How To Tell If Your RV Converter is Bad?

 The mobility of motorhomes is unbeatable but to keep them running smoothly, maintenance is something you need to keep an eye on .

That being said, life on the road is only fun when you don’t need to sacrifice luxuries such as clean clothes,  homemade food, and best of all, constant electricity to keep your gadgets up and running.

Though motorhomes surely can offer all this under one roof yet if they’re taken proper care of, failure of crucial components is inevitable. One such absolutely crucial component is the RV power converter. And the RV power converter problems are not something that you’ll like to come face to face with.

So, it’s better to catch the culprit early and avoid any mind-numbing catastrophe.  This guide aims to deliver just that, and inform you about how to tell if your RV converter is bad. Moreover, also enlighten you with some tips for RV converter troubleshooting.

What does an RV converter do?

Before we start listing some RV converter problems, a crash course on this device is necessary. In simple words, an RV converter converts the 110V Alternating current into a 12V direct current.

Confused? Well, let us explain. Basically, the overall functioning of your RV like most components, appliances requires 12V to operate, But the outlets, whether it is your battery, generator, or a place you plugged your RV into will push 110V through.

This is where an RV converter comes in, they not only convert 110V AC into DC, they also charge your in-house RV batteries to keep the flow of electricity running. That is what an RV 12 volt converter does.

How do I know if my RV converter is bad?

RV converters are durable yet they can still go bad with time or even with some electronic failures, while the symptoms might not directly be related to an RV converter issue, catching the early signs is the key. Before you make a rash decision and replace the converter without diagnosing, it’s better to find out if the converter is the culprit.

Keep in mind that not all RV electrical problems are linked to bad RV converters. So, to give you an idea, some common symptoms of RV converter failure include the following:

Common Symptoms

Most of the time, when your RV converter starts malfunctioning, you’ll start noticing some early signs such as electrical issues in the RV itself. You might come across the following early signs:

  1. Weird functioning or flickering of the in-house lights of the RV or they might be dimming.
  2. RV 12 Volt system is not working properly, which means low or no electricity for 12 Volts outlet at all
  3. Check your appliances, especially the refrigerator, if the efficiency has dropped that could mean a failing RV converter. This can be an indication of the RV 12 Volt system not holding efficiency.
  4. Another thing that can be an indication of a failing RV converter is the RV converter not charging the battery or you might think that your RV converter is draining batteries.
  5. Last but not least indication for answering the following question that how do you know if your RV converter is working or not, is when the Internal vents are not working properly.

While all these above symptoms might indicate RV converter failure, however, it’s not always the case. So, the next step is to perform RV converter charger troubleshooting to find out the source of the issue.

How to test an RV converter?

To start the basic RV converter troubleshooting, you need to make sure that it’s the RV converter itself that is malfunctioning. To do that, you’ll need to have a multimeter handy for checking the voltages, and you’ll also have to perform physical inspections on the crucial components to make sure it’s the RV converter.

Start with the basics, check the Battery!

The first step during RV converter charger troubleshooting is to check your batteries. For that, you need to unplug the batteries while performing tests to make sure if the RV battery converter is not working.

First, do make sure that they are fully charged, and there is a reason for unplugging to know if the RV converter is draining the battery because or is it the battery itself that is malfunctioning. Moreover, by unplugging, you’ll release the battery connections from components that keep utilizing it even during idle.

So, remove the battery after it’s fully charged, wait a few hours maybe around 6-10 hours, and use the multimeter to test the battery. A fully charged battery should be able to read above 12.6 and hold a constant charge. However, if it’s not, a bad battery is your culprit. Otherwise, RV AC to DC converter can be the issue.

Check your Fuses

The next step in RV converter troubleshooting is to check if all your fuses are alright if something as small as a blown fuse is causing this problem. The replacement cost will be very cheap.

So, open the fusebox, usually located with the converter, take out the fuses and check if they are burned. or the metal connection between them is broken, if it is, it might not indicate RV power converter problems.

Replace it with a  new fuse and check if that one blows as well, if it does, it might be a wiring issue and for that, you will need to overview the RV power converter wiring diagram or it can be the converter issue, consult a professional for help if you’re not sure.

Most of the time, replacing these fuses is the key to troubleshooting RV electrical problems.

Check Your Converter Fan & Voltages

If the battery passed with flying colors, the next thing that you can do in the process of RV electrical system troubleshooting is checking the converter fan.

The converter fan’s job is to keep the converter cool, and if it starts malfunctioning, the system can overheat. And overheating can lead to the camper power supply being inefficient.

You don’t necessarily need the RV power converter wiring diagram for this, it’s easy to test your fans. Check both the inlet and outlet line for voltages if both are showing correct voltages at 110V at the entry point and 12V at the exit point, then your RV converter fan might not be working.

Try looking at the fan itself, to see if it’s blocked. clear the blockage, if the converter still feels hot, consult a professional to see if it’s the fan itself or some other component such as a thermostat.

