Common RV electrical problems are indeed easy to fix. It is a known fact that RVs run on electricity. Without the electricity, the appliances inside your RV meant to make your life much easier would not work properly. Having electrical problems can also lead to hazards that can endanger your life and safety while living in the RV. Thus, it is very important that you address these electrical problems as soon as possible to avoid any disasters or accidents caused by faulty electrical systems.
What are the common electrical problems often encountered in RVs? Some of the common electrical problems in RVs include faulty electrical systems, 12V problems, problems and issues with the fuses and breakers, problems with the outdoor sources, and many others.
This article focuses on the different electrical problems that can happen in an RV. We will also discuss and understand how an RV’s electrical system works, and the different sources of electricity in the RV. We will talk about the different solutions in solving these problems. Lastly, we will also talk about determining if the electrical problem in the RV is a major or a minor problem, and if it is the right time to call a professional for help or if you can do it yourself.
Understanding How An RV’s Electrical Systems Work
Before we start working on the electrical problems present in our RV, it is important to learn how our RV’s electrical systems work compared to other vehicles.
RVs have more than one electric system. That is why it is very important for people to understand that RVs work differently compared to other vehicles in terms of the electric systems it has.
A motorhome or a camper has three electrical systems. These work together to keep all the appliances and other electronic devices up and running. These three electrical systems are the RV 12-volt system, the chassis 12-volt system, and the house 120-volt system.
These electrical systems work together to ensure that the RV functions normally as it should and prevent any appliance from not working due to insufficient electricity or any other electrical issues.
If you buy or rent an RV, you’ll want to know enough about it to do a walk-around examination, especially of the electrical system, before you hit the road. Even the most inexperienced person may learn how to inspect for faults and judge whether they are big or minor.
When a refrigerator stops working, for example, you might ask whether you should look into the wiring and propane-management circuits on the back of the fridge or not. The answer is no for the electrical novice; keep away from such fixes yourself. They are far too dangerous, especially when AC electricity or propane are involved. For such issues, you should always contact a trained service technician.
A minor problem, however, could be as simple as resetting a breaker or GFI that has “kicked out,” replacing a blown fuse that is easily accessible, guessing what caused the breaker or fuse to shut off, or checking the water in your battery.
Contacting a trained service technician before doing any electrical repair, especially if you are not sure of doing it, is a good way to avoid any mistakes in electrical repairs because if you cannot do it yourself, they can do it for you.
In dealing with whatever electrical problem in your RV, always remember that safety should always be your first priority no matter what. Follow these precautions before accessing panels and fiddling with electrical systems in an RV, camper, or at home.
If you are not sure what you are doing, do not touch anything and contact your RV manufacturer or RV Roadside Assistance company, or your local certified electrician if you are at home. Electricity is extremely harmful and has the potential to kill humans.
If changing a blown fuse or resetting a tripped breaker doesn’t solve the problem, you should take a step back and seek help from your RV manufacturer’s Service Center before proceeding.
More On The RV’s Different Electrical Systems
This part will discuss each of the different electrical systems present in the RV in detail, so that we would know how each of these works.
When working with your RV’s electrical system, the first thing you should know is that practically every RV has two electrical systems.
The first is a 12-volt system, which uses the engine of your tow vehicle or motorhome to create power while going along the road, as well as any other alternative sources such as solar panels or gas, diesel, or propane-powered generators.
When you do not have access to your shore power electrical source or are using a 12v item like a slow cooker or refrigerator, this method will typically provide electricity to lower voltage lighting.
This form of power source is more common in smaller campers than in bigger RVs and motorhomes, but it is highly popular and works well for individuals who wish to use their engines to create power and recharge their batteries while traveling down the road.
This form of power source is extremely useful for a semi-truck driver, as it allows them to utilize a slow cooker and maintain a tiny 12v refrigerator running while going from one location to another with minimum drain on their deep cycle battery system.
Hopefully, by the time you arrive at your overnight location, your slow cooker will have prepared a delicious meal for you, and your refrigerator will have cooled enough that it won’t use any more juice than what’s in your battery bank.
A 110/120-volt system, similar to what you’d find in a stick-and-bricks house or apartment, is the other type of electrical system you’ll find in an RV. When your RV is equipped with a converter or inverter, as I discussed in a previous article about understanding your RV electrical system, the equipment is often powered by your shore power.
When your RV is equipped with a converter or inverter, a 12v and 110v system will frequently work together. Solar power or gasoline, diesel, or propane-fueled portable generators can also be utilized to power 110v systems.
Common Electrical Problems in RVs You Must Know
Now that we know how these electrical systems work, here are some of the common problems that RVers usually encounter with their RVs.
Broken Fuses And Breakers
The fuses and breakers in your RV are one of the most common RV electrical problems. If fuses and circuit breakers are causing a power outage, check the circuit breakers first to see what’s causing the problem.
If the power outage is caused by fuses and breakers, the first thing you should do is turn off all of the energy. To reset the power breaker to its default settings, unplug any electrical connections and systems attached to it.
