt recept under was caused while drilling a whole down through floor and drilling into recepticle, (Luckly the power was off at the time)! Also some one ask a question about a Fleetwood Master bath not having power! “Check the GFI recepticle under Water Heater if it is kicked, other wires may pass through it to Bath!

  • Paul says:

    Thanks, Danny,

    Electrical is not my strong suit.

    The older a home gets, the more likely it has had some “Creative” repair work done.

    Paul

  • Jon says:

    My pre-HUD mobile home has a 3 wire outlet for the electric dryer. Could this be original? I expected it to be 4 wire. The wiring inside the outlet is 4 wires. I suspect a previous owner changed the outlet instead of correcting the cord.

  • Kay says:

    I have a 1989 Schultz mobile home with a 7 foot tip out. A few days ago, the power went off on 1 side of mobile home. Does a mobile home with a tip out have a junction box under the mobile home like a double wide does?

  • ruth dickey says:

    dear paul, we have a 2001 homes of legend doublewide, 28×60, and , we are going to try to find the floor joists with a zircon stud finder with wire warning, , before we do anything, are there any elec. wiring, under any of the floors, or are they all in the walls?, I have tred over the years to get a scematics on this home, but they wentout of business like in 2008, and bought out by champion homes, I believe, any way at all, to find out? , really need to know., we know where the main cable is under crawl, and goes up through floor, to hook up to circuit box, but , are any of the house wires, , running along any floor joists?, , thank you.

  • Paul says:

    Hi Kay,
    I never worked on one, but it seems likely.

    It would certainly be the first thing I would look for.

    Paul

  • Paul says:

    Hi Jon,

    I have no idea if you are correct and I have never seen wiring diagrams for mobile homes.

    People do astonishing things when they try to do repairs so your guess is probably correct.

    Paul

  • Paul says:

    Hi Ruth,
    I obviously can’t speak to how all homes are wired, but in the ones I worked on the wiring was in the belly below the joists.

    With the way they air-nail the subfloor to the joists, I can’t imagine anyone would run wire there. Air-guns that will drive a 4″ nail as fast as you can bounce them would not be kind to wires.

    Paul

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