Last updated on October 30th, 2023 at 06:45 am
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RV travel often takes us into wild, remote park ups where people are few and nature can thrive. As such, an RV has a ton of varied power sources to keep you comfortable no matter the circumstance. Electrical hookups, a battery, a generator, and a propane supply are all different sources of power for your RV.
But what should you do when your RV battery is charged but there’s no power?
There are a few reasons why an RV battery that’s charged isn’t powering anything in your RV. Overloaded or short-circuited breakers, battery disconnect switch issues, or a damaged battery can all cause RV battery problems. Tripped circuit breakers, loose wiring, an engaged surge protector, and a malfunctioning inverter can also cause RV battery issues.
RV batteries are key in allowing us to power everything in our camper vans from the microwave to the TV! They are great pieces of equipment we’d be lost without, but when you start experiencing power issues, things can become a bit complicated. There are a few reasons why an RV battery that’s charged has no power, so let’s go ahead and explore these in more detail.
RV Battery Charged But No Power?
It’s not too uncommon to face battery problems at some point in your RVing journey. If you’re currently dealing with an RV battery that’s charged but you’ve got no power, you’ve come to the right place! Even if this isn’t an issue you’re facing right now, it’s never a bad time to gain some more RVing knowledge, especially when it’s about the electrical system.
Overloaded Circuit Breakers
Chances are, if there’s an issue with your RV battery’s power, the culprit is the circuit breakers. Your rig’s breakers can trip for two main reasons, the first and most common being overloaded circuit breakers.
Let’s say your breakers can handle 30 AMPs of electricity but you run your AC unit, microwave, water heater, and other appliances all at the same time. Since each of these appliances generates 10-15 AMPs each, the electrical load will easily exceed the 30 AMP limit, causing your breakers to trip.
Short Circuited Circuit Breakers
The second circuit issue that may be causing an RV battery problem is short-circuited breakers. A variety of factors can cause this such as worn-out equipment and faulty wires. Essentially, any damage sustained to the breakers can cause them to short circuit, potentially damaging everything from the RV battery to the microwave you might be trying to use.
A giveaway of short-circuited breakers is a faint burning smell, so if there’s a funky smell coming from your breakers, you know the likely cause. When short-circuiting occurs, your breakers trip to prevent a fire that is the cause of the strange smell. Once your circuit breakers trip, power is cut to most of the rig for safety, and this happens regardless of whether your battery is charged or not.
Sometimes the breakers will reset on their own, quickly sending power back to your RV, but if they don’t, you’ll have to reset them manually. In most rigs, the circuit breakers are located in a small metal box near the battery itself, and if not, you can locate them using your owner’s manual. Once you’ve found them, simply open the box and press the reset button near the breakers.
Keeping an eye on your rig’s voltage while using appliances is a good idea to help prevent tripping your breakers in the future. It’s best to be aware of the number of AMPs the appliances throughout your rig need so you can avoid overloading your breakers, preventing them from tripping constantly.
Battery Disconnect Switch
Another reason why your RV may not be receiving power from the battery is the disconnect switch. The role of the battery disconnect switch is to shut off all power coming from the battery, regardless if it has full or any charge. This is an important safety feature as it shuts off all power when necessary, such as moving the battery, installing a new battery, or even during storage.
To mitigate the risk of cutting into a live wire, the battery disconnect switch can be used to completely cut all power. This saves yourself or any mechanics from possible electrocution and also reduces the chance of an electrical fire in your rig. Your rig’s battery disconnect switch accomplishes all of this by being installed on either the positive or negative leads of the battery.
This way it can effectively cut power without the risk of short-circuiting any breakers or appliances. If you’re finding no power coming from your battery despite nothing being wrong with the breakers, you may have accidentally flipped the disconnect switch.
Damage to your batteries can certainly prevent power from reaching your RV. This is less common than the previously mentioned causes, but an important one to still consider.
An RV battery’s typical lifespan is around 6 years. Beyond this, you may start to notice your battery discharging quicker and generally not being as efficient as it once was. Sometimes, however, RV batteries can sustain damage well before the 6-year mark.
Mishandling, improper storage, or even a small animal accessing the battery can all cause damage. To find out if this is why your RV isn’t receiving power, take a look and see if there are any physical signs. Cracks, dents, and holes in the battery are all easy to spot, but also be on the lookout for nesting in case any animals have made an interesting home for themselves! If you can’t spot any damage, use a voltmeter to check the RV battery power readings.
