What Can Go Wrong with the RV’s Air Conditioning System?

Now that it’s summer, you’re probably blasting your RV air conditioner regularly. You depend on it to keep you cool after those hot, sweaty days exploring the world from your vehicle. Then one day, you hear a clunking sound as the AC unit runs. Uh-oh! What kinds of RV AC problems do you need to stay abreast of? We did extensive research to bring you the answer.

There is a lot that can go wrong with an RV’s air conditioning system, including:

  • Damage from temperature extremes and moisture due to lack of a cover
  • A noisy motor, which occurs when the unit’s rubber shock absorbers move
  • Ice accumulation, which necessitates a freon fill-up
  • Water dripping, which means the fan isn’t evaporating the water like it should
  • Water leakage, in which loose roof bolts may be to blame
  • Overheating from dirty coils
  • The fan doesn’t work at several speeds anymore, an issue with the fan motor
  • Cool air stops blowing, which may be the fault of your fan capacitor or your thermostat
  • You get warm air from the unit, again a thermostat problem or perhaps one with your compressor capacitor
  • The whole unit stops working, which may be due to lack of power or other serious issues

Whew, that’s certainly a lot! Before you get overwhelmed, we encourage you to keep reading. We’ll cover each issue in more depth, providing troubleshooting solutions. You’ll feel like a pro by the time you’re done with this article!

What Are the Parts of Your RV Air Conditioner, Anyway?

If you’ve never tinkered with your RV air conditioning unit, then you might not really know what parts it comes with. While we wrote about it extensively on this blog before, here’s a quick overview of all the AC components and what they do.

For a more in-depth review check out: How Does the Air Conditioning System Work in an RV?

  • Refrigerant Liquids: Certain fluids keep the unit in tip-top condition, such as freon. The freon passes through tubes in the air conditioner, moving cool air and keeping hot air from coming out of the AC.
  • Fans: The fan within your air conditioner typically has two settings: on or auto. With auto, the cooling unit must be on for the air conditioner to keep air going through the unit.
  • Evaporator: Your air conditioner evaporator takes the hot air that inevitably accumulates within the unit, transports it to the cooling coils, and thus makes the air colder. That’s the air you feel through the vents of your air conditioning unit.
  • Condenser: Your condenser uses refrigerant vapors so it can control hot air around the unit.
  • Compressor: Those refrigerant vapors then travel throughout the air conditioner via the compressor.

Problems and Fixes for RV Air Conditioning System Issues

You now have at least a basic knowledge of your RV air conditioner. Great! Next, we’ll elaborate on the issues your air conditioner can have. We’ll also share some fixes you can try.

The Problem: Your air conditioner is covered in debris, soaked through with moisture, it’s broken from excessive heat or freezing.

Leaving your air conditioner exposed to the elements is never a good idea, especially during the offseason. Your AC unit could cost upwards of $1,000, so take care of it lest you have to replace it.

Solution

Get a cover!

Whether you’re retiring your RV for a few weeks or for the winter, you need to get a cover for your air conditioner. Make sure it’s waterproof and weatherproof, too. This way, the abovementioned issues can’t drastically shorten the life of your AC.

The Problem: Your air conditioner motor runs very loudly.

It’s hard to enjoy a relaxing morning in your cozy RV kitchen when, each time the air conditioner starts running, it chugs, whines, and grumbles. What’s wrong with it, anyway?

Solution

Check your rubber shock absorbers.

More than likely, you have your rubber shock absorbers to blame. These are located around the fan and compressor of the air conditioning unit. If they move out of place, they can rub up against parts and make the noise you’re hearing.

Take off your AC’s cover or shroud and push the shock absorbers back to where they should go.

The Problem: Your air conditioning unit has ice surrounding it when it runs.

You know your air conditioner is supposed to be cold, but it’s not an icemaker! Still, if you use it long enough, ice appears around the unit. What’s up with that?

Solution

Refill your freon.

If you notice colder-than-usual temperatures accompanied by the ice from your air conditioner, then it’s likely a freon issue. By topping off your unit with freon, the icemaking should stop.

The Problem: Your air conditioner drips.

Drip…drip…drip. The continuous sound of water can drive you crazy! You need to get to the bottom of why this is happening, stat.

Solution

Clean your AC coils.

Your air conditioning unit should send leftover water to the fan for evaporation. Sometimes though, this doesn’t happen. The water can then end up stuck in the unit, and it has to come out some way. Thus, it drips.

Most of the time, your air conditioning coils cause this troublesome water rerouting. Try cleaning the coils and see if the problem stops.

The Problem: Water has leaked into your RV.

Now, instead of a dripping, you’ve noticed a considerable amount of water in and around your RV. You suspect it’s from your air conditioner. Why has this happened?

Solution

Go to the roof to check your bolts (and tighten if necessary).

A single loose bolt can keep the air conditioner separated from the roof and the gasket. This lets water leak out onto the ground and sometimes into your RV. Check each bolt and tighten them up. Barring that, a new gasket should fix this pesky situation.

The Problem: Your AC overheats when you turn it on.

You know your air conditioner is a mechanical unit, but it shouldn’t get too hot when it’s pumping out cold air, right?

Solution

Again, clean those coils.

Your AC unit definitely should not overheat when working. If that’s what you’re experiencing with your RV AC, then make sure you get on a coil cleaning routine. It’ll prevent this issue.

The Problem: Your air conditioner fan doesn’t seem to want to work at every speed.

You remember the days when your air conditioner fan ran fast, slow, and at every speed necessary. Now it seems to get stuck at some speeds.

Solution

Get a new fan motor.

If that’s your problem, then it’s likely due to a faulty fan motor. While you could tinker with yours, we recommend replacing it outright. In the future, maintaining the fan motor will let it run longer.

The Problem: The unit works, but you get warm air instead of cool 

Your air conditioner is not a heater. It shouldn’t blow hot air, but yet, that’s just what’s happening. Uh-oh.

Solution

Start with your thermostat. You might want to inspect your compressor capacitor as well.

Thermostats can get screwy and fail outright without power. Are your appliances that use 12 volts running just fine? Then your thermostat should, too.

Next, you will want to test the compressor. It could be this needs replacing.

The Problem: The air conditioner doesn’t blow air anymore.

Before, you felt the hot air from your AC, but now you feel nothing at all. Why has it stopped blowing any air?

Solution

Again, look at your thermostat and/or fan capacitor.

The thermostat might lack power, so that’s your first thing to check.

You might also have an issue with your fan capacitor. Take a look at it and ensure it’s working as it should. If not, you’ve found your problem. Get a new capacitor.

The Problem: The air conditioner seems to have stopped working at all.

Okay, your air conditioner seemed alright yesterday, but now it doesn’t do anything. You’ve turned it on, but it doesn’t run. It doesn’t even make a sound.

Solution

Ensure your power is running.

This may seem silly, but do you have power to your RV? If you do and your AC still doesn’t work, then it could be a capacitor issue. The same is true if your air conditioner does run but leads to breaker failure and dimming lights as it does. Again, consider replacing your capacitor.

Safety First!

Always make sure that you consult a professional before starting any troubleshooting or repairs to your air conditioning unit. These individuals are trained in proper repair techniques so your unit can be fixed correctly and safely.

Conclusion 

Your RV air conditioner can unfortunately experience a wealth of issues. Some of these are easy fixes while others require pricy parts replacement. Doing routine maintenance on your air conditioner should keep the condition of the parts good and thus your unit running better.

Of course, if a part ever fails, you now know what to do thanks to the troubleshooting provided in this article. Good luck!

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