More problems in an RV start and can end with the RV electrical distribution panel. Sometimes fixing a problem can be as easy as replacing a fuse or resetting a breaker. Before you get too worried and start spending money, check here for really easy fixes – if easy fixes are to be had.
RV Electrical Distribution Panel
Most RV’s that are travel trailers or larger have an RV electrical panel board for distributing power. This is how electrical energy gets routed within your RV as well as protected within your RV.
On motorhomes and fifth wheels, the distribution panel boards seem to be located by the stairs near the entry of the RV. On the travel trailers, they are usually located in a centrally located bathroom. I’m sure many exceptions to this apply, but this is what I’ve seen in many of the RV’s I’ve seen.
How the AC Power come into the rv power distribution panel
Shore power comes into the RV and is routed to the panelboard. The panel board then sends the electric power from the shore power to breakers.
For non-electric people, breakers are on-off switches that also protect your RV in case your RV starts taking too much electric for the wires to handle. You can see the breakers in the panelboard in the picture and in the diagram.
Where does the AC power go out from the breakers?
From the breakers, the electric power then goes to air conditioners, TV’s, and different AC power places inside the RV.
One of the breakers goes to a thing called a converter. The converter does 2 things:
- Turns AC power into DC power for the DC powered systems
- Charges the battery for those times when AC power is not present
The AC power goes to the converter from the breaker.
Where does the DC power go out to from the fuse box in the RV power distribution panel
Then the DC power out of the rv power converter comes back to this panelboard where it breaks the DC power into its own set of fuses and places the DC power needs to go. You can clearly see the fuses on the right hand side of the panel board below and on the diagram above.
Remember, on your RV, there are many things that you can utilize with only DC power. The only things you can’t run are the TV , the microwave, and the air conditioners.
So anyway, when you start having power issues for some reason or the other, you will eventually have to visit the distribution panel board and it will become an old friend.
Checklist for different things you can troubleshoot with ONLY working with your RV electrical power distribution panel
Folks, I’m not an RV repair person. But these are things that I’ve learned over the years. If you do need 24/7 online RV repair mechanic, try this service that RV52.com has linked to.
The following bullets are RV electrical system troubleshooting hints. I’ll add more as time goes on.
- You turn on a single thing, like a hair dryer and the power goes off.
- You fix it by going to the distribution panel, locating the breaker that is not all the way to the “on”
- Chances are, something else was running on AC at the same time – like a toaster oven or a microwave.
- The fix – plug your hair dryer (an example item) into a different outlet or just wait until it is the only big thing running.
- Your battery isn’t charging at all.
- Maybe you have a fuse out in the DC panel
- Maybe the AC breaker for the converter has been thrown.
- Your converter could be bad, but check the fuses first.
- There is a red light by one of the fuses in my power distribution panel
- A fuse is blown .
- This is a nice feature of the WFCO power converters built into the power distribution center.
- Where is my RV power distribution center?
- In many travel trailers it is located in and around the cabinets near the kitchen and is a brown or black plastic cover
- In many fifth wheels, the power distribution center might be under the stairs.
- Sometimes you just have to look for it.
Replacement fuses to have in your RV:
You will have fuses go out. Not too often, but not having replacements on hand is pretty silly.
All RV owners should have an ammeter or multi-meter. High rated ammeter is listed next
You can use this to check the pedestal voltages, the battery voltages, and anything electric. Since electricity is invisible, an ammeter/multi-meter sort-of makes electricity visible.
You can find the most common rv power distribution panels at Camping World.