RV skirting or camper skirting is gaining popularity. It may seem like a new idea, but skirting trailers has been a smart way to enhance RVs for many years. Think about trailers in mobile home parks and your mind says, “Oh, yeah, I remember that!” So, the idea of blocking cold air and wind from underneath trailers has been around for a while. Now it is trending in the RV industry as more and more people want to extend their camping season or simply be more comfortable and energy efficient.

It’s hard to say if the inconsistent snow season is behind us. But as we start to get a taste of warmer weather, you’re likely getting the “itch” for an early Spring RV trip! RV season is unpacking its bags and getting ready for the fresh air and warm weather of spring! That means it’s time to dewinterize your RV! Dewinterizing RVs can take some time, but if you follow our guide, you can make sure it’s done right!

If you followed our guide on winterizing your RV or travel trailer, we have a bunch of great tips on getting it ready for the road again!

Man and woman checking electronics in RV with checklist

What Happens When the RV Converter Goes Bad

Even if you’ve never paid attention to the power converter—the often-unnoticed central nervous system of your RV that’s generally tucked away under a seat or in a cabinet—you’ll want to know what happens when the RV converter goes bad.

Anything that needs electricity in your RV either requires AC or DC power. The RV converter, sometimes called a power converter, transforms the alternating current (AC) power that comes from the electrical hookup to direct current (DC) battery power.

The Importance of a Functioning Converter

Many campsites have electricity available even if they don’t offer water or sewer hookup. If you’re not an off-grid camper or someone who has experience with boondocking, it’s likely you’ve always used the electrical hookup at campsites. You arrive, plug in, and presto, everything works. It’s possible you hadn’t given much thought to the converter and what it does.

That wonderful RV power converter transforming the 120 volts of AC power from the electrical hookup to 12 volts of DC power for battery-functioning appliances means everything that the AC powers like your coffee maker, air conditioner, refrigerator (when not running on propane), and anything else you plug into a wall socket works as well as your lights, roof vent fans, leveling systems, and water pump which are typically part of the DC electricity system in an RV. Every RV is different, so there are other possibilities such as DC power radios or slide-out motors if your RV has slide-outs.

Understanding RV Converters

The RV converter turns the outlet AC power (110 volts) from the campsite hookup into battery DC power (12 volts) to charge your battery and run your DC appliances. It’s designed to seamlessly work in the background so that all electrical components of your RV work. It’s why many people just plug in and go; they don’t give much thought or even know it’s there—until the converter goes bad. However, they typically last a decade or so, possibly longer if you’re mostly a weekend warrior.

While the converter transforms the AC voltage to DC battery voltage, an inverter works in reverse, transforming the 12-volt DC power to 110-volt AC power. An inverter is what allows power from your camper battery to power any AC equipment like when you want to make one more cup of coffee as you tear down and get ready to go.

Signs of a Failing RV Converter

Because it’s important to know what happens when the RV converter goes bad and what to do in that situation, it’s key to be aware of the signs and signals of a converter that’s failing. The top five things to look for are:

  1. Dimming or Flickering Lights: If you notice your RV’s interior lights flickering or dimming, it could be a sign of a failing converter. Because the converter is responsible for converting AC power to DC power, which is used to run your RV’s 12v lights, your batteries may not be charging if the converter is not working properly. Flickering lights may is a signal of a faulty or failing RV converter.
  1. Dead Batteries: The converter is responsible for the proper charging of your batteries when you’re connected to AC electrical hookup. A failing RV converter results in inconsistent power flow to charge your battery which will eventually lead to a dead battery.
  2. Overheating: A converter that is hot to the touch is a sign that your RV converter is failing. Overheating is a signal that the converter is working too hard to keep up with the electrical demands. Permanent damage to your RV converter—as well as other electrical components in your RV—can result from overheating, so address the situation right away.
  3. Strange Noises from the Converter: Failing converters can make a buzzing or humming sound, so listen for any unusual noises coming from your converter. Whether it’s a problem with the fan or other components of your RV converter, don’t ignore odd sounds—investigate.
  4. Electrical System Malfunctions: Other electrical issues can arise from a failing converter. There may be appliances which aren’t working properly, or slide-outs that are giving you issues. The inconsistent power from a failing converter can manifest in an array of electrical system malfunctions and the power flow should be checked.

Causes of RV Converter Failure

There are four main causes of RV converter failure that can be prevented by keeping your RV’s electrical system running smoothly.

