If your RV has been experiencing electrical issues, you might be concerned that your RV converter is bad. Troubles with your battery could also signify that something is amiss in the inner mechanisms of your vehicle. How do you know if your RV converter is working?
In this situation, it is best to be thorough and comprehensive as you attempt to solve this and any other potential issues. If you are suspicious that your RV converter is not working, there are some steps you can take toward a diagnosis.
When your RV converter is working, so will the electronic components of your RV. This includes the lights, electronics, and circuit board. It is vital to run frequent tests, both complex and simple, to determine the health of your RV converter.
How Do You Know If Your RV Converter Is Working?
Every amp of electricity in your RV runs through the converter; it is an essential component in making your RV operate. They’re durable, and can handle a lot of heavy use, but they’re not infallible.
The main goal of these tests are to verify the following possible issues with the converter:
- The converter is draining the battery.
- The converter’s cooling fan is malfunctioning.
- There is a problem with the circuit board or circuit breakers.
- The resistors or diodes are faulty.
- Something is wrong with the fuses.
- The 110 power source, such as the outlet, entry point, or connection could be experiencing issues.
What Does An RV Converter Do?
To better understand your RV and how to troubleshoot it, it is best to know first what the converter does. After all, an RV is a massive investment, one that should be given proper upkeep, just as you would for a car or a house. If you are buying instead of renting, you should have at least a small idea of the way it works.
To put it simply, your converter changes 120 volt AC currents to 12 volt DC currents. This prevents the batteries from draining if you’re connected to another power source. 120 volt AC and 12 volt DC are the most common type of currents you’ll find in RV accessories.
When the converter fails, you will only be able to rely on the onboard batteries for power. Even these batteries can drain, however; you do not want to be stuck somewhere with entirely dead batteries. Especially not out on the road.
Check If The Converter Is Draining The Battery
The purpose of your converter is to change power from AC to DC, thus preventing drainage. If your converter is working, your devices and lights will draw power from the onboard batteries.
When this isn’t possible, power will be taken from another good battery. This can cause a chain reaction of other batteries in the system going awry. It is best to make sure your converter is working properly before you need to replace a lot
Check The Lights
The easiest way to know if your RV converter is working is to check your lights. If they’re staying on at a strong, consistent lumen, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you think it might just be an old lightbulb, try switching it out for a new one.
If a new bulb still dims shortly after you turn the light on, you might have an issue with your converter.
Check Your Devices
Plug something, like a phone charger or home appliance, into an outlet inside your RV. If it doesn’t seem to be working, your converter is faulty. When you plug something into an outlet, it should be as functional as it would be in a house.
Test The Battery On The Motor Panel
Discharge is a normal part of how batteries use and distribute power. That’s the reason they run out; they distribute as much power as they can store. A dead battery can be inconvenient, but it is not the worst problem to have in your converter.
On the monitor panel, you will see a battery condition light. If the battery condition has reached the 10v (or, whatever your lowest level is), it just needs to be charged. This is an efficient way to gauge battery health without any disassembly or use of equipment like a multimeter.
Check the Converter Fan
To keep from overheating, your converter uses a series of fans to cool down. Ideally, the fan cycles between on and off intermittently. It knows when to turn on or off by reading the temperature inside the converter so that it can adjust accordingly.
If you find that the temperature of your converter is running much too high, then there is a definite problem at hand. One of two things is going on: either the fan isn’t working, or the temperature sensor is malfunctioning.
How To Troubleshoot An RV Converter Fan
Heat buildup can damage the converter, so it is important to routinely check the fan. Oftentimes, in RV converters, the cooling fan is the only issue. If you find that it is working improperly, it may be time for repairs or replacements.
Only take these steps if you are confident in your abilities with electrical engineering, and you have the proper tools. Unless you are very sure of yourself, this is best checked by a technician. When in doubt, always contact a professional.
- Disconnect power from the converter. Switch off the generator as well, and the connection to the 12-volt circuit.
- Remove the converter’s outer case. Since a lot of manufacturers don’t intend for users to repair their own converters, this may be difficult. Know that if your cover is welded on or held by rivets, removing them could void your warranty.
- Find the inner fan. If you have to remove the circuit board to reach the fan, be extremely careful as to not damage any of the printed parts. You’ll find two AC wires and three DC wires.
- Carefully power on the converter with 120-volt power. Be extremely careful doing this, as the live components will be exposed.
