Where Is The Circuit Breaker In My RV?
An RV is a great vacation choice in nearly any season, and can be a great home base for all kinds of campouts; even if you like a long hike through the countryside, your RV can bring all the comforts of coming home to your campsite each night without making you abandon your trek. It’s a cozy companion for trips of any size, whether you have decided to go solo for a while or want to bring the family or some friends along to share in your getaway.
By far the most important thing that an RV allows you to bring with you is the many utilities of your home. You can carry a shelter or food in your backpack, but things like running water or a full stove are only to be found in an RV. To be sure, a closed place to sleep is great as well, or else somewhere out of the hot sun during the daytime; after all, nobody likes getting stuck in the elements, and with an RV you don’t have to.
Mobility is another distinct advantage of the caravan, both at the campgrounds and during the off-season; getting a caravan from place to place requires little more effort than that you would expend to get there in a smaller car, and will allow you to bring more camping gear and supplies as well.
Combining the advantages of a car with a house has become an instant favorite with the campout community, and there are now campsites exclusively intended for those traveling in fifth wheelers; these sights often include a number of predetermined stations with a hookup for electricity, propane, and running water at each, ready to link to the many internal workings of the fifth wheeler the moment it rolls up. When an external hookup is connected, the onboard reservoirs of fuel or water are bypassed and the trailer’s utilities run directly off of the grid hookup, conserving supplies and keeping the fifth wheeler ready to leave as soon as needed without needing to wait for the water or gas to refill.
In some RVs, the power lines will connect to two different currents, one AC and one DC; the AC one runs smaller electrical outlets throughout the vehicle, and the DC one runs the heavier loads like a washing machine, air conditioner, or electric oven. Depending on the model of the RV, either or both of these may be replaced by an external hookup while at the campsite, so make sure to check the manual for your RV to know what is safe to plug into which outlet.
Depending on how big of a party you brought with on any given outing, you might find that your RV’s electronics cannot provide enough charge to all the outlets drawing on them; aside from the usual or permanent appliances, hooking up too many mobile phones or laptop computers can reduce the amount of charge in the system to the level where it cannot function properly.
An electronics error might happen without your help too; you might find fluctuations in the grid that they are hooked up to, or that one of the appliances has simply become defunct during the offseason. The car half of the camper could be at fault as well, even though the house half is by far the more common culprit; your camper’s car half is home to its own complicated electronics system and can easily affect the power inside the house part or to the many plugs and outlets that frequent the walls of an RV inside and out.
As the owner of both the car and house and as someone with both accompanying you on your camping trips, it is vitally important that you be able to fix this kind of small problem yourself. Even in town, the time and expense of taking a car to a mechanic can be such that you would rather do it yourself; when working out of a campsite, there is no professional assistance anywhere around, and you are relying on your RV in an immediate sense for a number of things as long as you are in the field.
Although a tad worn from use, the phrase ‘safety first’ applies here as well – there should be no work done on your electronics by you or anyone else unless without a few basic precautions. Among these precautions is the wearing of nonconductive mechanics gloves when handling the power source and a thorough knowledge of the motorhome in question.
In the house part, at least, the next step for safety is the same thing you would do if you were back at home – seek out and deactivate the appropriate switch on the circuit breaker to ensure that there is no power to that part of the system at all. This is a sound policy even if the circuit in question is switched off from a wall switch or the load on the circuit is powered down; an extra opening in the circuit ensures that no one person can accidentally contact the two halves of the circuit and allow it to conduct thorough their bodies.
To manipulate the circuit breaker, though, you’ll need to get to it, and getting to it starts with finding the thing – the circuit breaker in your motorhome can be shaped differently than you are used to, and unlike your house, will not be located in your basement or garage. Additionally, it will almost certainly be secreted in the walls of the motorhome in a way that an ordinary residential breaker never is; where a house might have plenty of room for a large, boxy circuit breaker, a camper needs everything to be as narrow and compact as possible, and so will have a miniature circuit breaker slender enough to conceal inside your motorhome.
Check the owner’s manual first to see if the position is marked or described anywhere inside; while this is not always the case, it is a simple starting point and can very easily spare you the trouble of checking anywhere else for the circuit panel. Keep in mind that the manuals are often mass printed and inserted into cars as they are sold, so you may be looking at a manual with several different variants of your camper displayed; make sure you choose the right one before trying to find the circuit breaker with it.
Wherever it is, the breaker in your camper is almost certainly covered by an unobtrusive piece of plastic the same color as the surroundings known as the breaker cover. This piece at once protects the fuses and switches inside from getting dirty and damaged and serves to make the walls of the camper look more uniform and aesthetically pleasing; once you have found the breaker cover, you may want to mark it to help you find it again next time something goes down in your caravan.
Two of the most common places for the breaker panel to be are the floor of the RV or in one of the outside compartments, such as those used to hold the water tank or the onboard propane supply. If yours has it outsides the vehicle, either positioned alone or in one of the compartments, make certain that you retain both the breaker cover and any screws or sealant that had been holding it on; these create the tight seal needed to keep the elements and wildlife out while you are camping and should be preserved if at all possible.
Inside the RV, look for things like a cutout in the floor or a ring that lets you lift the breaker cover away from the panel beneath with greater ease. It will likely be in an out-of-the-way place such as under a bed or behind a door, as the breaker cover is rarely as strong as the rest of the floor and it is neither able nor intended to take the weight of a person on a regular basis.
If your manual indicates that the breaker is on the wall somewhere, you should once again be on the lookout for unexplained handouts or small cutouts or door hinges in an otherwise unremarkable wall panel. If possible, use something that you will recognize but that no one else will notice to mark the breaker cover, or write down the location on a separate piece of paper.
As a rule, you should only be opening the breaker if something has gone wrong with your electrical system, but there are a few things you can do in the circuit breaker during the offseason that might prevent such mishaps. Some basic maintenance guidelines include replacing blown or corroded fuses, and not leaving the battery either fully charged or connected to the system; either state can lead to the surfeit of energy in the battery seeping out too quickly to stay useful once it’s time to go camping again.
You can also inspect the loads at the other ends of the circuits; after all, it’s usually the appliance that causes the shorts. Keeping them shipshape can be the best way to make sure nothing goes awry.