The best part of owning a RV is planning an impromptu trip wherever you feel like. For families, the summer months are very important because that's practically the only time of the year when you can just bundle the kids up and drive off on a trip.
Of course, because it's the summers, the RV needs to be a comfortable temperature with the air conditioning working perfectly.
Things don't always tend to go according to plan on family trips though, and it is very well possible that your air conditioner may start acting up. Rather than spending time waiting for the repair guy to show up, how about you spend some time going through this post and leave home with a few tricks up your sleeve?
I pored over the internet and came up with the most exhaustive list of things that can go wrong with your RV air conditioner and how to troubleshoot.
Let's get started:
#1 Your RV Air Conditioning Frequently Turns On and Off
The 3 top reasons why this could be happening:
- Dirt clogging up the AC system
- Faulty thermostat positioning
- Low freon levels
Firstly, the on/off cycle of your RV AC could be because of dirt clogging up the insides which makes the compressor coils to freeze up and periodically cycle between functioning and non functioning.
The solution is simple- clean your AC periodically guys, I think that's the most important thing that comes out of this post by now.
Do also check how the thermostat is placed. Is it too close to the windows? If so, the sunlight streaming in could make it sense a higher ambient temperature and hence, cool more than what's required.
Similarly, if the thermostat is too close to the supply vent, it'll make the temperatures rise thinking the ambient temperature is too cold.
If this is the case, you simply need to relocate the thermostat to a more suitable spot.
Thirdly, it could be caused because of low freon levels inside the air conditioner.
When the freon levels decrease, it causes low pressure in the system which makes the compressor to switch off. When it switches off, the pressure slowly builds up again which causes the compressor to start functioning all of a sudden.
You're going to need to get a professional to take a look, but if it's freon, you should probably start saving up for a new AC.
#2 Your Generator Can't Support Your Power Needs
Most RV air conditioners require roughly 3000 W to start and then about 2400-2600 W to keep running.
So, if your generator is only rated at say, 2500 starting Watts and 2000 W for long term use, you are bound to fry it.
It's generally recommended that you at least purchase a 3000 W generator to power your air conditioning. Mind you, that is just about enough to cover for your air conditioning, and you'll need extra wattage to power your lights, TV, refrigerator, and other appliances.
The best way to plan is to check the wattage of each appliance and add them up so you know the minimum wattage you need your generator to provide.
#2 Don't Test Your Thermostat This Way
Some folks tend to set their thermostat at below 60 F and even at around 50 F to test if the thermostat functions at those temperatures. You'll notice that it does…until it doesn't, and there's no cooling.
RV air conditioners are not supposed to be brought to temperatures so low and generators as well, may stop functioning at temperatures below 60 F.
So please please please just don't set your RV air conditioner to an abnormally low temperature.
#3 Your RV Air Conditioner Stinks
Again- this is mostly a maintenance issue. You need to keep your condenser, evaporator coils clean. Smells can often originate from the radiator so you should clean that out too.
Also, vent filters tend to keep the smells they accumulate so if cleaning them out doesn't work, just replace them, and that should do the trick.
#4 Your RV AC Keeps Freezing Up
Believe it or not, this is a pretty common thing.
It could be happening because of a few reasons:
- Your air conditioner is low on Freon
- The air conditioner is getting clogged up with dirt or debris
- The thermostat is faulty
I wrote a whole post about this topic where I went into greater detail about what to do if your AC starts to freeze up. You can check it out here
#5 The RV AC Is Leaky
It could be freon leakage or just plain ol' moisture.
An easy way to find out is to check your condenser coils. If they are dirty, clean them with a brush.(In fact, using a portable vaccum cleaner alongwith is even more convenient). If you still see the leakage after this, it probably is a freon leak.
At this point, you should get a professional to come take a look and see if the leak can be dealt with. In most cases though, the recommendation is going to be clear: Get a new AC unit. The reason being that RV air conditioners are sealed units and cannot be recharged with freon.
#6 There's a LOT of water surrounding the AC
This could be happening because of a leak OUTSIDE the Air conditioner. A lot of times, it's because of the AC roof gasket not being tight enough.
A simple check is to examine the unit near the air conditioner's roof. Tighten any loose nuts and bolts that you see on the gasket.
