We understand that RVing calls for some compromises. But not having power even when you have access to it can be the worst nightmare for many campers. If you’re stuck plugged in but still without power, then this is the article for you.
Whatever issue your RV might be facing, there’s a solution to it, and you’ll find it right here. But first, you need to find out what’s causing the problem.
Check the following carefully, and start with turning all electronic appliances in the RV off.
- Power supply cables
- Tripped GFCI
- Main circuit
- Surge protector malfunctioning
- Old appliances (short circuit damage)
We now move on to checking what the problem may be, with suggestions to fix them.
The GFCI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is a device that monitors the power surge in the circuit. It protects your RV from damage in case of water leakage or power load. In such situations, the GFCI shuts off the electric flow in the circuit, thus helping avoid a dangerous situation. You can find the GFCI using the RV manual.
Steps to reset the GFCI:
- Check if the GFCI has tripped (using a voltage tester)
- Locate the breaker panel and the reset button
- Reset the system by pressing the button
A power surge could be caused by your RV pulling more power than the shoreline power. Shore power is the power source you plug into at a campsite. Shoreline connections typically provide a 30-amp connection, which your RV can exceed with its multiple device usage. This causes the circuit to trip and the power supply stops.
However, remember that resetting the GFCI does not mean it won’t trip again. You probably plugged in a 50-amp RV into a 30 amp supply. What you can do to avoid another circuit trip is reduce the power your RV is consuming. This can be done by reducing the number of appliances you are running at once.
If you can confirm that the shoreline current is functioning, then there might be a problem at some other point in the power supply. The next step is to check whether the power cord connected to the shoreline is damaged. You can check this using a voltage meter.
You can also check the cord for signs of physical damage like loose prongs, cracks, or cuts.
Main circuit breakers have similar functions as that of a fuse, and they can trip when you connect to a new power source. Other reasons that can cause circuit breakers to trip are as follows:
This is caused when the ground wire comes in contact with a hot wire. It increases the electricity flow in the circuit, causing the breaker to trip.
It happens when the neutral wire and the hot wire come in contact. This leads to excess power flow, heating the system and potentially resulting in a fire outbreak. However, the breaker shuts off the supply at the first instance of increased power supply, thus saving you from any danger.
Another reason why circuit breakers trip is because the amount of power connection is less than the power your appliances are consuming. It is the main reason why breakers were built in the first place, to control power flow. So, you should try to keep the connection capacity in mind while running your appliances.
Here are the steps to reset it:
- Disconnect the shoreline power supply
- Locate the power pedestal
- Flip the breaker
It should start the power supply right back up, and if not, you need to keep looking for the problem at another place.
The 110 Volt Circuit breaker is responsible for controlling the power supply to your RV batteries and all 110 Volt appliances, like the air conditioner.
It will require you to follow the RV manual instructions, but since this is a major circuit breaker, we suggest you call in a professional technician.
The reason for this is that batteries become damaged after a while. Physical signs like corrosion, overheating, or leakages mean something is wrong or is going to malfunction soon. If you do find any issues, check the battery voltage using a voltmeter.
Remember to wear gloves in case of leakage, because battery fluid can seriously damage the exposed skin.
Signs of battery damage you should check:
- Broken terminal
You can also check the voltage reading of your batteries. Your readings for a fully charged battery should be between 12.7 and 13.2 Volts.
If your smaller devices stopped functioning, then the inverter or batteries might be the cause of trouble. Smaller appliances run on DC power, which becomes a problem when the majority of the power supply is AC.
The purpose of the inverter is to convert this AC power into DC power, and thus help power the batteries to run small appliances.
To check this, disconnect the shoreline power supply and use an alternate one. If the power supply resumes normally, then the shoreline is faulty, and if it doesn’t, your batteries are the problem. At this point, your battery needs a repair or replacement, which a technician might be more equipped to do.
RV breaker trips in case the appliances are pulling too much power. Here’s what you need to do to fix this:
- Disconnect the RV from the shoreline supply
- Reset the RV breaker
- Connect to the shoreline supply and see if your power reconnects
Surge protectors ensure your appliances aren’t damaged when there is a voltage spike (causing an excessive amount of power to flow through the circuit). Voltage spikes can cause the electrical equipment to overheat, or in worse cases explode. The surge protector can stop power from flowing in such circumstances or they may become damaged.
