You rely on the lights in your RV to provide illumination throughout the vehicle…until they don’t. You’ve tried replacing the bulb (if you can get to it) and flipping the light switch on and off a few times and nada. What do you do if your RV ceiling lights have stopped working?
When your RV ceiling lights no longer work, you’ll have to troubleshoot to figure out the cause. Those causes include:
- Your ground fault interrupter or GFI has gone bad or has been tripped.
- Your circuit breaker has been tripped.
- The light fixture might have gone bad.
- The fixture’s ballast provided it has one, could have gone bad.
- The light fixture battery could have died.
- The fixture’s wiring might be damaged or fried.
- The on/off switch may have broken.
- Your RV isn’t plugged into a source of power.
In this article, we will expand on the above causes of your failed RV ceiling lights. Fear not, as we’ll also provide solutions to most of these common issues. Do keep in mind that sometimes, for safety’s sake, the best thing to do is call an electrician rather than tinker with an electrical system yourself.
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With that warning out of the way, let’s begin.
What to Do When Your RV Ceiling Lights Aren’t Working
Problem: The GFI is tripped.
We’ll start with problems that can affect your RV if you have a 110AC light system. The first involves the ground fault interrupter or GFI.
Your GFI, sometimes also referred to as a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI, safeguards you from electric shocks when you get near your RV ceiling lights and the other lights and electronics in your vehicle. It takes the neutral side’s output current and assesses that against the hot side’s input current. If there are any milliamp current changes, then current leakages have occurred. These can lead to shocks, so the GFI prevents these leakages.
Most GFIs can stop power leakages in the span of 30 milliseconds, which is quite an impressive feat. That said, GFIs aren’t perfect. If yours got tripped somehow, then it cannot contain power leakages. Your ceiling lights probably won’t work then, either.
Solution: Reset it or call an electrician to do it.
Since a GFI keeps you safe from shocks, when it’s not working, it cannot do that. Thus, getting near your ceiling light or other fixtures in the RV could lead to disastrous consequences. We don’t advise you to put your health or even possibly your life on the line to fix an RV light. The only exception would be if you have prior experience with electrical systems and only then. Otherwise, it’s much better to let the pros, aka electricians, take care of this.
Problem: The GFI still doesn’t work.
Okay, so you had an electrician come out and reset the GFI for you. The only problem is it’s still not working.
Solution: Get a new one.
In such a situation, you more than likely need a fresh GFI. Again, it’s better to let an electrician take care of removing the damaged GFI and setting up your new one. This way, you’re safe from electrical shocks.
Problem: The circuit breaker is tripped.
You know better than to use too many electronics and appliances in your RV at once, right? Running your hairdryer, the microwave, and trying to watch the TV could overload the system. This results in a tripped circuit breaker.
Solution: Reset the breaker and discover the cause of the trip.
In most cases, you can safely reset your circuit breaker on your own. The only exception would be if your GFI also failed, in which case, it’s better to let an electrician take care of this.
Besides just resetting the breaker, you also want to take the time to determine why the breaker tripped in the first place. Was it because you overloaded the system? Perhaps you were doing too much at once and the breaker had to trip so the circuit wires wouldn’t get so hot that they put you and your passengers at risk.
Whatever the cause, try to avoid doing it again.
Problem: Your ceiling light ballast is faulty.
The RV ceiling light issues going forward are all those on a 12-volt system. The first problem is when your ceiling light ballast has gone bad. Now, not all lighting fixtures even have a ballast, so keep that in mind.
A ballast is a type of device needed for both high-intensity discharge lights or HIDs as well as fluorescents. These contain the voltage levels so those levels don’t get too high. Thus, when your ballast fails, the voltage could have increased to such a point that your ceiling light burned out.
Solution: Replace the ballast.
Since the ballast isn’t doing its job, you’ll need to get a new one. When dealing with high voltage levels, it’s always safer to get in touch with an electrician. They’ll ensure your new ballast is up and running quickly and at no risk to you.
Problem: It’s actually the ceiling light fixture itself that has gone bad.
Oh, darn. You thought a new ballast would help, but it turns out not. The lighting fixture still doesn’t respond when you flip the switch. Now what?
Solution: Check the battery if yours has one. Otherwise, repair or replace the fixture.
While it obviously depends on the model of RV, certain light fixtures in RVs do come with a battery. If you didn’t know that and you never changed the battery, that could be why your ceiling lights don’t work. In that case, it’s a super easy fix. Just replace the battery and you’re good to go.
If that doesn’t work, then you need an entirely new lighting fixture. You could install this yourself, but if you feel uncomfortable, you can always rely on the pros for help.
Problem: The wiring is in terrible shape.
Perhaps it’s not the lighting fixture itself that’s giving you grief, but the wiring it’s attached to. It looks decrepit, damaged, and not very functional. It’s no wonder your ceiling lights have stopped working.
Solution: Call an electrician for new wiring.
We definitely don’t recommend you mess around with the electrical wiring yourself. That goes double if you can see the wiring is visibly damaged. The chances of you getting electrocuted are just too high. It’s much better off for an electrician to come to your RV and get you all set up with fresh new wiring.
Problem: The on/off switch works sporadically, if at all.
You flip your ceiling light switch on and it doesn’t respond. Thus, you have to do it several more times before maybe the light turns on. Then, when you go to turn the light off via the switch, it doesn’t respond. In such a situation, you’re thinking this is more of a switch issue than anything.
Solution: Check the switch and consider getting an electrician to install a new one.
You’re probably correct. Once more, it’s safer and smarter to call an electrician. They can detach the cover of the light switch and see if it’s a wiring issue or another damaged component. If they can’t fix it, then you can get them to replace the light switch for you.
Problem: No lights work, including the RV ceiling lights.
You’re not quite sure what happened here, as your RV lights worked just fine last night. Now you wake up, still parked in the same spot, and can’t get any light to your vehicle. Not only is it your ceiling light, but every other light that’s not working.
Solution: Check that your vehicle has power.
First and foremost, you want to make sure you’ve plugged in your RV to a power source, especially if it’s sitting stationary. This might seem like a very common-sense solution to your problem, but hey, if it works, it works.
What if your RV does have power but none of the lights have turned on? We recommend you check out our blog, as we’ve written about this exact issue before.
We’ll recap the solutions presented in that article, as they’re all ones you should try:
- Check that your converter or inverter is getting power from your power cord or power transfer switch.
- Look at your RV’s diagnostic lights and make sure the surge protector is getting power as well.
- Unplug your shore power source from the power pedestal. Then, reset the breaker.
- Take out the coach batteries and run your inverter. Look at the batteries while you’re at it. If they’re eroded or out of date, you need new ones.
The above tips and troubleshooting advice we covered here would also apply in most instances. To that end, once again, never hesitate to call an electrician if you know they’re better suited for the job than you.
Lots of things can go wrong with your RV ceiling lights, preventing them from working. It could be an issue with the GFI or the circuit breaker if you use a 110AC system. You could also run into trouble with the fixture itself, its battery, a ballast, or the fixture’s wiring. You also have to make sure you have power to your RV.
Now that you know the multitude of issues that can affect your RV ceiling lights, you’re in a much better position to get your lights working again soon. Good luck and be safe!