How to Ground a Generator on a Trailer

How to Ground a Generator on a Trailer | DIY 12 Steps

Last Updated on September 25, 2023

Camping is fun and exciting. But there is a lot of work to do when getting ready for a camping trip. One thing you need to consider when camping with your trailer is the generator.

You may wonder how to ground a generator on a trailer at a campsite? Don’t worry, we will show you.  The generator must be properly grounded using a copper rod and cord that the manufacturer approves of the generator.

To keep yourself and your family safe, and to avoid damage to the generator or danger of fire, do not ground a portable generator unless it says so in the owner’s manual. So keep reading to get some tips on the best ways to properly ground a generator on a trailer at a campsite.

What is Grounding a Generator?

Grounding a portable generator is the metal part that’s connected to the electrical cord. It provides a path for electricity from the generator to flow into the ground. All metal components of the portable generator and the grounding terminals are attached to the generator frame.

A grounding rod must be hammered into the ground. The rod is then attached through a wire to the electrical cord from the generator where it comes out of the ground. It provides a path for electricity to flow safely into the earth and prevents it from flowing through you.

What Types of Grounding Rods are Used for Portable Generators?

equipment grounding conductor terminals

There are three types of rods used for grounding. They are:

1. Copper or Brass Grounding Rod

2. Solid or Split Copper-Clad Steel Grounding Rod

3. Green Steel Grounding Rod

What Type of Cord is Needed to Connect to the Generator?

It’s extremely important that you use a grounding cord that’s approved by the manufacturer of the generator. This is required to protect you and your family from harm or damage to your portable generator, which could cause a fire.

There are mainly two types of cords available for portable generators. These include:

1. A three-wire grounding cord

2. A four-wire grounding cord

What Type of Generator is Needed to Ground It Safely?

generator's frame replaces

There are electric, gas, and diesel generators. The type you choose depends on how much power you need. Electric generators are the best option when camping because they’re lightweight, quiet, and require no setup or assembly.

Electric Generator:

A portable electric generator is available in many different sizes. They’re also the easiest to use and require no assembly or installation.

Gas Generator:

A portable gas generator is the second best choice for RV trailer. They’re powered by gasoline or natural gas.

Diesel Generator:

You can use a diesel generator only on the campsite where it’s located. You can’t tow it or transport it because they’re large and heavy.

All generators must be grounded safely for your protection as well as the generators. It must comply with standards set by the National Electrical Code (NEC).

The safest way to ground a portable generator is through a three-wire cord. There are other types available, but they may not be safe for your home or camper.

What to Know Before Grounding a Portable Generator?

plug connected equipment

A generator needs to be grounded before it can be hooked up to the trailer. Grounding your portable generator requires that you attach one end of a wire to its ground terminal. The other end of the wire needs to be attached to a grounding terminal on your trailer.

There are different types of grounding terminals, so you will need a clamping tool if it’s a positive cable system. A good way to ground your generator is to attach one end of a ground wire to the frame of your trailer and the other end to the generator.

This is going to ensure that no electricity comes between you and the ground which could result in a serious shock or electrocution. If you don’t get it right, you will not be able to use your generator via a transfer switch. If there’s no power going from the generator then none of your appliances will work.

There are different factors involved in camping with a generator.

01. Size of the Campsite:

You need to consider the size of the campsite when you are hooking up your portable generator. Just because the campsite allows you to use generators doesn’t mean that it will be suitable for running a generator. You have to carefully monitor your use at a campsite.

If you’re in a campsite that allows only one generator, you will have to turn it off if someone near the campsite needs some extra power. If you’re at a big campsite that has six or more generators, then you will have no problems since there’s the power to spare.

02. Power Requirements for Your Generator:

A generator’s power requirements through a transfer switch determine whether it will work at a campsite. If the campsite only offers 15 amps and you have a 30 amp generator, you can’t hook up all your appliances at the same time.

This is because the load needs to be balanced evenly between all the generators that are hooked up to the campsite. If the campsite does not have enough electricity for your portable generator, you will need to borrow a smaller generator or go without some of your appliances and gadgets that require power.

03. Generator Location:

It is important that you consider open ground when setting up your generator at ground bar. It’s no good hooking up your generator and then realizing that you don’t have access to the power cable.

You also need to consider the direction of the wind if you’re going to use a gasoline-powered generator.