If you still see a leakage, it could be that the gasket needs to be replaced OR something else entirely. If it's the latter, you'll need a professional to take a look.
#7 Your RV AC tends to be overheating
This only usually happens because of dirty coils and filters. You should check all vents filters, as well as condenser and evaporator coils, and give them a good cleaning with a brush to remove any dirt, debris that may have accumulated over time.
#8 The RV AC Is Too Noisy
Noisy air conditioners are all too common and really, if you end up getting a headache everytime you turn the AC on then what's the point?
Here are a two common reasons why your RV AC could be too loud:
- Rubber shock absorbers need replacement
- Motor fan might be hitting some loose part inside the AC
As this guy found out, a simple rubber clamp fix was all that was needed to quiet his RV Air Conditioner.
#9 The AC Compressor Is ALWAYS On
A lot of people, such as on this thread, describe the problem in the following manner:
“I switch off the AC and the fan keeps shut, but the compressor keeps humming until I flip the circuit breaker”
Now, this is usually either a thermostat issue or a circuit board issue.
The thermostat has a compressor control wire, which is usually yellow in color(A quick look through your RV AC user manual should confirm this).
If the compressor stops humming after you remove the compressor control wire, it means the thermostat was faulty and needs replacement.
If not, then it's a circuit breaker issue and you'll need a HVAC professional to take a look
#10 The AC Doesn't Blow Any Air Out
This could happen because of faulty capacitors- you need to check the motor fan capacitors first to see if they're working.
Grab a pair of multimeters and touch it's probes to either side of the capacitor. If the LCD display shows a random value that keeps decreasing, it means the capacitor is okay- if not, then you need to replace the capacitor.
What a capacitor does is, it stores energy to provide boosts to the motor fan or compressor to work. If it stops working, then the fan won't get the kick it needs to jump start.
#11 The RV AC blows out warm air
Check if the compressor is getting proper voltage. You'll need a multimeter for this.
If it turns out that the compressor isn't recieving the desired voltage, then you'll need to pinpoint where exactly is the flow of current getting diverted.
I'd recommend getting a professional to take a look for this one.
#12 The AC Doesn't Cool Much
This could be because you're simply in a very hot environment. Remember that if you're on the road during particularly hot days, no AC is going to be 100% effective.
Being smart about your travel on hot days helps. Take adequate breaks, park your RV under the shade while doing so can bring down the temperature of the interiors down drastically and them make the AC that much more effective.
The other, technical reason this could be happening is usually because the compressor capacitors are faulty(See Point #11)
Another reason why is if the thermostat is faulty, it could be making the cooling go haywire.
You can check the thermostat using a multimeter and seeing if the thermostat terminals are receiving proper voltage(12V). If not, you can simply replace the thermostat yourself and your AC problems should go away.
#13 You Switch The AC On And Nothing Really Happens
Another variant of this issue is that the AC just keeps humming for a bit when you switch it on and then.. nothing.
Check if the AC is getting power in the first place. If it's drawing too much power then it probably tripped the circuit breaker.
Most modern RVs have 2 AC units- it's more a necessity nowadays but the problem is that the usual 15 Amp power sources aren't always equipped to provide the required wattage.
Some Really Important RV Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips
#1 Oil the AC fans
According to RV Living Now:
“In case the RV fan motor has oil tubes for lubricating the fan, simply put a few drops of the machine oil into the tubes located on either end of the motor. If instead of having ball bearings, the motor has sleeves, dribble just a little amount of oil where the sleeves come into contact with the fan motor shafts. For these types of motor fans, a small amount of oil can work wonders”RV Living Now
#2 Cover up the RV during off season
Birds and small animals tend to gather round places such as condenser coils for warmth, which can lead to ventilation problems later on. Plus all the dust that tends to accumulate.
Sure, it's a bit of an investment, but one that will save you much much more money in the future.
#3 Clean the grills, vents and coils regularly
Just in case I haven't emphasised about this in the post enough already, I'm just putting it out there again- clean your AC regularly.
So there you have it. I spent multiple hours compiling this list together and I hope it was as exhaustive and helpful as I planned it to be.
Did you find the post useful? Any other common troubleshooting tip that I may have missed and you'd like to offer?
Jump into the comments below- I'm always on the lookout!
Want to know more? Check out the RV Air Conditioner How-To Page for more in-depth information, great videos, and articles.