Air conditioning is pretty important for an RV owner. Many RV owners flock to warmer climates for the winter. Others live in RVs full time in warm states where travel is easier year round.
Having poorly performing or no air conditioning is bad news for many in the south. While you can put fans around the RV to get air circulating, nothing beats having cool air flowing through your existing system.
Having your RV air conditioner fan not working properly isn’t the worst problem to have – it should also be reasonably easy to fix. The problem often comes from the power source that pushes the fan.
Why is the air conditioner fan so important?
The fan on an air conditioner is really multi function. The fan draws in warm, fresh air to be cooled and pushes the cool air around your RV. Home air conditioners tend to have an interior fan as well, and some RVs do, but we’ll assume you have one fan for most of this article.
A good working fan in a good working air conditioner unit should be capable of making the air inside the RV 16-22 degrees cooler than the outside.
What are the most common problems that make RV AC fan not work?
The fan on an RV AC unit usually spins so fast it’s a blur. This effect is achieved in part because of a capacitor, or battery, that uses stored energy to kickstart the air conditioning unit.
Identifying your capacitor can be a little confusing for some RVs, because they have two: One for the fan and one for the compressor. The fan capacitor is more cylinder shaped and is longer. The compressor capacitor is usually shorter and can be more round.
Are you a do it yourself person? You can test the capacitor’s ability using a multi meter. A multi meter has probes that can touch the tabs on the capacitor to see if they are still living up their full power potential.
How do I know it’s the capacitor?
The best way to answer this is that you won’t really know until you replace it, but there are a couple of signs.
When your thermostat calls for your air conditioner to be on, you might hear a tick and then nothing. Alternatively, the fan could start, then stop, or go slowly. Your fan is supposed to take off quickly and suddenly to begin the air exchange.
One potentially difficult option is possible. If your AC fan is open enough to be touched by something, you could attempt to push the fan with a thin object like a stick. If the fan spins up to full speed, it’s likely the capacitor and not the motor at fault. Note that this requires crawling on top of your RV with a stick. Be careful.
Note that the option of pushing your fan is at best temporary. You will likely have to do it several times per day to keep the fan running.
How do I fix the capacitor?
Replacement is the easiest. The capacitor is generally attached with two electrical connectors and some screws. Either read the manual for the AC unit or uncover it (usually on one of the sides of the unit) and see how many volts and other measurables it has.
We suggest taking a picture of the capacitor setup before removing it. Also, turning off the power to your air conditioner unit is essential whenever working on it.
Adjusting the blade
When you see your fan blade within your air conditioner, you’ll probably notice right away if it’s off kilter or sideways. You will also likely hear a loud rattling until it stops as the fan blades strike everything in their path.
The fan blade can come loose over time, mostly due to issues with the mount or screws.
The easiest way to solve this issue is to first turn the AC off as always, then get a screwdriver and remove the top of the AC unit. Check the place where the fan is mounted and screw anything back into place necessary.
You’ll know if it’s working properly if you turn it back on and it spins back up.
The switch is off
While this is very basic, make sure that the air conditioner is set to on, and the fan itself is set to on.
These are often two different switches within your thermostat and it’s entirely possible to have your air conditioner set to on but your fan set to off. The fan itself can be used to circulate air within the RV when you aren’t looking for heating or cooling.
The thermostat is not working
It’s possible that the fan isn’t being told to “go.” The thermostat itself controls when the air conditioner comes on and signals for the fan and compressor to start. If the signal isn’t sent or the thermostat doesn’t sense temperature changes, the communication may not take place.
The motor is bad
If the thermostat is functioning and the compressor turns on, the motor for the fan itself could be bad. If attempting to move your fan either doesn’t have any movement or it’s locked, this is a good sign to replace the fan motor.
This is also possible to replace yourself. Just be sure you are getting the right one. While each AC unit is a bit different, you’ll want to connect the new fan motor in the place of the old one with the same connections. Again, turn the AC off completely before even starting.
Not having air conditioning when you need it is no fun. Get ready to climb the ladder and see what your air conditioner is really doing and make some observations about its performance.
Grab your air conditioners manual if you can and get ready to either order new parts or have someone come and help you out to fix it!