RV Air Conditioner Troubleshooting

RV Owners

Your RV air conditioner (AC) is key to ensuring you have amazing and comfortable summertime adventures. Obviously, nobody wants to RV in hot weather without an air conditioner, which makes RV AC repair crucial anytime a unit isn’t working properly.

As you might have guessed, there are some issues that really need to be addressed by a professional. That said, some RV AC repair jobs can be completed by any handy RV owner. 

RV AC Repair

Let’s start by doing a bit of troubleshooting so you can find the cause of your problem and make the appropriate RV AC repair. Find your problem below and read on to learn how to address it. 

No Power

If you go to turn your air conditioner on and find that it doesn’t have any power, don’t panic. There are a few things that could be causing this problem, and most are not serious issues:

  • Plug it in – Start by making sure your RV is plugged into power. Make sure the plug is pushed all the way in. 
  • Flip the breaker – If the plug is in place properly, check the breaker at the power pole and flip it back on if necessary. Also check the breaker switches in the breaker box inside the RV.

Blowing Warm Air

Is your AC blowing warm air? Here are some of the common causes of this issue, as well as some quick fixes you can try:

  • Test the compressor – Usually, if an AC is blowing warm air, it is due to a problem with the compressor. Test your compressor with a multimeter. If it is bad, you’ll likely want to replace the entire unit rather than just the part. 
  • Test the capacitors – If it turns out the compressor is just fine, a capacitor could be your problem. Discharge the capacitors and test them with a multimeter. Replacing a capacitor is possible.

Weak or No Airflow

Noticing that the airflow from your RV air conditioner is very weak or even non existent? In this case, there are a few things you should check:

  • Check for freezing – First, check the evaporator coils for ice buildup. If ice is present, turn the unit to ‘fan’ mode and allow the fan to run on high until all ice has melted. If the unit continues to freeze up, you will want to clean the filter and coils. If this doesn’t fix the issue, check for a refrigerant leak. 
  • Look for clogs – A clogged air filter or super dirty coils can also cause this issue. Check both to make sure they don’t need to be cleaned. 
  • Cover holes – If you have a ducted RV AC system, you may have a leak or hole in your ductwork. Find places where cold air might escape and seal them off using metal tape and caulking strips. If you need to seal off something larger, styrofoam should do the trick. 
  • Check the fan – In some cases, a lack of airflow can come from a broken fan motor. Check that the fan motor is working properly and clean and oil it if necessary. If it needs to be replaced, you can either call in a professional or attempt to do the job yourself using the video below.

Cycling On and Off

If your AC compressor kicks off and on more often than it should, it isn’t likely to do its job very effectively. For this reason, it’s important to tackle this RV AC repair ASAP:

  • Have parts professionally tested – Often, this issue is caused by a bad thermostat or control board. These are both things you will want to have tested by a professional. 
  • Check the capacitors – A weak capacitor could also be the problem. To see if this is your problem, discharge both capacitors and test them with a multimeter. A bad capacitor can be replaced by you, as shown in the video above. 
  • Look for ice – A frozen AC unit can also cause cycling on and off. Check the coils for ice and turn the unit to ‘fan’ mode to allow all ice to melt before attempting to use the compressor again. 

Air Conditioner Dripping Water

A leak is never a good thing, especially in an RV. If your RV air conditioner is dripping water, you will want to look for the issue right away:

  • Check the drain pan – A clogged drain pan will hold onto water and could cause leaking into the RV. Clean out the drain pan so it can drain properly. 
  • Clean the coils – Clogged coils can lead to a frozen AC unit. When the ice on the coils melts, it tends to drip back into the RV. Cleaning the coils will usually solve this problem. 
  • Tighten the mounting bolts – Make sure the mounting bolts on the AC unit aren’t loose, and ensure the gasket is snug so it can keep water from dripping in. 

Musty Smell

A musty smell from your AC unit is almost always due to dirty components. Clean the filter and coils and check the drain pan for clogs in order to address this issue. 

Noisy Air Conditioner

Some RV air conditioner units are just loud. There are some aftermarket noise reducers out there that can help with this. 

If your RV AC unit develops a new noise, head onto the roof to check the following:

  • Clean and oil the fan motors – Make sure nothing is interfering with the fan motors, give them a quick cleaning, and oil them to see if the noise goes away. If you determine the noise is coming from a fan motor but oiling it does not help, you may need to replace the motor. 
  • Ensure the shroud is tight – Make sure the bolts holding the shroud in place are snug. Vibration on the roof can cause funny noises inside. 
  • Test the compressor and capacitors – If neither of the above tips takes care of your problem, test the compressor and capacitors for issues. 

RV Air Conditioner Parts

If you plan to dive into any RV AC repair, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking at. An RV air conditioner is made up of a few key parts. Knowing what these parts are and what they do will help you repair the unit properly:

  • Compressor – A compressor compresses a vapor refrigerant and heats it. This happens before the vapor travels to the condenser.
  • Condenser – Next in the lineup is the condenser. This part cools the vapor sent from the compressor and then condenses it into a liquid. To find the condenser you’ll need to climb onto the rooftop and remove the AC shroud.
  • Evaporator – The evaporator changes a refrigerant liquid into a superheated vapor. Once vaporized, the substance is pulled into the compressor once again, and the cycle starts over. If you need to find the evaporator, head inside the RV, remove the AC filter, and use a flashlight to look up inside the unit. 
  • Fans and Motor – There are two fans in your RV AC unit. One of these fans moves air across the condenser, while the other moves air across the evaporator. Both of these fans (and the motors that run them) can be accessed from the roof of the RV by removing the AC shroud. 
  • Capacitors – These parts provide a high voltage charge to both the fan motor and the compressor, and they can likewise be found under the AC shroud. It’s important to note that capacitors may still be charged even after shutting off the power. This means you will need to be sure not to touch the terminals with your bare hands, even after disconnecting the power. A capacitor discharge tool can be used prior to servicing the unit in order to be as safe as possible. 

RV Air Conditioner Maintenance

Clearly, you don’t want to fix one problem and then turn around and have another to deal with. This is why RV air conditioner maintenance is so important. Make sure to stay on top of these following maintenance tasks to avoid future RV AC repair jobs and keep everything in tip-top shape.

Check the Shroud

Check the shroud on top of the roof a couple of times a year. Watch for cracks and replace the shroud as necessary. 

Watch for Leaks

When spending time in your RV, keep an eye out for leaks from the air conditioner. Water can come from the coils of the unit, but can also sneak in around the gasket. 

Straighten Coil Fins

The condenser coil fins on your AC unit can get bent out of shape. If you notice this has happened to your RV AC fins, you can carefully straighten them using a fin comb

Clean the Coils

It’s also important to keep the coils clean. You can clean them using a soft-bristle brush and a Shop-Vac. Some people will also use cleaning products such as Awesome

Change or Wash the Air Filter

Of course, you’ll also want to take care of the air filter. Some filters can simply be washed, dried, and used again. Others must be replaced entirely. 

There you have it! Everything you need to know to do most RV AC repair jobs all on your own and keep your air conditioner unit up and running for all of your summer adventures.