Check the Outside
You will need to climb up on the roof, being careful where you step, and inspect it carefully. 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 rain water and snow from getting into the workings of the air conditioner, which would greatly shorten its functioning life span. Wind, Rain, and Debris Take Their Toll!
The outer plastic cover might get damaged over time due to the harmful the chemical inractions of the sun’s U/V rays, or physical trauma from being struck by low hanging branches. (These ultraviolet rays can actually weaken the plastic shroud to the point that it completely falls apart).
Look for Leaks and Water Intrusion
While you are on the roof, check to see 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, rain water may find its way into your RV, which can lead to considerable damage.
Be aware that when water enters your RV, it will more than 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.
Fins Should Be Straight
You should also check the condition of the cooling fins. If bent, these can 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, being gentle so as not to puncture the condenser tubes.
Did You Know? RV Air Conditioners Are Single Use
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, you might ask. Trying to run the A/C on an electrical circuit rated for less than 30 amps is oneUsing 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 brown out. 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.
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 too. Under the plastic shroud on the ceiling of your RV you’ll will find one or two foam filter elements; you can wash them with warm soapy water. While you have the shroud off you should vacuum the area, trying to clean as far into any ductwork as possible.
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 jto have one that is rated for a minimum of 3,000 watts.
And please remember, most RV air conditioners are not 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.
A special thank you to DOITYOURSELF RV writer Curtis Carper for all of his helpful tips!