RV and Camper Rooftop Air Conditioner Maintenance, Troubleshooting, and Repair
Camper Trailer and Motorhome RV AC Servicing
Since the majority of motor homes, camper trailer, or RV A/C systems are used during the hottest time of the year, it is a must to keep them in good operating order. Merely cleaning and replacing the filter is not good enough to maintain your RV AC in tip-top condition.
There are certain procedures for guaranteeing the maximum efficiency of your motorhome or camper trailer A/C unit. These steps are not as difficult to perform as you might think and will save you money and inconvenience as well.
Cleaning the condenser and evaporator annually will make a huge difference in the cooling ability of the motorhome or camper trailer RV unit. Lubricating the A/C fan motor may help extend the life and performance of the unit itself.
You will also learn a little about how these RV cooling units differ from regular household units by following the tips in this article. Be sure and check the many actual questions and answers in the comments at the bottom of this page to find a problem similar to yours if the info in not found in the main text.
Gaining Access To The RV AC Unit
Keeping Your AC Cool
Brands and Models of Rooftop RV AC Units
There are several main producers of rooftop units. Coleman RV air conditioners are common on many of the best equipped motorhomes and camper trailers. The same can be said for Carrier AC units, as well as Duo Therm A/Cs. Dometic made one of the first rooftop air conditioners, as well as, camper refrigerators and ice machines.
Thankfully, all of these units are similar in function and design. Some of these cooling units may even be identical under the shroud.. Being familiar with household AC units will aid you greatly in servicing and repairing your air condition system, but there are a few differences as you will see.
Troubleshooting RV AC Units
Before beginning any repair or maintenance step, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the main components of the rooftop AC unit itself. A fan motor circulates the air from the interior of the motorhome or camper trailer through the RV AC unit where it is cooled and then returned into the RV interior.
The compressor performs the job of circulating the Freon through the condenser and evaporator coils cooling fins and the cycle is repeated as the thermostat setting deems it necessary.
Both the compressor and the fan motor use capacitors to provide a high voltage charge to get them moving and a lesser charge to keep them running.
Often, only one capacitor is used for both fan and compressor. It the capacitor goes bad, neither the fan nor the compressor will start. This part is easily replaced and is not very expensive to purchase in most cases.
Rooftop A/C Shroud
Rooftop RV AC Shroud Removal
In order to clean or repair the RV AC unit, it is necessary to remove the shroud from atop the unit. Ordinarily this is a simple job requiring only a Phillips screwdriver or small wrench. Remove the four screws or nuts from the AC shroud and carefully slide it up off of the unit.
If the shroud is old, it may be cracked around the retaining screws or the vent holes on the sides and back. Now is the time to repair the bad spots before replacing the shroud.
A good quality epoxy cement, or other glue made for plastic repairs, should be used to reinforce the weak or broken place before replacing the shroud. It is also advisable to use wider washers on the shroud retaining screws to prevent further cracking.
If the damage seems too bad to repair, a new RV shroud may be the only option. A broken RV A/C shroud will decrease cooling efficiency plus pose a danger of flying off while the camper is in transit .
Accessing the Fan Motor and Fans
Servicing and Repairing the RV A/C Fan Motor
With the shroud removed, it is easy to inspect the fan motor for any repairs or maintenance needed. Before doing any repairs or maintenance to the rooftop RV AC be sure to turn the electrical breaker off or unplug the motorhome or camper trailer from the electrical power source. The starting capacitor may be still charged with high voltage, so be sure not to touch it with the bare hands.
The fan should spin easily when turned by hand. Even so, it is a good idea to oil the bearings and clean the accumulated debris from both front and rear fan blades. It may be necessary to loosen the fan motor from its mountings to fully access both ends of the motor bearings.
If the RV fan motor has oil tubes to lubricate the fan, then simply put a few drops of machine oil in the tubes on either end of the motor. If the motor has sleeves instead of ball bearings, you may still dribble a small amount of oil on the sleeves where they contact the fan motor shafts. Even a small amount of oil will do wonders for these types of fan motors.
If the AC fan motor still seems to start slowly or needs a nudge to start working, it is recommended that you replace it with a new one. If the fan motor has oil tubes evident on each end of the motor, it may be rebuilt and replaced for much less than buying a new one. It all depends on the particular unit on your camper.
If either the fan motor or compressor fails to start a new starting capacitor may solve the problem. Be sure to order the right size and voltage for your rooftop unit. These capacitors may be found at your local AC parts dealer or you may find them online for greater savings. Be careful when handling these capacitors as they may still hold some electrical charge.
This Condenser Needs Cleaning
Cleaning the RV AC Condenser and Evaporator
It is recommended that you clean the condenser and evaporator fins every couple of years to maintain the efficiency of your RV air conditioner. Eventually, the cooling fins on these units will become clogged with dirt and dust.
Use a good spray or foaming cleaner, such as those shown here, to loosen the debris and then use a wet/dry shop vac to remove the loosened dirt and dust. Be sure to cover the vent leading down into the interior to keep the grime from seeping down inside.
Be careful not to bend these fine fins as they will bend easily. A special fin comb tool made just for straightening these fins may be purchased from an RV AC parts dealer or through links on this page. Once again, be careful when performing this maintenance procedure.
Bent fins inhibit the flow of air through the unit, so be sure to keep them as straight as possible using the fin comb. You may need to use a fin straightening tool to align any bent fins in the evaporator or condenser coils.
Oh No! Not A Bad Compressor
RV AC Compressor Repair or Replacement
The most costly and difficult part of an RV AC unit to replace or repair is the compressor. In many cases it is advisable to simply replace the unit instead of trying to replace the compressor. With a new unit costing about $500 to $600, spending $300 to $400 dollars for compressor replacement doesn’t make much sense.
The labor involved, plus the prohibitive cost of the compressor, can almost pay for a new RV rooftop unit. These units are very easily replaced and will have a new warranty to cover future repairs for a few years. This is usually the correct option when the compressor goes bad.
The alternative is to find a used compressor. Unless you are skilled in replacing the compressor and are able to recharge the unit with freon, this is not advisable. This step is entirely up to your skills and pocketbook. There are used RV A/C parts available online and locally in some cases.
FAQS about RV AC Repairs
Be sure and check the many questions and answers in the comment section below. Feel free to ask a question if you don't see a similar question and answer, or simply ask the question if you don't have time to peruse all of the comments.
If you've encountered a strange problem and/or solution, please leave a comment below so others may learn from it. Thanks for any advice you may have to offer too! Thanks for relating any odd problem with your camper A/C and or the solution.
Now, Enjoy Your Camping Trip
If properly maintained and serviced, your motorhome or camper trailer A/C will last for many years of camping excursions. Most maintenance can be performed by the owners if they have basic mechanical skills. Understanding how an AC unit works may just save that camping trip you have been looking forward to for so long.
Be careful and take photos of the unit before removing any parts which may cause confusion during reassembly. Be sure to protect the roof of your RV while servicing your rooftop unit. Good luck with your repairs and maintenance.