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If you’re used to staying in hotels then an RV will be the ultimate holiday game changer because you get the freedom to drive wherever in the world and take your home comforts with you at the same time. An RV provides all of those little things that make a space feel familiar and homely, but for this it needs electricity. Your smartphones will be charged through the electricity in your RV, your meals prepared using the stove and refrigerator. Even your entertainment can be reliant on electricity if you watch TV, have a games console or music system. Not only that, but many of the RV’s most important features run on electricity too such as your monitor and gauges. The point is, you need electricity in your RV so when this shuts down for whatever reason, it’s game-over for your holiday.

But how can you tell if it’s your convertor that has broken or if it’s another issue with your RV?

Below we have written a guide on how to troubleshoot issues in your RV to determine whether or not you have a bad converter.

Keep reading to find out more….

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RV camper in the park

What Is a Converter

Your RV camper converter is an important piece of equipment in your RV which enables you to use the vehicle’s electricity for your home appliances. Every amp of electricity will have to run through the converter to power your TV, stove and more. It changes the 110V shore power to your house battery’s 12V DC power. Converters aren’t cheap to replace and can cost anything from around $100-$1600. They should always be replaced by a professional too, don’t risk burning out your entire system by trying to save a few bucks!

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RV Converter Troubleshooting

How can you tell if your converter is bad? Take a look at this troubleshooting guide:

RV Converter Warning Signs

A bad RV converter will give off warning signs that you might be able to identify. Look out to see if your electrical devices aren’t working so well. Take a look at your interior lights too – are they dimming? Lights that dim are usually a strong indicator of a bad converter. Also how’s your refrigerator? If it’s struggling to maintain the correct temperature then this could also be an indicator of a bad converter as it means your outlets aren’t getting sufficient electricity.

  • Check Your Batteries

If your converter is malfunctioning then it’s likely to have an effect on your house batteries. The converter’s role is to provide power to the house batteries, so if you find that they are suddenly drained of any charge then your converter may be broken. It’s also a good idea to use a voltage meter which is used to test electrical measurements in your system and a multimeter which tests voltage, amps and watts. The best way to test your batteries is to charge them fully and then remove them from your RV. Test the batteries away from the RV to see if they get a bad reading which can indicate a default battery that needs replacing. If the batteries are fully charged but you still have electrical issues then it may well be the converter.

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  • Check the Cooling Fan

One of the main culprits of a bad RV converter is a faulty fan so this is one of the first things that you should check. The job of the fan is to prevent the converter from overheating and it does this by turning off and on intermittently in relation to the inner temperature of the converter. A converter with a high temperature can easily cause issues in your RV. The easiest way to test your fan is to take a voltage test of the entry point of the converter. Any issues with the voltage will need to be resolved immediately before replacing the fan. If the voltage in the 110V line is looking ok then the problem is with the fan, which usually means the thermostat or thermal sensor as this is where the current runs through. The cooling fan won’t function when the current doesn’t run past them. To check the thermostat and thermal sensor you will need to see if the current is getting past them. Try supplying the fan with power directly (not through the thermostat) to see if it still operates, if it does then the fan isn’t your problem, it’s just the sensor. If the fan does need replacing then make sure you use the same fan part as they have been specially designed for your RV.

Electrician checking with multimeter

  • Test the Voltage

Another important thing to test when troubleshooting to see if your RV converter is bad is the voltage range – abnormal voltage ranges will cause issues with your RV. Abnormal voltage ranges can occur at the entry point where the 110V AC supply enters the converter or it may occur in the 12V DC breaker box. Healthy voltage ranges are around 108-130 volts at the entry point and around 11-13 volts around the 12V breaker box. To test the voltage you will need a voltage meter to test the 110V AC entry point or 12V DC breaker box. Check the voltage at the entry point to see if it’s in a healthy range and test the voltage at the DC breaker box. If any of the readings are out of range then this may be the problem.

  • Check the Circuit Board

Please only attempt to test the circuit board if you feel comfortable around electronics. If you do, then go right ahead and gently unscrew the circuit board. Take a look to see if there’s any battery acid which tends to build up and clog connections. Battery acid has a distinct strong smell and looks like a white flakey substance on the connections. If you find any of this then cleaning it off is relatively easy. First and foremost, please make sure that you don’t have any electricity running through your coach. Make sure you disconnect your shore power, batteries and solar panels. Mix 1tsp of baking soda with 12oz water and using a q-tip carefully begin to clean the battery acid from the connections. When the board is cleaned to your satisfaction then you must ensure that the board has plenty of time to dry thoroughly. Once completely dry, connect the electricity and power sources and if you still have problems with your RV then it’s likely that the converter is faulty.

You will find that some circuit boards use resistors that control the voltage coming from your 12V DC power sources. These can be found buried behind the circuit board so it may take a while to find them. Please be gentle when trying to locate the resistors as you can cause more issues otherwise. If there is battery acid on the connecting points (resistor gates) then your resistors might be the problem. If this is the case then you’ll want to take your RV to a specialist who can talk you through the options for replacing the resistors or replacing the converter.

The diodes in your circuit are specially designed to keep power flowing in one direction and they also prevent the current from reversing and blowing out your electrics. They are renowned for being difficult to test so if they are the main cause of your problem then replacing your converter may be the only option.

  • Check Your Fuses

Might seem like an obvious thing to say, but have you checked your fuses? Often fuses are overlooked when electrical problems occur but they’re the most obvious thing to check. The main job of a fuse is to take electrical surges and break the connection before it blows out your electrics and melts your wires. Take a good look at your fuses and remove them individually. If any of them look burnt or the metal bridge inside is cracked then they will need replacing immediately.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

If you have checked your fuses, the circuit board, your voltage levels and all of the other things we have mentioned in this article, then chances are that you will need to replace your converter. For future reference, it is worth following these preventative measures: ensure that you have bought the Best RV Power Converters that you can afford, don’t go tight on budget here, you’ll only cause problems for yourself in the long run. Before embarking on a very long trip, make sure that you test your system to see if everything is in good working order, being without electricity on a trip would suck. Keep spare fuses in the RV and check them periodically. Hot countries tend to damage batteries quite easily so also ensure you replace your batteries at least once every few years. And lastly, always ensure the power station at the campground is in good condition and the breakers and circuitry is stable. If it’s not looking ok then do not use it! If it is ok then make sure when you plug into the shore power that the circuit breaker is closed. You won’t want power running through when you plug in. Once you’re plugged in and ready to go, then you can open the breaker. This is to prevent a massive electrical surge.

Sources:

  1. RV Electricity Basics – Outdoorsy
  2. How to Install a Power Converter in an RV – It Still Runs
  3. How Auto-detecting Power Converters Work – How Stuff Works

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