  1. Power Surges and Electrical Faults: External electrical issues such as power surges and electrical faults can damage your RV’s converter. You can protect the electrical system in your RV by using a surge protector.
  1. Age and Wear: Time eventually impacts your converter’s performance like any other component in your RV. If your converter is older than 10 years—the average lifespan of an RV converter—consider replacing it before it wears out.
  2. Poor Maintenance: Neglecting your RV’s electrical system can lead to converter issues. Performing regular maintenance on your RV’s converter—including cleaning the fan—can extend the life of your converter. It’s a good idea to check the wiring regularly as well.
  3. Incorrect Installation or Wiring: Having your converter professionally installed ensures that it’s done correctly. An unprofessional or DIY converter installation has a greater likelihood of issues down the road. Saving a little on the costs up front may not be worth the expenses down the road as a result of unprofessional installation.

Nothing lasts forever, but with proper installation and regular maintenance your converter can work well for a long time.

Diagnosing a Bad RV Converter

The first step in diagnosing whether your RV converter is bad is to verify that the RV is connected to a power source and the main power switch is on. If the RV is not connected to a power source, the converter will not work. If the power source is fine, but the converter is still not working, it could be a sign of a bad converter.

Next, inspect the circuit breakers and fuses looking for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses in the RV’s electrical panel. Reset any tripped breakers and if you find any blown fuses, replace them. Then check to see if the converter is working.

You’ll also want to test the AC outlet voltage with a voltmeter or multimeter at the RV’s AC outlets. It should be around 120 volts. Voltage that is too high or too low can be a sign that your RV converter is bad. If the voltage level is correct, listen for the converter fan; it should run when the converter is working hard.

Observe the condition of the battery, checking to see if the batteries are charging or if they are overcharged. If they are boiling or swollen, they’re overcharged which shortens the life of the battery. The DC voltage output at the battery should be between 13-14 volts when charging.

Internal issues with the converter can cause strange noises coming from the converter. Listen for anything unusual and also check for overheating. Excessive heat can be a sign of malfunction or faulty fan. Just like the fan on your laptop keeps it from overheating, the fan on your converter prevents overheating.

Visually inspect the converter for any signs of physical damage or wear and refer to the RV’s manual for any other specific troubleshooting steps for your converter model. It may require professional evaluation if you cannot determine the issue after all these steps.

Consequences of a Failing Converter

Knowing the impact on RV appliances is an important part of understanding what happens when the RV converter goes bad. Converter issues can cause appliances to work poorly or stop working altogether. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. In fact, your RV’s electrical system can incur long-term damage when the RV converter goes bad.

A malfunctioning converter can mean that the battery isn’t being properly charged so items like the propane alarm on your RV may not work if your battery dies.

Replacing or Repairing the RV Converter

Depending on what is wrong with the converter, you may choose to repair. Replacing a fuse is an easy repair. Make sure that you replace a blown fuse with one of the same or lower rating. Never use a fuse with a higher rating than the burned out one to avoid power surges and electrical damage. Having a pack of fuses on hand is an easy and inexpensive way to be prepared in case one blows. Resetting a tripped breaker is also an easy fix. The other replacement fix for a converter is the fan. If it’s faulty, the excess heat will damage your electronics.

Replacing the converter is best done by professionals. It can be a DIY project provided you have a basic understanding of electrical systems and the ability to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Safety first means disconnecting any power source and turning off all electrical systems and appliances prior to removing the old converter. Disconnect the power supply from the old converter, remove it, and prepare the new converter for installation by removing protective covers and referring to the manufacturer’s instructions for any other necessary preparation.

Install the new converter and reconnect power supply wires. Double-check that all connections are aligned correctly and secure to avoid short circuits or other electrical issues. Test the new converter by turning on the power supply and checking the voltage output to ensure it matches the manufacturer’s specifications and replace the cover.

Preventative Measures and Maintenance

Take care of your converter to get the longest life possible. Prevent overheating by making sure the converter is in a well-ventilated area away from heat sources. Check the fan regularly and blow out any dust that may collect in the converter with compressed air.

Contact RV Wholesale Superstore 

The professionals at RV Wholesale Superstore are ready to help you find the perfect RV for you and your family. Visit us in-person at 5080 W. Alexis Road, in Sylvania, OH or call us at (419) 786-1126

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