Unlike camping decades ago, almost all RVs have at least one air conditioner.
Often they have two—or even three.
Yes, air conditioners are mostly self-sufficient, but annually you should give them a good look to make sure all is well. Depending on where and when you travel, you’ll want—and need—your air conditioners operating at peak efficiency. After all, a winter spent boondocking in Quartzsite wouldn’t be a fun experience.
Outside maintenance on your RV air conditioner
Get yourself a ladder, and being careful where you step on the roof, give your A/C an up close and personal inspection.
Make sure that the plastic cover over the A/C is in good condition, and doesn’t have any cracks or splits in the plastic.
Not only does this cover provide a streamlined and semi-attractive appearance to the appliance, it serves another very important purpose. It helps keep rainwater and snow from getting into the workings of the air conditioner, which would greatly shorten its functioning lifespan.
Wind, rain, and debris take their toll
The outer plastic cover might get damaged over time due to the harmful chemical interactions of the sun’s U/V rays, or physical trauma from being struck by low hanging branches at your favorite boondocking campsite.
Over a period of years, the effect of ultraviolet rays from the sun will actually weaken the plastic shroud to the point it may completely fall apart into pieces.
New shrouds can be purchased online, and you might consider obtaining a high-quality replacement so that you only have to buy it once.
Look for leaks and water intrusion
While you are on the roof, check that the air conditioner is securely mounted. There is a foam rubber gasket between the A/C and the roof. If the mounting is loose, rainwater may find its way into your RV, often with disastrous consequences.
When water enters your camper, it will likely follow roof rafters and wall framing and come out somewhere you would least expect. Often you’ll think the leak started in another location, and would never figure to check the integrity of the gaskets around your RV’s air conditioner.
If the water damage becomes severe enough, you could be faced with having to repair your RV’s wood flooring.
Fins should be straight
Check the condition of the cooling fins too. Bent-over vanes will restrict air flow through the unit and greatly reduce the air conditioner’s cooling ability. If you have bent fins, you can use a comb or dull knife to straighten them out. Do be gentle because if you puncture the condenser tubes you have just turned your air conditioner into a boat anchor!
RV air conditioners are single use
Did you know that when your air conditioner ages to the point it isn’t cooling, it becomes scrap metal? RV air conditioners are not designed to be recharged, and all but the simplest repairs are not economical. About the only part you can replace is the starting capacitor for the compressor motor.
What causes the capacitor to fail?
Trying to run the A/C on an electrical circuit rated for less than 30 amps.
Using a 15-amp reducer plug is like putting a choke hold on your RV’s air conditioner. You will get a low voltage condition—called a brownout. When the A/C can’t get its required amperage, it heats up and will eventually destroy itself.
Some large motorhomes and trailers will have two air conditioners powered through one 30-amp power cord. This type of setup will cycle one A/C on, and when it comes off, the cooling cycle will switch the compressor on for the other A/C.
This way, instead of requiring an even heavier power cord rated for 50 amps, the RV’s A/C system can function well with just a 30-amp power supply.
Part of your annual inspection should include running both A/C’s and verifying that proper load sharing occurs.
You don’t want to make it out west, with temps approaching 100° Fahrenheit, only to realize one of your A/Cs isn’t working properly.
Once you have inspected the outside of your air conditioning system, it’s time to go inside.
Make sure to inspect your air conditioner from inside the rig.
Under the plastic shroud on the ceiling of your RV, you’ll find one or two foam filter elements.
These can be washed with warm soapy water and reused.
While you have the shroud off you should vacuum the area, trying to clean as far into any ductwork as possible.
Though there are a couple different brands and models of RV air conditioners, maintenance, and annual care is pretty much the same for all of them.
None of them will last long trying to run them without adequate amperage to their power supply.
If you are using a portable generator, you need to have one that is rated for a minimum of 3,000 watts.
All brands of air conditioners are mounted to the roof in similar ways, and like with most things “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Remember, most RV air conditioners aren’t rechargeable. When they fail, they are pretty much junk. The best you can do is maintain them properly and hope they have a nice, long life.
Give your A/C power a boost
The power requirements of today’s modern camping family are much higher than they were a decade or two ago. New appliances, multiple flat-screen televisions, and a dozen USB devices that need charging can tax the power system of your RV.
This additional power draw can make it tough to start the A/C, which has a large initial power requirement to get going, but once running is very manageable.
You can solve this issue and make it easy for your air conditioners to power on by installing a SoftStartRV A/C soft starter on every A/C unit. Whether you have one A/C unit running on a portable generator, two units trying to run on 30-amps, or three air conditioners running on 50-amps, a soft starter will help you.
An A/C soft starter device like those made by SoftStartRV reduces the startup demand required by your air conditioner by as much as 70%. This means you can start two A/C units on just 30-amps.
For big rigs with three air conditioners, you can easily start all three A/C units on 50-amp power, when using your generator while boondocking, or on a long, hot drive. You can find SoftStartRV soft starters at https://www.softstartusa.com/rvlife.
Track your maintenance
Keep track of all your A/C maintenance with an online tool such as Maintain My RV. Not only can you keep all your maintenance records and documents in one place, you’ll receive timely reminders via email when maintenance is due, and potentially avoid a costly repair due to lack of maintenance.
Whether you have a small camper or large class A motorhome, Maintain My RV can keep track of it all. Keeping accurate maintenance records also increases your resale value, should you ever decide to do so.