Having a breaker trip can feel like being in a horror movie. You are watching TV when the lamp next to you stops working. You try to turn on a light and it doesn’t work. Tripping breakers present kind of a mystery.
Tripping breakers are also a relatively easy mystery to solve. A basic understanding of your RV’s electrical system and your own appliances and lights also helps.
RV circuit breakers generally trip because they are overloaded, worn out, or experience a surge when electrical powered devices are turned on. The source of the problem can be found by doing a little investigating.
Check the circuit breaker
First, check to make sure part of the problem is actually the circuit breaker. When a slight won’t turn on or an outlet doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean the issue is the circuit breaker.
Open the electrical panel and see if any of the breakers are “red” which would indicate that they have been turned off. Another indicator is that the switch is in the off position – and probably facing the opposite direction of all breakers on the same side.
If the breaker isn’t off, the bulb could be burned out or the appliance itself is not turning on.
Check your electrical loads and outlets
RVs can readily have problems with not having enough outlets for your electrical items. Here are a few things to consider:
- Look at your surge protectors. Are all the plug ins filled? This could be a source of the problem, especially if that outlet keeps tripping. Surge protectors are designed to stop an electrical overload, not provide more electricity.
- Extension cords can be a problem. RV owners tend to use extension cords for interior and exterior use. Extension cords themselves can wear out and send not enough or too much power to the appliance from the circuit box. Inspect any extension cords on the outlet or outlets that are tripping.
- Look for burned outlets. Burned outlets mean that a hot wire and a ground wire are both touching metal. These can bring some serious heat and are likely to turn the exterior of the outlet. Call an electrician right away unless you are familiar with electrical troubleshooting and outlets.
- Short circuiting is a bit scarier. A short circuit means that there is a problem with the wiring in the appliance or the electrical wiring running to it, and it has the potential to try to jump to a conductive source. In the process, the electricity can cause serious heat or a fire unless the breaker turns off. If your breakers are tripping, they might be preventing this. You can often smell a short circuit – and it smells like burning.
Reset your appliances and breakers
To find the source of the problem, unplug the affected appliances and turn off the affected lights.
Go to your circuit breaker and turn the breaker back on. If the breaker flips back immediately, the breaker itself is probably bad.
One by one, plug appliances back in or turn lights on. Wait for the breaker to trip again. The appliance that causes the break might be adding too much of a strain on that breaker or is wearing out itself. Try to unplug everything again and plug that particular appliance back in and see if it works. You’ll either discover that the appliance itself is bad, or there is an issue with the breaker capacity.
If you discover that the breaker is tripping when turning on more than one light or appliance, the issue is more likely related to overloading. Try plugging in an appliance on a different outlet and see if that helps. Each circuit is only meant to handle so much electricity.
During the process of plugging appliances back in, you might discover that one doesn’t turn on anymore. With some appliances that run automatically like a fridge, the motor might be burned out and is triggering the circuit to break because it doesn’t need electricity. A tripping breaker is how some people learn that their appliances have failed.
It’s possible the breakers themselves are causing an issue. Breakers do wear out eventually. Besides discovering that the breaker is tripping from being overloaded.
The easiest way to tell if a breaker is turning bad was mentioned above but we can restate it: If nothing is plugged in or turned on for that circuit, try to turn the breaker back on. If the breaker flips again with nothing plugged in or turned on, the breaker is probably bad. Replace the breaker.
Breakers are actually fairly easy to install. Many RV owners will not want to reach into their electrical box to attempt this, though it’s safe when the power is off – they should call an electrician or someone who knows electrical well.
For an RV, the electrical source can be a battery, generator, or shore power. This is a bit more complicated than the power sent to a home.
Check to make sure your inverter or generator is working properly. If turning on the inverter or generator or inverter causes the trip, you may have identified part of the problem. Generators can get old and surge or lapse, causing not enough or too much power. Shore power is usually pretty reliable and isn’t often the source of an issue.
Have your generator tuned up and looked at if the tripping tends to happen when it’s running.
Tripping breakers can be somewhere between annoying and dangerous. A tripping breaker means that a problem likely exists somewhere in the RV in regards to power. Our guidance intends to help you find the source of your problem and identifies potential dangers. The best case scenario is usually an older breaker or an accidental overload.
Many RV owners will be relieved to learn that moving appliances to another outlet often solves the problems caused by tripped breakers. You should thoroughly test the outlets and breakers to ensure that a simple overload is an issue.