Replace any damaged, worn-out, or broken fuses with a fuse that matches the amperage rating. You must ensure that the amperage is correct in order to avoid burning out the system and exacerbating the electrical issues.
Replace your fuse or breaker with a higher-rated one, not a higher-rated one, to solve your problems. Your camper or RV was created by professionals with your safety and convenience in mind. Each electrical item was connected to a circuit capable of securely carrying the load.
Installing a higher-rated fuse or breaker will not solve the problem. If a fuse blows, replace it with a fuse of the same rating, never a fuse of a higher rating. This is because you risk starting an electrical fire, which would completely damage your RV. You risk permanently damaging the equipment powered by that fuse.
Always keep in mind that the fuse was designed to withstand a regular operating load. Something has changed if it blew. In light of these cautions, below is a table of fuse colors and the ratings they imply, in case you need to replace fuses.
Faulty Ground Fault Indicators
A ground fault indicator, more commonly known as a GFI or ground fault circuit breaker (GFCB) is a receptacle with a RESET button. It’s designed to “throw” itself off when the current flowing through it exceeds the circuit breaker’s designed current limit.
If even a small amount of energy is discovered between the circuit breaker’s “hot” line and the ground lead, a GFI will trip. These specialty circuit breakers are required in facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, and garages where the user of an appliance may come into touch with the ground via plumbing, metal, or flooring when utilizing an uninsulated item. They are life-saving equipment, after all.
If you cannot take care of this yourself, feel free to ask help from a technician before anything else begins to get complicated.
Faulty 12V Systems And Outdoor Sources
These two systems need immediate attention because this contributes a lot to how your electrical appliances and devices are run inside the RV.
A problem with the 12V system can harm a number of gadgets that rely on it. It may not function effectively due to a blown or faulty fuse, a tripped breaker, loose breaker connections, or loose connections to DC batteries, among other things. Another possibility is that the battery is undercharged or that the water level in the batteries is insufficient.
The converter could also be the source of these issues. One or more of the converter’s fuses may have blown out, or the converter’s connections may be loose. It could be a defective converter if none of these components are malfunctioning. In that scenario, have it repaired or replaced by a professional.
On the other hand, any difficulty with the RV’s electrical accessories will be caused by a problem with the campsite’s outside power source. If your cables are damaged or have worn out over time, such as being ungrounded or corroded after a long period of usage, they may come into touch with other appliances in the RV, resulting in a short-circuit and failure.
If this is the case, move your RV to a new location and try a different power source to see if the 12V and 120V systems are both functioning properly.
The power supply should not fluctuate because when the current flow is low, the accessories will not function effectively, and when the current flow is high, the accessories will fail or blow out. Excessive power might potentially cause the RV’s power outlets and wiring to melt.
Corroded connections, defective wiring, and inadequate grounding are further causes of a fluctuating power supply. The campsite management is responsible for ensuring that electricity is available at all times and in the correct amount.
Surge protectors can help you avoid these problems, but make sure you get a high-quality device that can effectively reduce voltage spikes. Surge protection is already built into the motorhome.
When it senses an unusually high volume of electrical flow, the main AC breaker trips. Individual appliances and systems have their own breakers on the breaker panel.
An RV surge protector, on the other hand, is a superior option because it reacts to voltage changes faster than a standard breaker. These fractions of a second make a significant impact in the protection of sophisticated electronics.
Appliance Current Draws
One of the main electrical problems in the RV are the current draws in the appliances. If you are not a professional electrician, you should avoid dealing with the usual RV electrical problems caused by the 120V power supply. You can, however, inspect the appliances to see whether they are drawing more electricity than is required.
A 13,500 to 15,000 BTU air conditioner, for example, uses 12 to 14 amps when it first starts up and then 5 to 8 amps during operation. A microwave oven can require 8 to 13 amps, while a water heater can draw 11 to 13 amps, depending on the size, make, and model.
Find out the wattage of an individual appliance to figure out how much current it uses. Then divide this value by 120 to get the power consumption rate in amps. For this kind of problem, you should always call an electrical expert who can help you out with it. It is potentially dangerous to do this all by yourself, except if you are an expert in this field.
Overloading The Power System
When you have several appliances and electrical components functioning in your RV, you may experience a frequent electrical problem that requires repair or replacement. Running many appliances at once can quickly deplete your electrical supply system, leaving you in the dark and without power in your RV.
The circuit breaker in your RV can trip if there is a lot of stress and demand on the currents in your electrical system. Make sure that minor electrical appliances in your car, such as the hairdryer, microwave, air conditioner, or other chargers for your computer or phone, are not running at the same time.
Solar Panel Problems
A problem with your solar panels is another common RV electrical issue that you may encounter. The solar panel will be more prone to damage because you will be driving your RV to and from vacation destinations and on the highway frequently.
Before presuming there is something else wrong with your car’s electrical system, look at the solar system and connections first. To find out if your RV has a solar panel and connectors, see a qualified mechanic or an auto body shop.
Circuit Boards Problems
You will need to evaluate and check your circuit breaker panel to make sure the circuit board is not the source of one of your regular RV electrical issues. This component of your RV’s electrical system is normally found near the 12V batteries. To ensure that the connections are secure, close all monitor and minor circuit breakers, as well as the main intake circuit breakers.