04. The Length of Your Trip:

You also need to consider how long you’ll be making the trip. You are unlikely to use all of your power via a transfer switch, but if you’re out for longer, your battery is more likely to drain.

What You Need for Grounding a Generator on a Trailer at the Campsite

receptacles mounted

So now that you know what types of grounding rods are used for generators and cords let’s talk about what you need to ground your generator safely.

You will need:

1. A three-wire cord that includes a ground wire with green insulation, a white neutral wire, and a black or red hot wire.

2. Copper or brass grounding rod that’s hammered into the ground to a depth of at least 8 feet. This is also known as an earth rod or grounding rod because it grounds a generator to the earth.

3. A shovel to dig a four-foot deep hole to place the grounding rod into.

4. Safety hammer or sledgehammer to drive the grounding rod into the ground.

5. A hard-wired electrical connection outside your camper that’s attached to a metal part of your camper, such as a metal frame rail or metal hookup box through which you can attach a three-wire cord to your generator.

How to Ground a Generator on a Trailer While Camping?

safety ground wire

The grounding electrode system of a portable generator is responsible for protecting the device itself as well as people using it. If this system does not work properly, you are increasing the danger that the generator will fail to protect your home appliances or that it will start a fire.

Grounding portable generators can be difficult on trailers because they are part of a moving vehicle. You must take steps to ensure that the generator’s grounding system will not be disturbed. The output of the generator may also need a neutral ground bond.

Step 01. Find a Parking Location:

You will need to find a good location that’s away from your camper for grounding the generator. Make sure that you’re not near any flowers or trees because this could damage them.

It should be far enough away so that it won’t overheat and cause problems with tripping circuit breakers on your RV, but close enough so you can easily attach the cord.

Step 02. Check the Electrical Connection:

Make sure that your camper is plugged into an electrical connection outside or attach a three-wire cord to it and to your portable generator. Make sure that you use a good, heavy-duty three-wire extension cord for this purpose with at least 6 wire gauge size.

Step 03. Locate A Good Ground Location On The Trailer:

Locate a large exposed piece of metal on your trailer, such as the frame. If possible, this should be a spot that is free from dirt and grease so that you can ensure a proper ground connection.

Step 04. Dig a Hole:

Use a shovel to dig a hole about four feet deep. Step on the shovel until it goes in about 12 inches (30 cm).

Step 05. Ground the Copper Rod:

reference ground

Make sure that you tap the ground around the bottom of your grounding rod with a hammer or sledgehammer before driving it into the ground. This will help loosen dirt and rocks around the area around the grounding rod so that it won’t be stuck.

Step 06. Attach the Grounding Wire:

Attach the grounding wire to your grounding rod and tighten it down with a wrench or pliers. Wear rubber gloves before doing this to protect yourself if you are touching a cable or portable generator at the same time as the external ground wire is connected to the soil through the grounding rod.

Step 07. Attach wire to the Generator:

Connect the wire to the generator frame and screw down its terminal with a wrench or pliers so that it doesn’t come loose during travel. Most portable generators use either a grounding bolt or screw terminal for this purpose. Some may use a clip or clamp.

Step 08. Connect Cable to Your Trailer’s Grounding Connection:

Remove the bolt or screw from the ground location on your trailer. Attach one end of your grounding cable to this spot, then re-attach the screw or bolt. Make sure to use a wrench when tightening up connections so that you do not risk breaking them.

Connect another grounding cable to your trailer’s grounding connection, such as a metal hook-up box through which you can plug in appliances at the campsite. Connect that cable to the grounding wire on your portable generator before using it.

Step 09. Cover the Grounding Area:

Once you’ve finished, cover the area with soil or rocks so that no one steps on it or pokes it with a stick while camping at the campsite. Ensure that you shove dirt over the cable so that people can’t trip over them or get hurt.

Step 10. Check Your Connection:

Examine the connection between your generator and your grounding cable. You should see a good connection, with no exposed conductors or wires. If you do see any exposed wiring, re-do the process taking extra precautions to not create shorts in the system. 

Step 11. Test The Generator:

From the generator, use a transfer switch to connect the appliances to the generator. Your generator should be able to power your RV if everything is working properly.

