7 Common RV Electrical Problems and Fixes
7 Common RV Electrical Problems and Fixes
Common RV electrical problems can put you out of commission and off-road. Take a look at this guide to assess what is going on with your RV and get help.
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With over 41.8 million people camping each year, problems with RVs are a common occurrence. And those problems are usually electrical. Why do you ask?
Electrical systems are more complicated in RVs than in traditional vehicles. Like cars and trucks, RV systems need to keep the vehicle operating when on the road. Unlike other vehicles, RVs also need to maintain systems while parked.
Those include things like refrigerators, microwaves, hot water, and so forth. These systems consume relatively low amounts of power to reduce the need for fuel. The systems are also notoriously finicky and break down often.
Below, we outline seven of the most common electrical problems and their solutions. Read when you’re ready to fix up your RV, and get it back on the road.
1. Common RV Electrical Problems: Fuses and Breakers
With the growing interest in RVs, Thor Industries’ and Winnebago Industries’ sales have exploded. Sales increased by 56.9% and 75.1% respectively. That’s billions of dollars’ worth of new RVs on the road each year.
And half of them break-down because of faulty parts that cost less than $10. We’re talking, of course about fuses. Fortunately for you DIYers, the problem is simple and inexpensive to repair.
Standard automotive fuses are color coded:
- Black – 1 amp
- Grey – 2 amps
- Violet – 3 amps
- Pink – 4 amps
- Gold – 5 amps
- Brown – 7.5 amps
- Red – 10 amps
- Blue – 15 amps
- Yellow – 20 amps
- Clear – 25 amps
- Green – 30 amps
The first thing you want to check when RV electrical system troubleshooting, is your breaker. A breaker is a safety built into electrical systems. They shut down power outlets to help prevent electrical overloads, shocks, and fires.
Smaller versions of breakers exist on power outlets themselves. They’re called ground fault indicators (GFIs). Like a typical breaker, they shut down the flow of power to an outlet when they sense too much electricity is flowing through it.
These special outlets are marked with a “Reset” button. If you trip the breaker on these outlets, simply unplug everything connected to this outlet. Then push in the reset button. Now plug it all back in and you’re ready to go.
If you discover the fuse itself needs to be replaced, replace it with a fuse of the same amperage. Never replace it with one of a higher amperage, or you run major risks. You may start a fire or burn out the systems connected with that fuse.
2. 12-Volt System
Your RV 12-volt system is a group of deep-cycle batteries. They power your 12-volt light, circuit boards, propane detectors, and leveling jacks. Your RV has a converter inside which converts 120 voltage into 12 voltage.
The chassis batteries discharge power to your exterior running lights. They also power your RV’s turn signals. If your lights aren’t blinking properly when you throw on your signal, the problem is likely in these batteries.
If your RV breaks down while on the road, test them to make sure they’re maintaining a charge. If they are, use a voltmeter to check the leads from the battery are working properly.
3. 120-Volt House System
These run separately from your chassis electrical system. The house system runs everything non-automotive inside your RV. The system runs just like the one attached to your own brick and mortar home.
The 120-volt current powers things like your air conditioning unit, electric water heater, and microwave. Most household appliances run at 120 volts.
If you recently installed a new appliance in your RV, check its description to make sure it’s fit for your RV. It will be labeled with amps, volts, and watts. Most problems in house systems are caused by new appliances.
4. Outside Power Supply
If you have your RV plugged in but no power, your problem may be coming from outside sources. Campgrounds are notorious for corroded or ungrounded wires. Drive elsewhere and plug your RV into a different source to find out whether this is your problem.
5. AC Current Draws
Sometimes problems occur only when you’re running multiple appliances. If that’s the case, make sure you don’t run any of the following at the same time. Air conditioner, hair dryer, microwave, and water heater.
They’re the biggest drains on your power. As such, you’ll trip a breaker if you run them simultaneously.
6. Circuit Boards
Open your electrical circuit breaker panel. It’s usually located next to the 12-volt DC battery bank. First, open all the circuit breakers. Next, close all the circuit breakers, ending with the main input breaker.
Disconnect the 110-volt AC power from the pedestal. Remove the screws from the electrical panel and pull out the panel. Check it for acid accumulation on its connector tabs and terminals. Clean it with 12 ounces of water mixed with one teaspoon of baking soda.
Dry all surfaces are dry before restoring power.
7. Solar Panels
If you’re running a solar panel setup, your problem may be coming from there. Unfortunately, they’re often an after-market add-on. That also means they come in a wide assortment.
When RV electrical troubleshooting, rule out the above problems first. They’re usually the instigators. If you’re still having problems, consult your solar-panel owner’s manual for help.
Even common RV electrical problems can keep you dry docked. Ensure you can always take care of common problems by keeping a voltmeter and extra fuses on hand. Be safe and enjoy your drive.
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