Once you finally arrive at the campsite, you sit back and enjoy your trip.
So you plug in your RV and then… Nothing. This can easily become the worst nightmare for an RV enthusiast.
Let’s fix that. Our article lists 8 ways you can troubleshoot a power failure in your RV.
We also included top reasons for this, and how to prevent these issues!
RV Plugged In But No Power: 8 Troubleshooting Tips
It’s confusing and frustrating when your RV is plugged in but there’s no electricity.
Before trying our tips, remember the most important point: YOUR SAFETY comes first. Always.
When dealing with an electrical system, practice extra caution. Wear or use protective clothing whenever possible.
If you’re unsure, stop what you’re doing immediately. Ask for a technician’s help to prevent further issues.
1. Check and Reset the GFCI
One of the first things you should check is the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).
Fast Fact: The GFCI is a type of circuit breaker that shuts off electric power if there’s a ground fault. Imagine it as a fuse built into an outlet.
The GFCI usually trips to prevent a short circuit or damage in the event of a CAPACITY EXCESS, or if something goes wrong.
So, where can you find your GFCI? Most of the time, you’ll find it in the bathroom or kitchen. This is because water can be a threat when it comes to these things.
If you’re unsure, check the GFCI location BEFORE you hit the road – you’ll SAVE a lot of time rather than worriedly look for it once you’re in the campground.
2. Reset the Main 110-Volt Circuit Breaker
The next thing to do is to reset your RV’s main circuit breakers at the power pedestal.
The purpose of the main circuit breakers is to interrupt the RV’s power supply if there’s a sudden electrical surge. This PROTECTS you from electrical shocks, fire, and damage.
You can find the main circuit breakers at the power pedestal. However, since the location will depend on the RV, you should also consult your RV manual for this.
MAKE SURE to also check for any BLOWN FUSES. Similar to a breaker, fuses can blow to protect the vehicle and its occupants from any danger or damage.
3. Check the 12V Batteries
Check your RV’s batteries in the terminal post. This one is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT during winter as batteries can freeze.
Yes – freezing is ACTUALLY possible for your battery.
Do you see any signs of leakage, corrosion, or other problems? This includes overly warm batteries, and any white crystals or foam building up on the battery seals.
If so, proceed with caution. DAMAGED BATTERIES can overheat or have acid leakage.
So always remember to have some form of protection (e.g. gloves or towel) when touching the batteries. Battery fluid is toxic, which can lead to burns.
Clean the batteries if needed. Once you’re done, make sure they are securely connected too.
4. Disconnect the Batteries and See If the Power Converter Responds
If your batteries aren’t the problem, it’s time to inspect other parts of your RV’s systems.
- Disconnect your batteries from the current shore power.
- Then, reconnect them to a different power source.
If it works, then it means the problem was with the shore power system. This could happen if you’re in an old RV park or there are just too many people on the campsite.
If it DOESN’T WORK, disconnect the batteries from your RV. See how the power converter responds. For example, do you see the lights or the AC turn on?
If the answer is yes, it means your batteries were the reason after all. It means they have collapsed cells, which need repair or replacement.
The last thing you can do is disconnect the shore cord from the power pedestal. Using a test light or voltmeter, reset the breaker, then test for power at an outlet.
5. Test Light If There’s Power Going to the Surge Protector
Surge protectors will protect your appliances and devices in the RV.
A low current can damage electrical devices. A surge protector REACTS FASTER than breakers in blocking off the electricity if the current is too low.
If your RV has a surge protector, check the diagnostic lights to see if the power is going through.
If it EXCEEDS power capacity, the surge protector will trip just like breakers.
You can try turning the surge protector off and on. This will reset the small internal breaker and hopefully resolve the problem.
You can also use a voltmeter to see if there’s a current going through it. If not, the surge protector could be an issue.
6. Test for Power Between the Power Transfer Switch/Power Cord and the Converter
If you’re relying on a generator, check the CHARGER/INVERTER or converter for power. Test for power at the transfer switch or power cord as well.
Ways of testing this will vary per RV model. So it’s best to consult the RV manual for the details.
If there’s a problem with the power converter, these are the things you should look out for:
- Burned-out circuits
- Loose wires
- Warning lights
- Burned out internal fan
Minor problems with the converter can be fixed ON YOUR OWN if you have some electric tools inside your RV.
If you’re unsure, or if it’s a serious problem, do NOT attempt to fix it on your own. You could end up with more problems!
As such, if you’re at a campsite you could ask around for another RV owner’s help. If not, always ask for a technician.
7. Inspect the Wires Connected to the Breaker & Between the Breaker and Outlets
If none of the mentioned things work, it’s time to check the wires.
One of the first things to do is to INSPECT THE WIRING between the breaker and power outlets. There could be some frayed or old wiring that’s causing the problem.
If the wires connecting to the breaker have power, then you might be dealing with a faulty breaker problem. Breakers can go bad and rust over time, so you will have to get this replaced.
For this part, it’s more difficult to inspect the problem on your own. As such, it’s better to consult a technician.
8. Bring Your RV to a Professional Repair Facility
If everything else fails, then your best option is to bring it to an RV repair shop.
The professional technicians will be able to pinpoint the exact problem and have the proper tools to fix it for you.