Step 12. Reconnect The Generator To The Electric Panel:

Reconnect your generator to the main panel in your RV. You may only be able to use your appliances with a transfer switch when the power is out. The grounding system should protect both you and your appliances, but it also may require that you reset your breakers or circuit breakers if the generator does not startup.

Special Notes:

When you’re ready to head home after camping, make sure that you turn off your generator at the campground before unhooking it from your trailer’s grounding connection and taking it into your camper. This will ensure that no electricity is draining through it at the campsite and that no one can be hurt.

Which Generator, Champion or Predator, is Easier to Ground on a Trailer?

When determining which generator, Champion or Predator, is easier to ground on a trailer, several factors should be considered. Both the champion vs predator generator analyzed have their advantages. The Champion generator boasts a convenient wheel kit and handle for easier maneuverability, while the Predator generator offers a built-in lifting eye for seamless attachment to a trailer. Ultimately, the choice depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Tips for Safely Using a Generator?

ground prong

You can use a generator to power your appliances via a transfer switch, but it’s important that you use this machine safely. Follow these tips to protect yourself and others from any shocks or injuries regarding portable generators:

1. Always use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on the appliance outlet so that if someone is touching the portable generator, he or she will not be hurt.

2. Keep pets and children away from cords so they do not chew on them or knock over any objects onto them.

3. Place the portable generator in a dry and well-ventilated area to prevent fires and toxic fumes. Keep at least ten feet away from your camper while you are using the generator.

4. Do not use portable generators inside your camper or in any other enclosed area since they can be deadly to occupants.

5. Be sure that you have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case of emergencies, especially when you are using it around flammable materials such as gasoline and propane tanks.

6. Test your portable generator before hooking it up to your camper each time you use it, including after a good rainstorm when water may have gotten on the connections or in the machine itself. You can test its condition with an outlet tester, which are fairly inexpensive.

7. Use a non-conductive cord to connect your appliances to the generator so that no one gets hurt if they touch them or an exposed wire since many cords can transmit electricity.

8. Turn it off when you get there to avoid draining its fuel supply. Make sure that you turn off all appliances in your camper when you get to the campsite and before leaving.

9. Never connect a portable generator directly to the trailer’s electrical system unless properly grounded.

10. You should not overfill the fuel tank when using a generator. 


When to Ground a Generator?

When to Ground a Generator

Grounding a generator is necessary when you are in the presence of water or moisture. Portable generators that aren’t grounded can create electrical shock hazards when in this type of environment.

Water creates static electricity, which can go through the generator and into you if you’re not properly grounded. Don’t let this be a problem in your camper by grounding the generator before ever turning it on or using it at a campsite near water or moisture.

Should I Ground a Portable Generator?

A portable generator typically has its fuel tank, engine, and housing bonded together. You need to ground portable generators at nearby state or national parks that contain large bodies of water like lakes and rivers. This makes the copper rod necessary in order to protect yourself from electrical shock. A ground rod is not needed for your generator if you are using it at a dry campsite.

What Happens if You don’t Ground Your Generator?

Don’t use your generator without grounding it if you’re camping near a large body of water like a lake, river, or ocean. An electric shock can occur due to the electrical current generated between the power source and earth ground rod, which could cause serious injury or even death.

How Deep Should a Ground Rod be for a Generator?

A driven ground rod must be at least 8 feet deep in order to provide your generator with the proper grounding. This will keep you safe when camping near any type of water.

Where is the Generator Ground Rod Located?

The generator grounding rod is located close to your camper’s electrical connection. This is where the majority of its cords are plugged in.

How Long does it Take to Install a Generator Ground Rod?

It depends on your skills, the tools you’re using, and how many rods you are trying to install at once. In general, It only takes few minutes to install a copper rod. You will need to find an area that is clear of rocks so that the grounding cable can stick out of the dirt.

What Gauge Wire do I use to Ground My Generator?

The copper wire you need to use is 6 or 8 gauge. You should be able to find this type of wire in the electrical department at your local hardware store.


A generator is a must-have if you are traveling with an RV. It’s used to provide power for your camper, especially when you’re not connected to a campground’s electrical hookups. But you need to know how to ground a generator on a trailer at a campsite properly.

Know the instructions beforehand, and you will be ready to go camping with your trailer. If you follow the tips above, you’ll have no trouble grounding your generator at a campsite. Hope, this article helps! Good luck with your next camping trip and enjoy the fun.

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