Check the circuit breakers

The next step in how to tell if your RV converter is bad is to check the circuit breakers if they are all working. To do that, open the circuit breaker box and see if any one of them is tripped. If not, and you still are not getting power to a specific place, and the fuses are okay. Close all the breakers, and start them on by one.

If all of them work then it might have been a reset issue only, if one of them doesn’t work, you might have a bigger RV power converter problem in your hands.

Check the Circuit boards, Resistors & Diodes

Another issue that can help you in RV converter troubleshooting is by opening and checking the circuit boards, don’t do this if you’re not a person who can handle the insides of electronic devices.

So, if you can handle it open the circuit boards to see if it’s burned or is there some residue built up. Battery acid can form residue and can be cleaned. However, make sure that after cleaning it let it dry for at least an hour or so.

However, if that’s not an issue, it can be the resistors or Diodes. But in your RV converter charger troubleshooting, this is where you draw the line, call a professional if none of the above methods helped you catch the culprit. I hope this answers your question on how to check the RV converter.

RV Inverter vs Converter

RV inverter and converter are often confused with each other and considered the same but they are not. While the converter converts 110V AC to 12V DC, an inverter works in the opposite direction.

Although, not all motorhomes are pre-equipped with RV inverters, however, the latest ones do. Since the job of an inverter is to convert DC into AC, it can serve the purpose of running those appliances that require 110V AC current. But in case you own an old motorhome, here is a guide on how to get rid of it.

Normally, in old RVs, you’ll require off-shore power to run those appliances but with the RV Inverter, the in-house power source can run those as well to a limited extent. Since it utilizes your in-house batteries as a power source, there are limitations to what it can squeeze from it.  In short, it’s the RV DC converter.

RV Inverter Charger Problems

The RVs that come with inverters often have outlets that can only run on shore-power and can’t rely on battery power as an alternative. e.g. a Microwave or an air conditioner. So, if you end up facing RV inverter problems, chances are those appliances will not work when connected to the off-short power supply.

Which in turn will not charge your batteries as well, since RV invertors also double down as battery chargers sometimes, so all 110V appliances might stop working sooner rather than later when facing RV inverter problems. But these are not the only sure-shot ways of how to tell if the RV inverter is bad, so if you think the RV inverter is the culprit, professional help is what we recommend. You might also want to take a look at the finest RV washer dryer combo if you own an RV.

Tips to Avoid any sudden RV Inverter/Converter problems

For the most part, you’ll be able to know and troubleshoot the early signs of RV inverter/converter failure, however, some preventative maintenance can help you avoid issues such as.

  1. Timely battery replacements, since batteries, have a limited lifespan.
  2. Troubleshooting your RV before a long trip.
  3. Keeping an eye on your appliances if some are malfunctioning.
  4. Never ignoring the above-mentioned signs

Where is the power converter in my RV?

That that you know how does an RV converter works, it’s time to start troubleshooting, and for that, you need to find the power converter first.

If you’re struggling to find the location of the RV power converter, check the owner’s manual first. However, if you cannot, here are a few tips that can help you find and locate it. But do remember, not all RV’s and trailers will have

  1. Check near the control panels, since power converters have fans they will also have ventilation. So, if you see a small vent near the control panel that is where your power converter is.
  2. The other way is to turn the AC off in your RV off, and turn on the lights, and try to hear the slight buzzing.

FAQ

Does the RV battery charge when plugged in?

Yes, the RV battery charges when plugged in, however, you can turn this off but it’s only necessary if you are storing your RV for a longer period of time while plugged in. Only then it can be damaging to the battery otherwise, you don’t necessarily need to disconnect the battery every time you plug-in your charger

Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time?

Well, it depends, if the RV is utilizing modern converters that come with overcharging protection, then leaving it on 24/7 can not be an issue. Especially if you’re renting a state-of-the-art RV. However, if you own an old RV without overcharging protection, leaving it plugged in all the time can cause issues. For more details, check out this resource

Where is the converter in a travel trailer?

Refer to the above section on “Where is the power converter in my RV?” for information regarding this.

Conclusion

After reading this information source, you must now know how to tell if your RV converter is bad. In this guide, we tried to cover each and every aspect of RV topics. Such as information regarding RV converter draining the battery, RV 12 volt system not working, and much more.

Although there could be many different reasons for it, however, while traveling on the road it’s always better to be prepared. And hope that you don’t face any problems or even if you face them, they are small.

But troubleshooting will not be required with periodic maintenance. So don’t forget to give a second look to your remote home while storage, and check it thoroughly before traveling. Happy Travelling!

Hey! I’m Mark Polk, an author, camper & public speaker on anything & everything RV related. I have educated millions of RV consumers on safely and properly usage through my movies (i.e. TRV Education 101: RV Care and Maintenance 2009) Writing about this industry is a huge passion of mine, so here’s a little piece of my mind.