What is an RV Surge Protector?
A surge protector is a device that stops big voltage spikes or power surges.
By stopping these dangerous power increases surge protectors, also called surge guards, save electrical appliances and wiring from being damaged.
Related Product: Low voltage is a common RV park issue. Get an voltage booster surge protector combo like this one by Hughes Autoformers (click to view on Amazon)
RV surge protectors are made specifically for use in or outside of campers.
There are two main kinds, removable and hardwired.
Removable RV surge guards are plugged directly into the power outlet. Then the RV power cord is plugged into the surge guard.
Hardwired RV surge protectors are built into the RVs electrical system.
It’s really easy to tell if your RV is using a removable RV surge guard since they are a separate unit you have to plug in manually to use.
But the hardwired versions can be more difficult to identify since they are usually hidden somewhere inside the camper.
What Does a Built-in RV Surge Protector Look Like?
Hardwired RV surge guards are black boxes that are connected to the main power line in your RV.
They are usually pretty good sized, around 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.
Some have little wired remote displays that can be placed somewhere that’s easy to see. These displays can tell you the current voltage entering your RV and give you error codes or warnings.
Other kinds of built in RV surge protectors have the display screen on the unit itself. There are even Bluetooth surge guards that can send all the information you need right to your phone.
Popular Hardwired/Built-in RV Surge Protectors
30 Amp RV
50 Amp RV
Last update on 2024-02-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How to Find a Built-in RV Surge Protector
Since they’re hardwired to the main power line in an RV, it’s not always easy to tell if a camper has a surge protector.
Some of these models come with small LED screens you can place in a visible location.
If there is a small LED screen in your camper that has the name of a surge guard brand like Southwire, Hughes Autoformers, or Progressive Industries on it, it’s probably connected to a hardwired surge protector.
But not every RV surge guard has a remote screen, and the screen could be connected to nothing.
The best way to tell if your RV has a built in surge protector is to do some good old fashioned detective work and find the unit inside your camper.
Look Where the Power Cables Enters The RV
A properly installed RV surge protector is going to be somewhere between the RV plug and the RV converter/breaker box.
Depending on how accessible it is, the spot where the power cable first goes into the RV is a common place to wire a surge guard.
If you follow the power cable on the outside of your camper you can usually find the spot where it goes in.
If you go to that same spot inside your RV you can normally see a thick cable coming out of the wall.
I’ve seen these cables underneath bunks, next to water pumps, and behind dinettes.
It really depends on where the manufacturer decided to put the outside plug for the camper.
Once you find that cable you can start to follow it all the way to the breaker box/converter.
Look Behind the RV Converter/Breaker Box
If it’s accessible another popular spot to install an RV surge protector is directly behind the RV converter box.
In our motorhome, there’s a hinged door you can lift to access behind the converter.
In our old travel trailer, you could remove the vent cover under the RV fridge to see and access the back of the converter.
It’s going to be different in every camper. You want to find the main 30 or 50 amp power cable that leads from the converter to the outside of the RV.
Follow it as far as you can. If there’s a box wired into that cable chances are it’s an RV surge protector.
The box should have the information you need on it like the brand, protection rating, and more.
Some surge protectors only protect from surges, so they won’t have screens on them that tell you the voltage and warnings like a guard with an EMS will.
Why It’s Important to Know If Your RV Has a Built in Surge Protector
It’s recommended to always use an RV surge protector whenever you plug your RV into electricity.
You never know when a power surge could occur and if your RV is not protected there could be some costly damage done.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the wiring and appliances inside an RV.
If your RV doesn’t have a built in surge protector I recommend getting a removable one like this (click to view on Amazon).
Troubleshooting Loss of Power or RV Not Receiving Power
If your RV has a surge guard with an electrical management system it will do more than just protect from power surges.
It will also evaluate the power source you are plugging into and identify any potentially dangerous issues like reverse polarity, low voltage, high voltage, open or neutral grounds, and more.
If you plug in your RV and the appliances inside don’t start getting power the built in surge protector may have found an issue and cut the power.
We’ve had to move to a different site in an RV park before because our surge guard warned us about a miswired power pedestal.
It wouldn’t allow any electricity though so we moved to a site with a better power source.
It’s a fantastic feature but it can be confusing if you don’t know that your RV has a surge guard.
Generator Not Supplying Power to RV
Understanding generators can be an issue for RV surge protectors with an EMS.
Many generators have open grounds, which is fine, but surge guards often flag that as an issue.
That means an RV with a built in surge guard might not automatically work when plugged into a generator that isn’t grounded.
Luckily, there are ways around the grounding issue. You could do the work and ground your generator or you could try a grounding plug (click to view on Amazon).
Have any more questions about built in RV surge protectors and how to tell if your camper has one? Leave a comment below.