RV Air Conditioner Won’t Turn On? Here’s What To Do

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One of the worst things about being hot is you can’t just cool down by taking more and more clothes off. You’ll eventually get to skin. Your RV’s air conditioner is an important piece of equipment for the many RV owners who live in warmer climates within the US. 

Expecting your air conditioner to turn on and realizing just how warm your RV is getting is a stark realization. What happened? The system should be automatic and start to cool down right away without much effort from you besides maintaining.

Your RV air conditioner could be remaining off for a variety of reasons. Potential problems including your thermostat, wiring, and electrical problems. We will walk you through some potential problems and how to fix them.

Your RV air conditioner won’t turn on because your thermostat isn’t working

Your thermostat is generally the simplest and easiest problem to fix, so we will start with that. While you might be familiar with the thermostat, we’ll give a refresher. 

A thermostat has connections to your RV air conditioner that tell it to turn off or no. The thermostat also has sensors that feel the temperature in the room and can tell the air conditioner to start or continue running based on the temperature you want.

A bad or poorly working thermostat can have these connections fail. It won’t send the signal, even when the temperature is above or below how warm or cool you want your RV to be.

Some thermostat problems are pretty obvious: A digital thermostat might be blank or show low battery. You can just replace the batteries then – and the problem is likely the thermostat and not other equipment.

So what do I do if the thermostat doesn’t seem to be working?

First, try to change the temperature. If the air conditioner doesn’t turn on, either the signal isn’t getting there, or the air conditioner isn’t working.

You can use a multimeter to test if your thermostat is sending a signal. Opening the thermostat should be a matter of flipping the cover. You can connect the thermostat wires to the multimeter and see if it gives a current. There are other guides out there for the purpose of using a multimeter to find the source of a problem.

If it’s broken, replacing the thermostat is a matter of plugging wires back in the right places. We suggest taking a picture of your thermostats setup before tearing anything apart to make it as easy as possible to put wires in the right places. Some air conditioners and thermostats have many wires and having a reference makes this easier.

Thermostats are also a relatively cheap fix. They can often be found at a hardware store for less than having someone come out to install one for you – and have many options.

What else could cause my RV air conditioner to not turn on?

Power problems and your RV air conditioner

If it’s not your thermostat, it’s possible that your RV air conditioner isn’t getting power.

In reality, your air conditioner has two primary moving parts: a fan that is started by a capacitor, or battery, and a compressor. The compressor should be able to turn on without the aid of the battery. If your fan isn’t spinning and your compressor is on, then it might not be power.

You can check to see if the wiring is loose. We very strongly recommend turning off the power to your air conditioner before climbing onto your RV To check it out. There is a chance that a live electrical wire is loose and those are potentially dangerous.

If you do elect to open your RV air conditioner, you will likely need to use a screwdriver or socket wrench. You can take a look at the wiring though again, do NOT touch the wiring with any electrical on.

There are two semi-scary parts about electrical issues within an RV air conditioner. If a loose wire does not break the circuit, the electrical won’t stop flowing. If the electricity finds something metal, the electricity can cause extreme heat and potentially cause a fire.

A lack of energy to an air conditioner with an electric motor can gradually burn out the motor, too.

Clean out your RV air conditioner

The motor itself or something in your RV air conditioner might be plugged. Turn off the power completely, remove the cover, and clean it out. Debris could be keeping power from arriving or keep the motor from turning on.

As an elevated appliance, the RV air conditioner can readily be filled with leaves. While a bit gross, they can be either washed out or removed be hand. It’s also not uncommon to find rodents within your air conditioner.

Get help with your RV air conditioner

While we can speculate about why your RV air conditioner is not working, expert eyes on your air conditioner can be more helpful. If you aren’t knowledgeable about electrical or air conditioners, consider asking a trained service tech for help. Service techs know how to spot issues better and are better equipped to handle potential electrical problems.

Also, if you aren’t confident about climbing on your RV roof, don’t try to do it.


Consider your safety when wondering why your RV air conditioner won’t start. Start the easy way by attempting to adjust your thermostat to see if that makes things works. Next, shut off the power to your air conditioner to you or someone can check to see what is wrong.

Call around and ask a service technician for help if you feel our advice is outside your area of expertise. Electrical is no joke and that could be the source of the problem. Otherwise, routine maintenance like cleaning our your air conditioner can be very helpful in preventing some problems.

Read through our advice and we hope it helps you cool down your RV.

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