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How To Clean RV AC Coils

RV AC that needs to be cleaned - feature image for How To Clean RV AC Coils
You’ll need to know how to clean RV AC coils to keep your air conditioner in good condition. Photo: Shutterstock

A Guide To Cleaning RV AC Coils

When was the last time you cleaned your RV AC coils? AC maintenance is key for a cool, trouble-free RV trip. Here’s how to clean RV AC coils.

What are RV AC coils?

One of the most important parts of the RV AC unit are the thin, fragile fins on a series of winding coils. This is where the heat exchange takes place and allows cool air to be returned to the RV.

There are actually two separate components that have coils and fins to be maintained. The evaporator and the condenser both look like small radiators and use finned coils to move and cool liquid and gas through the RV AC system.

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Damage to the coils resulting in a leak could spell the end of your AC unit, so it is important to stay on top of your AC maintenance. The coils require a quick inspection and cleaning, and it’s an easy job to do yourself.

How to access RV AC coils

The AC unit is located on the roof of your RV, so this job will require climbing up onto your RV. Always be cautious when climbing onto and working on the roof of your RV. Don’t try to climb and carry things at the same time. Have someone hand them up, or use a bucket and rope to hoist your tools and cleaning supplies.

In order to access the AC coils, you will need to remove the plastic cover. The cover is usually two pieces and held in place with regular Phillips-head (star) screws.

Under this cover is a great place for bees to make a nest, so be cautious when removing. There isn’t much room to run from bees on the roof of an RV.

With the cover removed, you will have a clearer view of the coils to be cleaned. The condenser fins will be visible and easily accessible. The evaporator unit is usually covered with a styrofoam cover that is just resting in place. This can be removed by simply lifting it off. In some cases, this cover may be plastic or metal and also screwed in place.

Below the evaporator coils, you will notice an opening in the roof. This is open to the inside of your RV where warm air is drawn out. You may want to cover this opening when cleaning to prevent anything, including water, from entering the RV.

Inspection and maintenance

When you remove the cover, closely inspect all the fins, and look for any bent or damaged ones. The fins are used for cooling and work best when they are straight and unobstructed. An AC fin straightening tool is very helpful for straightening any bent fins.

While flat screwdrivers, knives, and any thin flat objects can be used, it is best to use the proper tool. The fins are easily damaged, so plastic fin combs are the best option.

The coils themselves are tricky to inspect fully as they are covered in fins. Check the connection locations for signs of leaks as this is the most likely location for problems.

Since you are right there, spin the fan and make sure it spins freely and without any unusual noise. Knowing how to clean RV AC coils is only part of your AC maintenance.

How to clean RV AC coils

The cleaning process itself is pretty simple. If done regularly, it should mostly just be dust and loose debris that needs to be cleaned off. However, if left longer or if the RV is exposed to trees and more road debris, a more thorough cleaning may be needed.

You can use a scrub brush and gently brush away any dust and loose debris that has collected between the fins. Compressed air can also be used if you have access to a compressor. Small compressed air cans are also available but don’t last very long, so multiple cans may be needed if you decide to use them.

There are RV AC coil cleaners available for use, and they are readily available and cheap. They are a great way to remove any stuck-on grime. The spray-on foam easily contacts the tight spaces between the fins, and most are spray-on, no-rinse formulas.

Another simple way to do a deeper clean is to use soap and water and your scrub brush. Dish detergents are safe to use and have some grease-cutting properties. Be careful not to bend the fins and prevent water from leaking into the RV under the evaporator unit.

Everything you can do to maintain your RV will save you time and money. Knowing how to clean RV AC coils is just the start. If you are making a trip onto the roof, it’s the best time to check out the rest of the unit for any other AC problems. Our Complete Guide To Repairing Your RV AC Unit will help with further issues.

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance from RV LIFE. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.


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