Steps to check if the surge protector is working properly:
- Locate your surge protector by checking the manual
- Check if it’s working (it’ll have its green light ON if it is)
- If it is OFF, use a voltmeter to test the power supply
A damaged surge protector won’t have lights on and will prevent power from flowing. The rule of thumb is to inspect and replace the surge protectors every two years.
The generator could stop running due to fuel shortage, oil shortage, or because the 12 Volt battery power switch is off. Check the power supply at the power transfer switch if you think the generator is the problem.
Some signs of inverter trouble are:
- Flickering warning lights
- Burnt circuits
- Inoperative internal vents
- Dimming lights
- Loose wiring
Check them using a voltage meter to see if the power is running smoothly through the cables. If it isn’t, consult the RV manual to check for the issue and how to fix it as every device will have a different operating mechanism.
If nothing else works, you’re going to have to find the wires and see if they are connected properly or are frayed or damaged. Check the power supply in the wiring between the outlet, breaker, switch, and power cable.
It is wise to call in professional help at this point anyway because replacing wiring is not something you can do by yourself (unless you know exactly what to do). This requires you to check the power supply from the wires to the breaker and the breaker to the outlets.
If, just in case, the wiring is not the problem, then you will have to call a technician. If you exhaust these options, then it would seem like your RV has a more complex problem than what a simple fix can handle.
The 12 Volt circuit powers the lights and radios in your RV. It has its own circuit breaker too that is irreparable as it gets blown once overcharged. So, you need to use a multimeter to charge them. In case you do have a blown fuse, your next option is to replace it.
There could be a problem with the RV park’s power grid, which you could find out by asking other campers. If that is the case, notify the authorities at the earliest.
Before you’re out on the road, spend a day testing whether all lights are running in your RV. Check whether the power supply is stable and connects the devices in your RV.
Charging batteries before the trip is a great way to ensure you also clean them out routinely. This way any problems are fixed before the trip, and your batteries too are less likely to become a source of problem when on the road. Use a multimeter to charge 12 Volt batteries and clean any build-up on the battery with a mixture of baking soda and water.
Off-roading doesn’t have to be completely uncomfortable. Keep your RV steady and running by ensuring the generator is functioning. Using the generator at regular intervals ensures it is running smoothly and also gives it a good exercise, thus reducing the chances of build-up inside the tank.
Adapters can help you get a secure power supply at locations where the shoreline connections do not match that of your RV. It is a very common problem that you can encounter on your trip.
By leaving your RV plugged in all the time, you risk overcharging the battery. This results in depletion of the electrolyte in the cells, ultimately shortening the battery life. Sulfation is another battery problem that is caused due to undercharging. Undercharging batteries or allowing them to get too low can damage them. Similarly, avoid storing your batteries in too hot or too cold weather as this too can reduce their life.
Power cords undergo lots of wear and tear when you’re on the road. Checking them can save you from unexpected repairs in the middle of your trip as replacing them may not be possible at all times.
An external surge protector can be used to plug into the shoreline power source. It is the best purchase you can make. It not only trips the power supply when the power surges but also when it decreases. A low power supply is known to damage appliances by reducing their efficiency in the long run and causing overheating in the short term.
If you’re a first-time camper, then you may not be aware that directly plugging into a power source can damage your RV and your appliances. It could also cause the breaker to trip. Therefore, it is important to follow the steps given below to safely plug into a campsite.
- Turn the power off at the site you’re plugging in
- Switch off all the power in your RV
- Plug your power cord into the source
- Switch over the devices running on propane
- Turn the switch to the power supply back on
Repeat the same procedure before you unplug the power cord. Turn the appliances off, turn the power supply off, and remove the power cord safely.
There is nothing more important than your safety, and that is why there are tools you need to use when you’re working with dangerous equipment like the generator, wiring, and other electrical hardware. Make sure you’ve got a pair of insulating gloves and safety glasses. It also helps to regularly check your RV and get maintenance done to keep it clean and operating smoothly.
Our best tip is to carry the RV manual with you on all trips and a toolbox with the necessary tools to repair the RV for a quick fix. Who knows, in an extreme environment, even a simple flashlight could save you from total blackout.