- Find the heat sink and blow hot air onto it, with a heat tool, shrink wrap gun, or hairdryer. Use a digital multimeter to see if 120-volt power is passing to the thermostat, and then back after it is heated.
- If the power is not passing to and from the thermostat, then it is your problematic component. If the thermostat heats up but the fan doesn’t kick on, then your fan is to blame.
Check The Circuit Breaker
You can know if your RV converter is working by running a few tests on the circuit breaker. This is good if your power is going off and on, and you suspect that the converter is the culprit.
To do so, keep the main breaker on while you turn off all of the other breakers. Open and close each breaker individually, keeping a lookout to see if power is reaching the desired destination. For example, if the bedroom lights are out, open the breaker to see if the power returns.
If opening the circuit breaker doesn’t return power to where it is supposed to be, then you know that your issue is not with the circuit breaker itself. This is another symptom that could point to a problem with the converter.
Look For Degradation
A more in-depth method for doing this is to visually inspect all of the breakers for degradation. Close all of the breakers– going in reverse order, ending with the input switch. Disconnect the 110 AC power from the pedestal, removing the independent electrical panel.
Look for corrosion, degradation, discoloration, or other faults. Sometimes battery acid can gather on a connector tab or one of the wire terminals. If you see this, a solution of 12 oz of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda can help.
Brush the solution on with a soft-bristled toothbrush, careful to not go at it too aggressively. Clean it to the best of your abilities before blotting it dry with a paper towel. Leave it to air dry for 10-15 minutes.
Reassemble the panels and try the circuits again. Especially if you’ve caught the battery acid early, before it’s had a chance to ruin anything, you may be successful. Though if it has been eating away at the wires for a while, they may need to be replaced.
Check The Resistors and Diodes
Some RV converters utilize resistors and diodes to function, especially older ones. They’re designed to control the 12V DC voltage in the electrical system. It also controls the voltage in the batteries.
Sometimes, these resistors can burn out, causing batteries they’re connected to to not hold a constant charge. You may need to disassemble your converter box to get at the resistors. If you detect battery acid buildup near the resistor gates, they could be the cause of the problem.
Diodes help electricity to flow in only one direction, while preventing currents from heading the opposite way. Because of this, diodes can be complicated to test. It is advisable to have a technician test the diodes if you think they may be working improperly.
Check The Fuses
Fuses take electrical surges and break them before they can burn out your electronics or melt wires. The fuses in an RV converter are usually the same ones found in cars at various amperages. This is a boon, as it means replacing them is easy and inexpensive.
Carefully pull out each fuse one by one, inspecting them for damages. Specifically, you’ll want to look for signs of burning or cracks in the metal bridge. If you detect signs of damage, it’s time to replace the fuses.
Thankfully, there are fuse kits commonly available at automotive repair shops, or in online retailers like Amazon. They will usually be color-coded so you can determine which fuse is the one you need with relative ease. Be sure to consult the packaged instructions and your RV’s manual to ensure you are installing them correctly.
Check The 110 Power Source
The 110 power source, either the outlet, entry point, connection, or outlet, could be in poor condition. This isn’t an issue with the converter, but it could display symptoms similar to ones that you may experience with converter troubles. You will want to decipher if the converter is acting up, or if the trouble is the 110 power source.
Visually inspect all of the connections and outlets. If they’re loose or burned out, you may experience dimming lights, for example. The dimming could seem at first to be a converter issue, but might simply be a poor connection.
A good way to monitor this is to take a 110-volt appliance, like a standing lamp, and connect it to a power pole. If the light illuminates correctly, then you know the trouble lies in the power source, not the converter. If the light still dims, then the RV converter might be bad, and in need of battery maintenance.
Check Your Manual
This is not an all-encompassing, exhaustive list of problems that an RV converter can have. Since it is such a complex machine, there are dozens of things that can go wrong with it. This is true for any part of your RV.
If you’ve exhausted all of these methods and still cannot decide if your RV converter is working, consult the manual. It may go into more detail about what to look for in the exact model of converter your RV uses. This is merely a checklist of some of the most common things you might see with an unhealthy device.
How To Test Your RV Converter
If you’re not currently having a visible problem with the converter, you may still want to test it. This can warn you ahead of time before problems crop up. It is highly recommended, if you have the means, to run a diagnosis before any long trip.
