How to Troubleshoot RV Electrical Systems

How to Troubleshoot RV Electrical Systems
In an RV, you're king of the road. But nothing will knock you off your throne faster than your castle blacking out. When your RV experiences an electrical system failure, here's how to troubleshoot the problem.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Multimeter (to check DC power)
  • RV
  • 12-volt test light
Step 1
Determine whether the coach battery is charged. The simplest way to do this is to disconnect the RV from any external electrical source, turn on a couple of cabin lights, and check the battery's status on the dashboard. To go more in depth, use a multimeter. Preset it for 12-volt DC, and align the (-) probe with the (-) terminal and the (+) probe with the (+) terminal. A healthy multimeter reading is between 12.6 and 12.7 volts. Any value below 12 volts means the battery requires a charge.
Step 2
If the battery is charged, verify that the battery disconnect switches are turned on.
Step 3
Check to see exactly which 12-volt cabin devices aren't functioning. These devices include the water pump, fans, stereos, TVs, etc.
Step 4
Go to the fuses at your RV's power distribution center. Find the fuses for the non-functioning devices (they should be labeled). With a safe grounding, test both sides of the fuse with the 12-volt test light. If only one side lights up, replace the fuse.
Step 5
Now try the device again. If it still doesn't work, use the test light at the device switch.
Step 6
If the switch shows 12 volts, then inspect the device wiring for an inline fuse. With the test light safely grounded, test the wire on one side of the fuse, then the other. If either side shows a lack of power, replace the fuse and try the device again.
Step 7
If the test light still doesn't work, follow the wire to the nut connections. These can rattle loose during normal operation. Tighten them, and try to turn on the device again.
Step 8
If you're still in the dark, contact your friendly neighborhood RV repair center. And don't worry--every now and then, even a king of the road needs a wizard.

Article Written By Heather Broeker

Originally from North Carolina, Heather Broeker studied journalism and advertising at the University of North Carolina. After graduation she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for Fox Searchlight, Fox Reality and later as a writer and marketing director. Broeker now lives in Los Angeles and runs Head Over Heels, a writing and public relations company.

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