The ideal reading you want from the voltmeter is around 12.5V. Once you begin to enter the 11V or 13V+ range, you know something’s wrong with the battery. Damage to your battery, circuit breakers, and disconnect switch are all common causes for why your battery may not be powering your rig. However, this isn’t the only electrical problem you may encounter in your RV travels.
No Power To RV Outlets?
So you’ve had a long day hiking with the whole family, and you return to your RV hungry, and ready to throw some leftovers in the microwave, but what happens if there’s no power to your RV outlets? This can seem alarming at first, but fear not as there are a few reasons that may be causing there to be no power to your RV outlets.
If you’re trying to use your outlets while relying solely on battery power, they may not work. This is because your rig’s outlets are 120V, while the battery is a part of your RV’s 12V system, so they aren’t compatible with one another.
If your battery is charged yet there is no power to your RV’s outlets, chances are it’s because you don’t have a 12V to 120V converter. Even if you do have one, however, it’s not advised to rely on it too much as your battery can drain quickly this way.
Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are designed to trip if they detect any danger. Luckily, there are a few signs to look out for if this has occurred, such as your sudden issues with appliances. Water and excessive electricity are the most common causes of a tripped GFCI outlet.
Circuit breakers tripping for an unrelated reason can also trigger a trip in your RV’s GFCI outlets, as explored in the video below:
If this is the case, resetting your breakers should bring back power to your outlets. If your outlets tripped because of contact with water or a similar trigger, then you’ll have to reset the outlets themselves. Thankfully this is easy as GFCI outlets are a little larger than regular ones and feature a distinct reset button in the middle.
If most of your outlets work but maybe one or two don’t have any power, loose wiring may be the cause. Heavy vibration near an outlet can cause its wiring to become loose over time.
Keeping certain kitchen appliances near an outlet can be a source of this, or frequently driving on rough roads. You can unscrew the outlet from the wall and check the wires to see if this is the case.
A wider wiring problem may be a cause if the wiring on the outlet looks okay. A wire may have been burnt out or cut, and the best way to check this is to use a multimeter to check the power coming from each outlet to find the outlier.
RV Has No Power When Plugged In?
An RV that has no power when plugged in is a fairly common issue for many RVers, and there are a few reasons for this. When exploring RV power issues, prioritizing safety is key, so take things slow and steady!
Damaged Power Cord
The cord you use to hook your RV up to the power station may be damaged. This is a fairly easy problem to miss as people rush to check their breakers or batteries and are quick to overlook this.
Your power cord may be worn out or have a problem holding voltage. To check if this is the issue, use a voltage meter along the length of your cord which will allow you to see if it’s able to power your big rig while in use.
Engaged Surge Protector
Some rigs contain a surge protector to shield RV appliances in the event of a power surge. If your RV has a surge protector, it may be responsible for cutting power to your rig.
Your owner’s manual will help you locate it and once you do, check to see if its lights are on. If they are, your surge protector is working, but if not, it may need to be replaced so it can stop preventing power from coming into your rig.
Not every RV has an inverter, but if you’ve got a malfunctioning inverter, it can stop your RV from having power when plugged in. This is because your inverter converts electricity from DC to AC. Direct currents are safer for electronics to use and are also what your RV will typically use.
To know if there’s an inverter issue, use your owner’s manual to find the inverter box and check the fuses. If they are blown, then all you need to do is replace them to get your inverter up and running again.
Sometimes, the problem may not be with your rig at all, but rather with the power station your RV is hooked up to. If you’ve connected your rig to the station and flipped the necessary switches, there should be power to your RV. If there’s no reading at all, you know the chances are that it’s an issue with the power station. Especially if once you run your generator, or plug into a different station you receive power.
Unfortunately, if the problem is with the power station there isn’t much you can do besides finding a new one to use. Repairing the power station is the responsibility of the campground you are staying at, not to mention it’s likely a complicated and potentially dangerous fix if you don’t already have the required knowledge.
Knowing how to troubleshoot your RV’s power system will give you the confidence to diagnose or maybe even fix RV battery problems. An RV battery that’s charged but isn’t powering anything in your RV can have a few causes, but hopefully, it’s a simple circuit-breaker problem so you can get powered up and back to normal electricity in no time.