The best way to know if your RV converter is working is to check the batteries and the voltage. You will need a digital multimeter and access to the voltage box. You will check your voltage box and batteries to ensure that they are not the problem instead of the converter.
- Check your DC batteries
- Check the batteries 6 to 12 hours after they’ve reached a full charge. The reason being that you want to see if it’s holding a consistent charge even after being disconnected.
- Disconnect the battery from all available power sources. You’ll also need to turn off the engine, generator, and inverter. It’s important to turn these off to avoid potential injury, especially if you are not a professional.
- Make a note of where your battery was when you disconnect it, especially if your batteries are in a series or parallel. Most are in parallel, meaning they’re connected positive to positive, negative to negative.
- Let the batteries rest for 20-30 minutes, as this will allow them to stabilize their charge.
- Connect your multimeter using the attached prongs to the battery and begin running a test. Make sure your multimeter is set to 12 volt DC instead of AC. Take care to connect the black lead to the meter of the black terminal, and likewise with red to red.
- If the battery can hold a constant charge anywhere between 12.3 and 12.9 volts, then your batteries are fine. Anything less is cause for concern; that means your DC batteries are not in working order.
- Check The Voltage Box
- Set your DMM to AC. You are going to be checking the AC power at your voltage box.
- Connect with the prongs once more and see if power is being delivered properly. If it isn’t that means the fault lies in your voltage box. The range you’re looking for is between 108 and 130 volts.
- Test Your Converter
- If your DMM has the applicable settings, set it to DC. You are going to take the batteries you tested earlier and connect them to the DMM and the DC distribution panel.
- Connect the DMM to the panel as well.
- If you see power converting from AC to DC, you will be able to see it on the DMM. The meter should, as above, read between 12.3 and 12.9.
Keeping Your RV Converter Healthy
You will know your RV converter is working if you keep it in good condition. Some simple tips can preserve the life of your converter considerably.
- Before you hit the road on a long journey, check your system to get an early read on any potential faults. It’s good to get a checklist for this that you keep on hand for future trips. You don’t want to be trapped in the middle of nowhere with a bad converter.
- If you have had your RV for quite a long time, or perhaps bought a used model, you should be extra careful. Regular wear and tear is unavoidable, so be sure to get regular maintenance and checkups on older RV models.
- When you plug into the power supply at a campground, close your circuit breaker. This will make sure there’s no power running through the plug when you connect. You can turn the breaker on again after you plug in. This will avoid a power surge.
- At power stations, keep a careful eye on the circuitry and breakers you’ll be connecting to. You want to be sure they’re stable, and seem to be regularly maintained. If things look loose, unstable, or otherwise dodgy, talk to the campground’s administrators.
Keeping these steps in mind will make your next trip a lot easier. The simpler tests mentioned above can make it easier to tell if your RV converter is bad if performed regularly.
RV converters are expensive to replace. The pieces that can get ruined by a faulty converter can be even pricier, so regular checkups are a must. Not to mention that certain parts, when ordered from a mechanic, can take weeks to arrive.
When Should You Seek A Professional For Your RV Converter?
Seek a professional to fix your RV converter or to perform a test that goes beyond your skill/confidence level. Your RV is not worth injuring yourself over; when in doubt, call a mechanic.
You can still do simple checks to see if your RV converter is in working order. Checking the lights, battery monitor, and circuit board are safe and easy tests anyone can perform. These tests alone can sometimes be enough to verify the health of your converter.
If you need to replace a part or take apart any complex electronics, call a professional. It may be costly, and keep you from heading out on the road when you planned to. This is why it’s important to perform regular maintenance on your RV converter.
RV converters are complex machines that convert AC power into DC. It’s a process that makes many of the electric accessories in your RV work. It has a lot of working parts that move together to make your machine run smoothly.
If you want to know if your RV converter is working, you can undergo a few basic trials. You can check to see if the battery is being drained by seeing if lights and devices run as they should after being on for a few minutes. Dimming lights is a symptom of a degrading converter, but there are other probable causes as well.
Heading to the circuit board and looking it over for correct operation is another way to assess the status of your converter. You may even need to open the device and see if it is being damaged by battery acid. Be careful; this process may be best overseen by a professional.
If you are concerned about the health of your converter, but are not confident in your repair skills, call a professional. A technician has the tools and training to necessary diagnose and treat your converter safely. You should also check over your converter’s health before you leave for an extended trip.