Every RV owner or driver will at one point encounter an electrical problem on their RV. These are common, they don’t necessarily you did something wrong (although it’s important to know what to avoid so as not to be the cause of the fault). Because electrical faults are common, troubleshooting electrical problems on your RV is something you should be able to do on your own. Yes, even as a novice you can do it.


Understanding Your RV’s Power Supply

In order to be in a better position to troubleshoot electrical problems on your RV, it is best that you understand exactly how your RV gets its electrical power and uses it. And no, you don’t have to be a qualified electrician to understand the basics of your RV’s electricals. Let’s get to it, shall we?

First of all, you have to understand that your RV has two ways of supplying power to all your appliances:

12-Volt DC

12-Volt DC

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This is the power that comes from your battery and is only capable of supplying power to your basic appliances like lights, water pump, and other things that don’t draw a lot of power. In short, anything that uses a heating element can’t be used on this power supply, but more on that later. Your 12-Volt battery is usually a deep cycle battery that is recharged by your RV’s alternator, generator, or even solar panels if you have them fitted.


120-Volt AC

120-Volt AC

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The 120V electrical system is the one you use when you plug into a hook up at a campground. Although it is tempting to think it is an unlimited supply of juice, the reality is that it isn’t. Sure it will run most of your appliances easily, but it is also easy to overload it.


How to Avoid Overloading Your RV’s Electrical Systems

Most electrical problems on an RV can be attributed to overloading the electrical system. And no, it’s not just the DC power supply that can be overloaded, the AC can just as easily be overloaded, especially in today’s world where RVs have all the refinements of a modern home. So how do you avoid overloading your electrical system? It’s simple really, you just have to understand your electricity supply’s limitations.

As said, your power supply on an RV is limited (even household electricity is not infinite) and so you need to know just how much power you can draw at any given time, and this is an easy thing to do. If you are hooked to a 30 Amp hookup, you can’t load appliances that have a total amperage that exceeds 30 Amps. This basically means you always need to be aware of what electrical appliances are running and how much power they are drawing. Some of the basic appliances on an RV and their amperages are:

  • Coffee maker – 8.3 amps
  • Converter – 8 amps
  • Hair dryer – 9 to 12 amps
  • Microwave – 13 amps
  • Refrigerator – 2.8 amps
  • Roof a/c 13.5 amps
  • TV – 1.5 amps
  • Toaster – 8 to 10 amps
  • VCR – 2 amps
  • Electric skillet- 6 to 12 amps

Using simple mathematics, we can come to the conclusion that you can’t run your air conditioner, microwave, and hair dryer at the same time as they will overload the electrical supply and trip a breaker. In some instances, the overload can damage some appliances or even cause a bigger problem in your RV’s electrical system.


Troubleshooting Electrical Problems on Your RV

Now that you know the basics of electrical supply in your RV, it is now easier for you to trace any problems that may arise. The first place you must always start from is the power source, particularly the batteries and their connections. Make sure all connections are intact and that nothing is loose or frayed. Your other port of call should be your RV’s electrical panels. Check for a breaker that has tripped or for a faulty fuse. If you locate a faulty fuse, replace it, and it blows again, it’s a sure sign of a bigger problem that needs attention.

A word of caution is in order at this juncture. Electricity is dangerous. If you are not sure about what you are doing, it’s always best to get professional help. And if, after a casual look, you can’t find the cause of your electrical problem, it’s also a good sign that you need to call a professional. As much as you like DIY projects, this one is best left to the professionals.


Before You Start off

Before you start your RV and drive off, always make sure to inspect your RV, and particularly your electrical connections. This is important because the vibrations on the road can cause damage to your cables or shake something out of place. Make this pre-trip inspection part of your ritual every time you start off.

Feature image via rvrepairclub

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