Make sure the board does not have any acid buildup. If there is, clean the board with a water-baking-powder solution to clean the electrical system. Acids contain the correct number of ions to carry electricity and create a circuit, which is a common RV electrical issue.
Using Surge Protectors
The main AC breaker, as well as the individual appliance and equipment breakers in the main breaker panel, are all equipped with surge protection devices. They, like surge protectors, shut off if the input voltage increases too high.
The only practical difference between standard breakers and a commercial “surge protection” device is that standard breakers are slow to react to voltage changes. A good surge protector should react faster than a breaker to voltage rises and trip if the voltage exceeds the safe limit of your electrical equipment.
Low input voltages can cause electrical devices to fail or perform erratically, thus most surge protectors will turn off the power if the voltage is too low. Surge protection devices are currently plagued by a lack of true design requirements or recommendations. It is possible that you will end up with one that does not react quickly enough to keep your RV secure.
Many other campers, who had surge protectors, had damage to their breakers that “fried” them without the surge protector’s help. Anyone purchasing one of these devices should look for one with a quick response time, though it can be difficult for a camper to discern how fast one surge protector is compared to another.
Other Minor Electrical Issues
It is highly recommended to employ a professional electrician or technician if you have a lot of electrical problems with your RV. It is not recommended to attempt to resolve any of the major concerns outlined above if you are not a certified electrician.
Many people can change fuses, reset breakers, and refill a battery’s water level because of their previous experiences. Any electrical job carries the risk of rig damage as well as personal injury. These minor issues, on the other hand, are likely to be solved by anyone without requiring much intervention.
The push-button or switch on the circuit breaker must be replaced. A circuit breaker is made up of a number of switches that can malfunction at any time. It’s a simple task that anyone can accomplish.
Outside electrical outlets are available. They will be strewn over your motorhome’s inside. They frequently get loose and stop working as a result. It is a good idea to replace them with outlets of the same size.
New batteries are being installed. Another basic chore that does not require a lot of skill. When transitioning from a generator system to RV solar panels, battery replacement is required for a variety of reasons. Lithium-ion batteries are simple to set up, despite the fact that they require a few more components.
The Costs Of Fixing Common RV Electric Problems
Fixing the electrical problems in your RV can surely cost a lot of money since you are doing repairs. Here is everything you must know about the costs of fixing your RV’s electric problems.
Getting To Know How Much It Costs
There are average rates for the regular repairs of common RV problems – both electrical and non-electrical – to calculate how much you would spend to employ one of the methods to solve the frequent RV electrical problems RVers usually encounter.
The waste system is one of the most expensive repairs, with costs ranging from $2,400 to $3,400. The cost of engine repairs varies greatly depending on whether you need a total engine replacement or just a specific part repaired, ranging from $1,400 to $30,000 on the high end of the spectrum.
The cost of repairing or replacing the transmission ranges from $1,900 to $12,000, while the generator is another common RV electrical issue that costs between $2,000 and $4,000. The fuel system costs between $600 and $3,400 on the low end and $500 to $2,000 on the high end, while the leveling system is a regular issue that costs between $500 and $2,000.
The dash air can cost anything between $700 to $3,800. Some of the frequent RV electrical problems, such as the roof air conditioner costing between $600 and $3,500 to repair and the generator costing between $2,000 and $4,000 to repair, also apply to fifth wheels.
Ask Your Insurance Carrier For Electric Problem Repairs
However, it is a good thing to ask your insurance carrier if your insurance policy covers repairs caused by electric problems. Having an insurance policy that covers these electric problems will help you with shouldering the costs because you might just have to save more money.
There are insurance carriers that can recommend electricians or repairmen who can help you with your electric problems without worrying about the costs because they are affiliated to the insurance carrier.
Meaning, they can cover the costs for your electrical problems without any hassle at all. Always check with your insurance carrier if these are covered, and if not, ask them if they can draft another plan for you covering these repairs and replacements. Insurance agents are always happy to provide for your needs since it covers your insurance policy to them.
When In Doubt, Go To The Experts
Remember, if you do not think you can fix the electric problems yourself, there is nothing wrong in asking for help. Even though it is just a minor electrical problem, ask a professional to fix it for you if you really do not know what to do. Electricians are highly equipped and skilled with abilities and experience to fix these problems for you in the safest and most secure ways possible, without potentially harming you in the process.
If you try fixing this yourself, you might put yourself in danger and thus get into accidents or injuries. Worse, it might cause damage to you and your RV. When in doubt, always go to the experts because they know what to do and how to deal with it in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
Fix Your Common RV Electrical Problems Now
Fixing the electrical problems in your RV can be a hassle because electrical systems in RVs are complicated compared to other recreational vehicles. However, if you understand how an RV’s electrical system works, you might be able to solve some minor issues yourselves. On the other hand, solving major electric problems in your RV might require the help and assistance of an electrical professional who can do the job more efficiently and much safer than doing it yourself. It is also a good thing to check with your insurance carrier if they can cover the costs for you as part of your insurance policy to save money.