Is your RV breaker box causing you issues and tripping repeatedly? This may be a simple fix, or it may be a more serious problem. Either way, we’ll walk you through it to help you resolve the issue.
It’s time to stop flipping the circuit switch and get to the bottom of the problem. Addressing breaker box issues right away is a safe thing to do to prevent any injury to you or your RV. Let’s get started, so you can enjoy your camping experience!
What Is an RV Breaker Box?
Similar to a house, your RV has a breaker box. This breaker box is the leading distribution center for electricity throughout your RV. The sources of power – either 120V, 12V, or both – come into the box. Then, the RV breaker box circuits distribute power to your appliances, outlets, and anything else that runs on electricity.
The separate switches and fuses within your breaker box represent the various circuits throughout your RV. Not everything is on one circuit or switch. You’ll have multiple switches and fuses in your breaker box. Often several things are on one circuit or one fuse, and each has a limit for how much electricity it will pull.
Pro Tip: New to RV electrical systems? This guide can help: How Are RVs Wired? Helpful RV Electrical Basics for Beginners.
Are RV Breakers the Same as Home Breakers?
Yes and no. The 120V side of the RV breaker box is very similar to what you’d find in a home. You’ll have a switch that sometimes needs resetting if it gets tripped or loses power.
The 120V portion powers all the appliances running off shore-power, like your air conditioner, electrical outlets, and the fireplace. It also powers the refrigerator and water heater when they’re not running off propane.
There’s also a 12V side with fuses for various items running off DC power, much like you’d see in a car. The 12V side powers things like your RV interior and exterior lights, roof vent fans, water pump, propane appliances, tank heaters, awning, and your auto-leveling system and slides.
Why Does My RV Breaker Keep Tripping?
There are many reasons this could happen, like a failed breaker or electrical device or if it’s wired improperly. Most often, your RV breaker box trips because the circuit’s overloaded. If you’re using too much electricity on an individual circuit, you’ll trip the breaker. If you attempt to draw more than that circuit allows, it’ll trip that circuit.
Also, if you’re drawing more electricity than the outside electrical pedestal allows – typically 30 amp or 50 amp – it’ll trip the outdoor pedestal as well.
If one of the appliances or outlets is wired wrong, it’ll trip the circuit. It could be a fire hazard with electricity running through a poor connection or short. It may also trip due to a failed electrical device. This could be due to the plugged-in item getting wet, a bent wire, or a short in the machine. Your electrical system is keeping you safe and cutting off access to that outlet for the time being.
Finally, the issue might be a ground fault with the ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. You likely have several GFCI outlets in your RV. Many of these outlets are on the same circuit. If one of them stops working, it’ll trigger all the GFCIs to stop working, too. Should this happen, reset the outlet causing the issue and see if that helps.
If you reset a breaker often, it can also weaken and will trip sooner than it should. RV park pedestal breakers commonly have this issue because they are frequently overloaded. The only way to fix this is to replace the breaker itself.
If you’re still having issues tripping your breaker, it’s time to do some troubleshooting.
Pro Tip: Before you start troubleshooting the issue, make sure you know How to Not Get Shocked in Your RV.
How Do I Stop My Breaker From Tripping?
First, you need to determine the root cause. Are you tripping the electrical post outside or tripping the inside RV breaker box? Take a look at the outside post and your inside breaker box to see if any of the switches are in the “off” position.
If it’s the outside post, figure out if you’re using too much electricity versus the amount the post provides. You’ll likely trip the post if you’re hooked up to a 30 amp pedestal and you’re using two air conditioning units.
If a switch in your inside breaker box flips, you should determine what devices and appliances pull the power on that circuit. Do some quick math to see if you’ve overloaded the outlets on that circuit. Is there something wrong with a device plugged into it? Unplug everything on that circuit, reset the switch, and plug items in one by one to find out when it trips again.
If it’s an issue on the 12V side, you may need to check the fuses and try replacing them. They can blow due to pulling too much power, or it could be a wiring issue.
Finally, check your GFCI outlets. Find any issues with these, like water touching a cord hooked up to GFCI, pulling too much electricity, or a shorted device hooked up to one.
A GFCI breaker is very sensitive to any ground fault conditions and will trip much more frequently.
If these things don’t stop your breaker issues, it’s time for some testing.
How Do I Know If My RV Breaker Is Bad?
You don’t want to spend extra time and energy buying and installing a new breaker panel if you don’t need one. To see if it’s bad, you can first do a visual inspection.
If it’s melted, charred, or hot, the breaker is bad, and you should no longer use it.
If it visually checks out, the next step is to test the breaker.
How Do I Test My Breaker?
To test your RV breaker, you can purchase an amp clamp meter to measure the number of amps it’s drawing. You want to make sure the circuit load is not exceeding the rating of the breaker. Open up your breaker panel and find the breaker that you are testing.
- Test lead holder on side of clamp and optional magnetic hanger...
- Non-contact voltage tester integrated into the clamp jaw
- High-visibility reverse contrast LCD display for improved view...
Use an amp clamp meter to measure the number of amps on one of the wires coming off the breaker. Turn on appliances to load the system; you can turn on your air conditioner or other appliances across various circuits. Add enough appliances or devices to increase the amount of electricity pulled, but make sure not to turn on more than the circuit’s maximum amp rating.
If your system is working correctly, you should be able to pull the rated number of amps. You know the RV breaker is bad if it trips below the maximum rating.
For GFCI breakers, there may be a ground fault in the system. You can test this by lifting the ground wire from the breaker. If it stays on but trips when the ground is reattached, there is a ground fault in your system, and the breaker is working properly. If it continues to trip, the breaker is bad.
Pro Tip: Before you hit the road, make sure you know Is It Dangerous To Use Outlets In An RV While Driving?
How Do You Wire an RV Breaker?
You can install a new breaker yourself or call an RV technician. If you install one yourself, use extreme caution and only proceed if you feel knowledgeable. Working with wiring and electricity poses a safety hazard. We want you to be as safe as possible to reduce the risk of fire and injury to you or your RV.
First, disconnect all power sources from the RV, including your batteries, shore power, and generator. Test and retest to make sure there is no power at the panel. We like to use a noncontact voltage detector to make sure the power is off.
Breakers snap into a bus bar at the back of the panel, so you will first need to open up the panel cover to access the breakers. Pull the breaker away from the panel on the opposite side of the wire to disconnect it. It may still be held in place but a firm pull with separate it the rest of the way. From there, a simple screw is all that is holding the wire on the breaker.
Replace the wire on the new breaker, then snap the breaker back in the place you pulled it from.
Pro Tip: Electrical work often requires a special set of tools. Here Are 21 Electrical Tools Every RVer Needs.
How Can You Prevent an RV Breaker Box From Tripping?
Your RV breaker box shouldn’t trip repeatedly. If it does, that’s a tell-tale sign you need to address a more significant issue. Maybe you’re routinely pulling too much power. In that case, we’d recommend printing off a handy Appliance Amperage Draw Chart or calculating your own that fits your RV’s power capacity.
If that doesn’t solve it, with some troubleshooting, breaker box testing, and possibly even a new distribution panel, we’re confident you can tackle this issue.
We recommend investing in a quality RV surge protector to prevent problems that might arise from faulty RV park electrical pedestals. Find out: What Is the Best RV Power Surge Protector?
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