Air conditioning is a great addition to any RV as it guarantees that your RV will always be the ideal temperature – perfect for traveling in the height of summer!
Like anything else, air conditioners will probably stop working at some point in their life and there is nothing worse than when this happens on the road.
We have put together this handy guide to help you troubleshoot some of the most common problems with RV air conditioners, hopefully getting you back on the road in no time.
RV Air Conditioner Troubleshooter
Eventually, an air conditioner is going to have some problems even if you have the best maintenance techniques.
When things do go wrong don’t panic! Almost all problems will boil down to one of three issues
- The air conditioner will turn on but won’t blow cold air
- The air conditioner won’t turn on or has no power
- The air conditioner will turn on but won’t run.
- Leaking when it rains.
Air Conditioner Will Turn On But Won’t Blow Cold Air
The easiest and fortunately most common solution to this problem is to perform some high-quality maintenance on the air conditioning unit.
Firstly, check the temperature outside the vehicle. If the temperature is very high it is likely that your RV’s air conditioner simply can’t keep up, particularly if your RV is susceptible to warming up in the sun – a process often called heat gain.
If this is you and your RV isn’t well insulated, is in the sun, or has a lot of windows your air conditioner will not be able to manage for long.
Move your RV to the shade, shut the doors and windows to stop warm air from outside getting in, and do not use any appliance in the RV that will produce heat.
Taking these precautions will quite often fix this issue, but it is still a good idea to check the air conditioner filters and clean them when needed. Clean filters will keep the air blowing out into your RV clean and cool.
Another way to fix warm air coming out of an air conditioning unit is to examine the evaporator coils and condenser. If these parts of the unit are dirty, they can cause the high-pressure switch to trip.
A quick dry clean with some soft bristles is often enough to get sufficient debris out of the coils and off the condenser for a fully functioning RV unit.
If you are still having no luck and your air conditioner is still blowing out warm air, make sure that the refrigerant levels are in the correct margins.
A low level of refrigerant in the compressor is a rare issue but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Check with your RV’s manufacturer for how to check as it will vary by brand and model of RV or better yet opt for professional help.
If you have followed the above steps but are still having no luck, it might be that your air conditioner has died of old age.
The older a unit, the less efficient it is and the harder it has to work to keep your RV cool. It may be time to have a look around for a new air conditioner for your RV.
Air Conditioner Won’t Turn On Or Has No Power
Generally, an air conditioner that won’t turn on is not receiving power so check the power supply and the breakers.
The first thing to do is to check your RV’s power supply by plugging an appliance into a 110v outlet in the RV. If it works, the power supply in your RV is fine.
If the appliance does not turn on your RV is having problems with the power supply and you need to investigate.
If your RV is not having a power supply issue, you should move on to checking the breakers and transfer switch.
Breakers tripping and turning off the air conditioner is a fairly common problem but if the air conditioner still doesn’t come or the breakers are working fine, then check the transfer switch.
If your transfer switch also shows no problems then it is best to call in professional assistance at this point.
Air Conditioner Has Power But Won’t Run
If you have checked and your RV does have power but the unit won’t run then you will probably find that the issue is contained to the actual unit.
To save yourself a lot of trouble, you should check the thermostat before you begin these troubleshooting steps. Make sure that the temperature in the RV is low enough for the air conditioning to turn on.
Check the fault codes with the RV manual to understand what the issue is. Many RV manufacturers use fault codes and they are really useful in giving a succinct diagnosis for the faulty unit.
If you do not have fault codes, continue reading for some more troubleshooting tips.
The high-pressure safety switch may have tripped – a common issue for air conditioners that are not well maintained.
Abnormal conditions, including dirty filters, can cause the trip for safety reasons so give your unit a quick maintenance once-over and then check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to reset the circuit.
RV air conditioners tend to have two capacitors, one for starting the unit and one for running the unit. You can usually tell if your capacitor is to blame for your problems if you can hear your unit humming but the fans aren’t spinning.
Test your capacitor’s operation with a standard multimeter. If a bad capacitor needs to be replaced you need to check with the manufacturer of your RV for an appropriate model.
Still having problems? Get your unit serviced by a qualified technician. A professional will be able to give you some advice on your next steps with your air conditioning unit, depending on the outcome of the service.
Keeping good maintenance practices is an excellent way to prevent problems with your air conditioning unit.
Before you begin, be sure to turn off the power in your RV and disconnect from the power source just to be sure. This is a vital safety precaution that will prevent you from getting a nasty shock.
A quick clean once every two weeks or so will keep the air coming out of the unit clean. Clean the air conditioner’s box housing with some mild soap and a soft cloth.
Harsher chemicals and abrasive cleaning instruments are not appropriate here and have the potential to damage your control panel and unit.
It is a similar process for cleaning your filter. Use a vacuum cleaner to pull off any bigger bits of dust from the filter but be careful not to use too much force and damage the screen.
If your filters are particularly dirty or in need of a deep clean, use some mild soap to soak your filters and then use a soft brush to remove any residual grime.
Spritzing the filters in a water-vinegar mix and then rinsing well in clean water will prevent bacteria growth – no gross smells for you!
These checks are great to do either during your winterization process or when your RV comes back out, ready for a summer of adventures.
Having a good look at the condenser and evaporator coils of your unit once a year will guarantee cool air whenever you need it.
Simply remove any blockages to the coils – the most common types of blockages are caused by leaves or dirt.
If you do this inspection at the end of the season, now is the ideal time to do any other general maintenance to keep your RV in good condition over winter.
Be sure to correct any loose screws or seals on your RV. This will keep everything watertight and help reduce the noise of the air conditioning unit when it is on.
Check your RV’s owner’s manual to see if you need to add any lubrication to the fan motor. Oiling once every one or two years will keep the fans of the unit in good condition but be sure to check what type of oil is needed – this information will be available from the manufacturer.
Lastly, invest in a good quality air conditioning unit cover. This will stop dirt and dust accumulating in the unit when it is not in use, keeping everything nice and clean, ready for your travels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can RV Air Conditioners Be Recharged?
Most air conditioning units in an RV cannot be recharged but some can be made rechargeable with some engineering from a qualified service technician.
Some RV air conditioners can be bought as recharging but these are not very easy to source.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An RV Air Conditioner?
Replacing an RV conditioner can cost anywhere from $800 to over $2,000. You can expect to pay between roughly $500 and $1000 for the actual unit and anything above $350 to have it installed.
After installation, the running costs of your new air conditioner are likely to be different with newer models being more efficient and therefore cheaper to run.
Is It Ok To Run By RV Air Conditioning All The Time?
There is absolutely no problem running your RV’s air conditioning all day, every day. Just keep running costs in your mind to avoid any surprise costs! You may find that your thermostat also needs to be lowered to keep your compressor cycle working well.
Do RV Air Conditioners Bring In Outside Air?
RV air conditioning works by sucking up warm air and pushing the heat out of the RV. The air then travels around the closed unit system and is pushed past refrigerant fluids to cool down. This cool air is then blown back into the RV to keep the interior nice and cool.
Related: Why your RV AC freezes up and how to fix it.
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