It's pretty obvious when you blow a fuse for a major appliance in your RV. The TV stops working or the microwave powers down, and it's immediately noticeable. You can tell exactly what you did, and when you did it. But sometimes, electrical issues in an RV are more subtle. You don't even know there's a problem until you flip on a light and notice it isn't working. And now that you know your RV porch light is not working, what do you do? We're here to help you remedy this issue.
There's a variety of reasons that your porch light might not be working, though some are more common than others. Take the following for example:
- The lightbulb simply needs to be changed.
- Another switch that acts as a circuit interrupter is accidentally flipped, keeping power from the outside lights.
- You have an electrical problem, such as a bad battery or power converter.
- The circuit breaker is tripped.
- A fuse is blown.
- There is a short in the wiring somewhere leading to this light.
Keep reading to learn more about how to troubleshoot RV electrical problems. We'll cover all the reasons your camper lights might not work, and how to troubleshoot each one. Then we'll explain how to find, test, and replace a blown fuse. We'll even cover how to use a multimeter, and when to seek professional help (and who to call!)
Why Won't My Outside Camper Lights Work?
It's frustrating when your lights were working fine the other day but suddenly won't come on. With any luck, it's something easy that you can fix on your own. Use the following guide to help eliminate possibilities and find the problem.
The Lightbulb Needs To Be Changed
This one might seem obvious. But when looking for the source of a problem, it always makes sense to start with the simplest option first. In this case, the simplest solution is changing the lightbulb.
You might think this can't be it if more than one light has failed. But it's important to realize that a power surge can cause a lightbulb to burn out suddenly. If you've recently witnessed a power surge in the camper, this might be it.
Another Switch Is Flipped Off
In some RVs, there are additional switches that turn off power to specific areas of the camper. These are often called circuit interrupters - they must be on for the power flow to continue uninterrupted.
If there is a circuit interrupter that controls the outside lights, then this switch must be in the on position first. Even if the lights themselves are turned on, it doesn't matter when power can't reach the fixture. Be sure all the switches are in the correct position.
How Do You Troubleshoot an RV Electrical Problem?
The first step in troubleshooting an RV electrical problem is to try it across more than one setting. Do the lights work when the RV is running off battery power? Do they work when the RV is plugged into AC power?
If the problem only exists when using AC, it's likely a bad power converter. Conversely, if it only occurs when using battery power, then your battery is bad. When the problem occurs in both situations, then it's time to start checking the circuit breaker and fuses.
How To Check Your Circuit Breaker
Examine the circuit breaker panel to start. If any of the switches are in the off position, simply flip them back on. This may be all it takes. If the power comes back on, problem solved.
Just remember that the circuit breaker tripped for a reason. You may have overextended the electrical limits of the RV by using too many appliances at one time. If this is a recurring problem, you'll need to check it out in greater detail. Regularly tripping breakers indicates an electrical or power issue that can become a fire hazard, like a short circuit.
If the circuit breaker is fine, continue by checking the individual fuses.
How Do You Know If An RV Fuse Is Blown?
The tell-tale sign that you've blown a fuse is when only a few pieces in the RV go out of order. If the majority of the electrical system is still working, start checking for a bad fuse.
There should be some sort of diagram near the fuse box. This diagram can help you locate the fuse that you need. Look for one with a label that corresponds to the section of RV that isn't working. For example, fuses marked as refrigerator, microwave, outside lights, and so on.
Often, you can tell a bad fuse just by looking. It may look sort of burnt or dark on the glass or plastic. However, this in itself doesn't prove that the fuse is bad. A good fuse may still have that burnt look to it from overheating but work just fine. The only way to really know for sure is to test it, for example with a multimeter.
How To Check RV Fuses With A Multimeter?
Make sure that the multimeter, first of all, is on and set to measure continuity. This looks like 5 curved lines. Touch both the positive and negative lead together - it should beep, which lets you know it's working properly. Put a lead on each end of the fuse. It doesn't matter which side is positive or negative, simply have one lead on each side. You should get the same reaction that you had when you tested the leads - something like a beeping.
If nothing happens, you have a bad fuse. It may also read "open" or "not complete" - both indications of a blown fuse.
Where Are The Fuses In My RV?
The best way to find the fuses is to simply check your owner's manual. Each model of RV is different, so the manual is your only surefire answer. The fuses are located in some kind of electrical cabinet or compartment. Typically, the fuse box and circuit breaker are next to each other. They can be in a closet, behind a wall panel, or even sometimes underneath a seat.
How To Find A Short In The Wiring
If nothing else fixes the lights, there could be a short in the wiring. This can be pretty obvious, as generally, it frequently causes the circuit breaker to trip or fuses to blow. If you keep fixing the same lights over and over, there's probably faulty wiring somewhere.
Other signs can include an electrical crackling or popping when you turn on the circuit. There may even be visible burn marks along the wall, where the bad wiring is.
If there's a short, you may need to enlist a professional. Have a certified RV technician check it out. Unless you know a lot about electrical repairs, this can be a risky one to fix. Not only can it be physically dangerous, but it can also be a fire hazard.
The most common reason porch lights stop working is a blown fuse. Some RVs also have a switch that limits power to the outside lights. Occasionally, someone flips this switch by accident, though typically it's something RV owners are familiar with if they've had their RV for a while. Rarely, it may be a bad battery or power converter - but if this is the problem, it should affect more than just one or two appliances.
Finally, it could be a short in the wiring. If this is the case, you may want a certified RV technician to examine your electrical system. Faulty wiring is dangerous and can cause a fire if not taken care of properly. If you don't know much about wiring, let a professional handle that one.
For further reading, try:
How To Keep RV Cabinets And Drawers Closed When Traveling