The title is a mouthful and when I started to look into this I did not expect to get so involved with the experiments and the different paths it would lead me down.
NOW, first and foremost some of the information I will present could be considered controversial and is presented as USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. That being said I have had success in some of the techniques that I will present both at my job and on the farm. I believe the material I will present in the next couple of posts will be beneficial to homesteaders, farmers and others in maintaining electrical systems.
It was hard to find information regarding this but I will try to explain it and present the two or three links to some very good information about this subject.
In a nutshell an electrical circuit has a supply path and a return path, all of the electrons that flow must and will go back to where they came from. If the path is through the load such as a heating element or a motor, all is good, but when water, humidity or condensation is involved... well not so much. Now that being said water with conductive ions (conductive electrolyte) is generally not enough to cause a short circuit and generate enough current to trip a protective device such as a breaker or fuse but is enough to cause a shock to livestock or humans. I've seen water boiling and steaming out of 480VAC disconnects and conduit fittings while machines were running.
My understanding of carbon tracking occurs when a micro current is enabled between conductors or to ground through a moisture path, either between terminals or perforations in insulation. The currents grow and build over time through the electrolyte leaving behind a path of salts as it evaporates. As the current increases it can build on itself increasing the intensity of heat until it starts to burn the insulation leaving a carbon track. When the carbon track becomes conductive enough it can flash over causing a small arc flash blowing the fuse or tripping the breaker or even starting a fire.
Below are several links I found while researching this phenomenon.
Latent Short Circuit Defects
Physics Of DC Carbon Tracking Of Plastic
Effects Of Corrosion Inhibitive Lubricants On Electronics Reliabilty