Of course, you might end up paying a few bucks.
But think of it this way: These people know the RV electrical system, so they can fix the problem for you in no time.
How to Prevent Common Power Issues in Your RV
Clean and Charge the Batteries
While the 12V batteries in your RV are durable and powerful, they aren’t able to recharge on their own. As such, it’s important to be diligent in maintaining and charging them.
So, how do you charge them? Plug your RV into an AC outlet and wait till it’s full.
The charging duration depends. Sometimes it only takes a FEW HOURS, sometimes the WHOLE DAY. You should charge the batteries before hitting the road.
As for maintenance, this boils down to cleaning.
Inspect the battery terminals and any connecting hardware. Check for any signs of dirt, corrosion, or acid stains.
How to clean batteries:
- Mix some baking soda with water.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently scrub away the corrosion using the paste.
You can check out this video for more detailed instructions on how to clean your batteries.
Keep in mind that you should wear protective clothing (e.g. goggles, rubber gloves) when cleaning the batteries. The white power in batteries is acidic, which should be handled with precaution.
Check All Electronics Before the Trip
Before hitting the road, check all your electronics. This includes the lights, heater, and air conditioner.
This is especially important if your vehicle has been in storage for a LONG PERIOD of time. In particular, you should watch out for winter as batteries can freeze.
Test your appliances too, such as the refrigerator and microwave.
Keeping an RV Plugged In
A lot of RV owners keep their batteries plugged in even when the vehicle has been inactive for a while.
One of the main reasons for this is to maintain the vehicle’s electronics in a constantly operating state.
But we’re here to tell you: DON’T keep your RV plugged in all the time. Why?
- Keeping your RV plugged in can lead to your battery level at a low charge.
- As time goes on, this low-charge range in your batteries can deplete the electrolyte levels within the battery cells.
If the electrolyte levels become too low, you can put distilled water. This will prevent your batteries from becoming completely dry.
Take Care of Your Generator
Having a generator is a good backup.
It’s useful in cases where shore power isn’t available. Or when your campsite doesn’t have a power post compatible with your system.
ALWAYS start up your generator BEFORE the trip.
For a gasoline-powered generator, remember to stabilize the fuel in the gas tank during winter storage. Then before the trip, fill it up with fresh, high octane gas.
Keep Spare Adapters
Once you’re at the campsite, the last thing you want to realize is they don’t have the 30 Amp or 50 Amp shore power outlet compatible with your rig.
To prevent this, buy some spare adapters and keep them in your RV’s tool box.
RV Plugged In But No Power: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is RV Shore Power?
Shore power is when you’re able to plug your RV into an AC electrical grid.
The available power you can draw is measured in Amps. Most recreation vehicle connections have 30 Amps to 50 Amps to generate power from 110-volt shore power.
Be careful not to connect to a lower power source than what your RV is designed to hold. Otherwise, it can end up destroying your electrical system.
What Is a Shoreline Power?
Shoreline power is when the major electrical components of your RV are shut down or powered off.
In such cases, the power source is supplied from an external generator. Sometimes it can also be provided by an electric utility company.
This will help your RV store fuel and power.
Do RV Batteries Charge When Plugged Into Shore Power?
Yes. There are many ways to charge your RV.
The most common way to do it is by plugging your RV batteries into a 110v shore power within the campsite or at your house.
Once you’re plugged into the shore power, the onboard battery charger will start charging the RV batteries.
You can also use an external generator or solar panel to charge your RV batteries.
Can I Leave My RV Plugged in All the Time?
Keeping your RV plugged in all the time will allow your electronics to operate all the time.
A short answer is that keeping your RV plugged in won’t lead to huge problems.
However, you should keep in mind the following things:
- The batteries could overcharge. This depletes the electrolyte levels within the battery cells over time and destroys the batteries.
- Turn off the 110v appliances. This includes the fridge and AC system as these consume a lot of energy.
- Remove the batteries during winter. Batteries can freeze during winter, so it’s advisable to separate them from your RV and store it somewhere else.
On that note, some people will also ask: Should I leave my RV plugged in during winter?
Well, it depends. Some say yes, some say no.
You can keep it plugged in, but you should monitor the batteries more frequently.
This way, you’ll be able to see the battery’s water level (so they don’t dry out). You should also charge them from time to time so they don’t die.
How Do I Restore Electricity?
It’s frustrating when your RV is plugged into a source power but nothing is functioning.
In that case, follow our guide above to troubleshoot an electrical system issue on your RV.
Here’s a summary of our tips:
- Check your GFCI and reset it if it’s tripped
- Reset the main circuit breaker located at the power pedestal
- Check for any blown breakers or fuses
- Inspect your batteries for any signs of damage or corrosion
- Observe how the converter responds when the batteries are disconnected from the coach
- Test for power between the power transfer switch/power cord and converter
- Reset the breakers when the power pedestal and shore cord are disconnected
- Check the inverter if it’s working properly
RV Plugged In But No Power: Final Thoughts
When it comes to these issues, prevention is the best medicine.
That’s why it’s important to take good care of your RV before you embark on your trip. This includes charging your battery and testing the electronic system and appliances.
If ever you do face a power system problem, don’t fret! Follow our trips to have your electricity back so you can unwind and relax—for real this time.