Why Are Only Half The Outlets In My RV Working?
Nobody likes it when things aren’t working in their RV or travel trailer and outlets stop working for seemingly no reason all the time. The good news is this is a very common issue and there are a few things you can to troubleshoot and fix the outlet before giving up and calling an electrician.
Anytime you are working with electricity and outlets you want to be very careful. You need a safe way to test multiple outlets in your RV to see if they are receiving power or not. For electrical testing, there are a few affordable tools that are good to have on hand for all RV owners.
For instance, a Sperry Instruments Receptacle Tester is a good way to diagnose problems with the outlet itself and also test if there’s any voltage. A Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester is another simple tool used to quickly test for voltage in an outlet.
Using tools like these are safer and faster than trying to test for power on multiple outlets with something like a hairdryer. But sometimes you have to use what you have on hand and using something like a hairdryer to test for power does work. Just make sure you are being safe.
6 Ways To Troubleshoot An RV Outlet That Isn’t Working
1. Check The GFCI Outlet
Much like a home it’s common for multiple outlets to be wired on the same circuit in an RV and for many of those outlets to be GFCI outlets. A GFCI outlet is found most commonly in places like the bathroom, kitchen, and outdoor outlets. These outlets are the kind that have their own small breaker built-in. That way if any water gets on them and the current becomes uneven they can flip off immediately. Which is why they are used most commonly in bathrooms and areas where there might be water.
If an outlet stops working anywhere in your RV the first thing you should check is all the main GFCI outlet, usually found in the bathroom. This will be the one with the reset button. All you need to do is press the center reset button on the outlet case to reset it. This should get the other outlets working in your RV. Remember to check all the outdoor outlets as these are usually GFCI outlets as well. Even though it’s an outside outlet it could be connected to inside outlets as well.
Some GFCI outlets on RVs don’t have a little switch you can press. They are just labeled GFCI with a little sticker. These are controlled by the main GFCI outlet usually located in the bathroom.
2. Check The Main Breaker Box
The breaker box is another common reason for outlets not getting power in an RV. If the GFCI outlet was flipped that could mean a fuse has burnt or a breaker has flipped in the main box. Many RVs will have a 15 amp breaker switch specifically for the GFCI outlets and outlets connected to it. It can be labeled “outlets”, “GFCI”, or “GFI”.
If this breaker hasn’t been flipped then the problem is most likely the breaker on the main GFCI outlet.
3. Check The RV Inverter (if it has one)
Sometimes the breakers located on the outside of your RV’s inverter will have tripped. Make sure you check that as well. Also if you have a hardwired surge protector or a surge protector outside it may have switched off.
4. Check The Power Source
If you are plugged into power from a pedestal at an RV park or campground the breaker on this may have tripped as well. If you are running a generator it could have tripped and is running but not putting out any power. Either of these problems will be very noticeable because none of your outlets will be working.
5. Check The Outlet’s Wiring
If none of the above have worked then you are going to have to get a little more hands-on with the outlet itself. If you have multiple outlets that have gone out locate the main GFCI outlet that isn’t working, this will be the main source of your problems. If it’s just one outlet not working and all the others are fine you only need to open up the outlet that has stopped working.
Before taking the outlet out of the wall turn off the main breaker to the RV and unplug it from whatever power source you are using. I always go a step further and unplug my batteries for extra protection. You can never be too careful when messing with electricity.
Unscrew the outlet from the wall and check the wiring in the back. A very common issue is the grounding wire. It can sometimes come loose and cause the outlet to sop working. Check all the wires and make sure they are secured and have good, clean connections.
If it was the main GFCI outlet that had a bad connection fixing it should fix any other outlets that have gone out.
6. Replace The Outlet
The breakers in GFCI outlets can go bad if they get tripped over and over again. If it’s constantly tripping for no reason or won’t turn back on it may need to be replaced. You should be able to use any household GFCI 15 amp outlet like the Leviton GFCI Receptacle (click to view on Amazon).
Frequently Asked Questions About RV Outlets
How Do I Reset A GFCI or GFI Outlet In My RV?
To reset the GFCI or GFI outlet in your RV all you need to do is press the button in the center that says “Reset.” There is normally another button below it for testing the outlet but the reset button is almost always the top one. For the GFCI outlet to resect there needs to be power running to your RV. If there is no power going to the outlet it will not reset.
What is the difference between a GFCI and a GFI outlet?
While they are very closely related and do basically the same thing there is a difference between a GFCI and GFI outlet. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter outlet and GFI stands for ground fault interrupting outlet. The GFI outlet is normally the first outlet in a circuit and is the main one that protects all of the others. It’s also usually the one with the buttons.
In an RV the GFI outlet or breaker is the main one that all the other GFCI outlets are connected to. In my travel trailer, the breaker is labeled GFI and all of the outlets are labeled GFCI. Although the main GFCI outlet in the bathroom was labeled GFCI it is the main protected outlet and the one that resets the others, so technically it’s a GFI outlet.
Is a GFCI outlet supposed to trip before the breaker does?
A GFCI outlet will trip when there is a “ground fault.” A ground fault causes the current to rise or fall and is often a symptom of water or moisture in the outlet. In this case, the outlet will trip before the breaker does.
If you are trying to draw too much power from connected outlets and the breaker gets overloaded it will trip and the GFCI outlet will not.
What outlets have to be GFCI outlets in an RV?
All the outdoor outlets, bathroom outlets, and outlets close to the kitchen sink have to be GFCI outlets. This is because they are near a water source or outside and could get rained on.
Do GFCI outlets make noise?
There may be a low buzzing noise on some GFCI outlets but if it’s something you can hear all the time and seems louder than it should be you can try tightening the screws on the outlet plate. If this doesn’t fix it the outlet may need to be replaced as lots of noise could be an indication of a problem with the outlet.
Why is my GFCI outlet tripping with no load or appliances plugged into it?
The most common reason for a GFCI outlet tripping for no reason is a loose wire. The most common wire to come loose is the ground wire. Make sure all power is off to the outlet before unscrewing it from the wall and looking at the inner wiring.
Be very careful when doing any work on outlets and just because the bad outlet isn’t working that doesn’t mean the power to the wires is off. Turn off all the power to your RV or house before working on a bad outlet.
If there are no loose wires then the outlet is bad and needs to be replaced.
Have any more questions about fixing outlets in an RV or travel trailer? Leave a comment below.