You are prepping your RV for your next trip, or even worse, you are in the campground and discover that some of the outlets are not working. Now you are wondering what to do. For your convenience, we've looked into the most common reasons and what to do about them.
If you find that your RV outlets are not working, there are a few common problems that occur in RVs. This is where you should start. Below is a checklist of tasks to help you diagnose the problem:
- Consult your owner's manual
- Check the GFCI
- Reset the breakers
- Check the fuse box
- Look at the main power source
- Inspect the inverter
- Examine the wiring
- Outlet replacement
- Consult an electrical professional
When the electrical outlets in your RV are not functioning correctly, it is frustrating. Thankfully, several solutions can be easily and quickly fixed. Others may be more complex and require professional assistance. Keep reading to gather more information about troubleshooting your RV's outlet issues.
How do you troubleshoot an RV electrical problem?
To troubleshoot, you need to have a basic understanding of the electrical system in your RV. Below is a video to help you gain the basic knowledge needed to find and fix your electrical issues safely. Simple mistakes with electricity can cause expensive damage to your electrical system, or worse, harm to you or your loved ones.
Once you understand the basics, you can quickly move through the electrical diagnosis checklist to find your problem and the solution.
Troubleshooting begins by checking out the most common issues. Below is an electrical diagnosis checklist to get you started. It's best to be prepared by having the tools you need for troubleshooting and repair on hand. This makes the job faster and easier so that you can get back to enjoying your RV. It is best to have a GFCI receptacle tester and voltage tester in your toolkit for electrical issues.
This electrical voltage test kit by Klein has everything that you should need in one tool pouch:
Electrical Diagnosis Checklist
Remember, when working with electricity, safety comes first. Make sure all grounds are in place and that all power sources are disconnected before attempting repairs.
Consult Your Owner's Manual
Reading through your RV's owner's manual should be your first step. It will familiarize you with the RV's electrical system and the location of all electrical components that you need to find and test. There may even be a troubleshooting section with your solution.
Check the GFCI
Ground Fault Condition Interruptor (GFCI) outlets are a safety component of your RV's electrical system. However, they can also be a source of issues. GFCI monitors the electric current to make sure the amounts going out and coming in the circuit match.
If the currents become mismatched, there is a possibility of electrocution. GCFI prevents this from happening by tripping the circuit when an unbalance in current occurs. GFCI is required in areas with possible contact with water, like the kitchen area and bathroom. However, one GFCI can protect several outlets on a circuit.
GFCI is sensitive and can be tripped for many reasons. It could trip at the outlet or the electrical load panel. GFCI outlets have a reset button. Press the button, and the circuit should reset. See how it's done in this video:
Reset the Breakers
Sometimes, electrical power is lost because an overload has tripped the breaker supplying a section of outlets. This is an easy fix. Keep reading to find out how to reset the breakers in your RV.
How do you reset an RV circuit breaker?
First, locate the breaker panel. Your owner's manual can help you locate it if you need help. If you have lost all power, you need to rest the main breaker. If you have partial power, it may be individual breakers that need to be reset. Once you locate the breaker that is flipped, switch it back in the opposite direction to reset it.
If your circuit breakers continue to trip, you may be pulling too much electricity by running too many appliances simultaneously. Your microwave, air conditioning, hairdryers, and heaters pull a lot of electricity. RV electrical systems aren't built for too many appliances to run at once. If an overload isn't the issue, then you may have a short or a bad breaker.
Check Fuse Box
Blown fuses are a common occurrence and an easy fix. Just locate the bad fuse in the fuse box and replace it with a fuse of the same voltage. It is a good idea to keep extra fuses on hand as well as a pair of needle-nose pliers or a fuse puller.
For more information, below is a video about checking fuses in your RV:
For an easy way to check your fuses, consider the Katzco voltage continuity and current tester:
For any easy way to change your fuses, consider this 3 piece fuse puller set:
Look at the Main Power Source
The issue might not be with your RV but with the main power source that you are plugged into. Check the breaker at the hook-up box or electric pole to ensure that the breaker has not tripped and that the electricity is working properly.
Inspect the Inverter
Not every RV has an inverter, but it could be the source of your problem if you do. An inverter converts 12v DC power to 120v AC so that you can run some of our 120v appliances without being plugged into a power hookup. While this is becoming more common in today's RVs, it is not always standard equipment.
If you are connected to a power source, check your owner's manual to see the recommendation about whether or not your inverter should be left on. If you are using your inverter and your outlets are not working, make sure your batteries are fully charged and that all connections are secure.
Check out this video about the 12v system that works when plugged in but not with the inverter:
Examine the Wiring
A loose or broken connection in the wiring will cause your outlets not to work properly. During travel, the movement of the RV can cause wires to become loose. Also, if your RV has been in storage, it is possible that small rodents have gotten in and chewed the wiring.
To find a short in your wiring, try a simple test from RV expert Mike. You can easily find your shorted wire using a blown fuse, running light, wiring, and an ammeter with DC in the clamp.
There are times when your outlets need to be replaced. Unless you are experienced, you might need to consult a professional for outlet replacement.
One common problem that occurs with Do-It-Yourself GFCI outlet installations and replacements are they accidentally get wired backward. On the back of the outlet, there is a line and load terminal. When wired backward, the outlet may show energized but is not actively protecting from possible electrocution. This creates a potentially dangerous situation in your RV.
If you feel comfortable changing your RV outlets, below is a video to show you the steps:
Consult an Electrical Professional
If you have exhausted this list and still have no solution, it might be time to contact an electrician to diagnose and correct your problem. Besides the dangers of working with electricity, you can cause unnecessary and expensive damage to the entire electrical system.
What causes my RV outlets to stop working?
The technical answer is because there is an interruption in the flow of electricity. A failed connection can cause this, usually through a loose or broken wire, a tripped GFCI, or a tripped breaker at the main power source.
How do you fix an outlet that won't reset?
In most cases, if a GFCI outlet won't reset, it has either gone bad, or there could be a problem looming within the electrical system preventing the reset from occurring. Don't just assume it has failed. This could result in someone getting hurt or expensive repairs to the electrical system that could have been avoided. Unless you have a good understanding of safely working with electricity, be safe and go ahead and call a professional.
RV outlets that don't work are a problem that no one needs while traveling. Luckily, there are solutions that you can fix yourself to quickly back on the road again.
Thinking about giving your RV an update? Check out 15 Amazing RV Exterior Paint Ideas.
For even more information about exterior upgrades, read How Much Does It Cost To Replace RV Decals?