RV refrigerators are a boon when you’re boondocking and a must-have at any campground. As long as they are doing their job, then you can relax.
To troubleshoot a tripping breaker on your RV fridge, check the circuit, the shore power connection, and the propane system to ensure they’re functional. You may find simple issues like loose connections or more serious ones like poor leveling or electrical faults that need professional attention.
I’ve been a fan of the great outdoors for decades, and while facilities have improved over the years, there are still issues that raise their head from time to time, so here’s my guide to help you solve most fridge problems.
1. Check if the RV Fridge Circuit is Overloaded
An RV fridge will often pull more than 50 amps on start-up, dependent upon the size and model of the appliance. As most campground pedestal supplies are rated at between 30 and 50 amps, this could be your problem.
I will check the campground pedestal to see if its breaker has tripped too. If it has, then the first part of the fix would be to turn off all the other 120V appliances. Two air conditioning units will max out 30 amps straightaway, and microwaves must be on their own breaker.
After resetting the campground pedestal breaker, try turning the fridge back on. That should sort out most issues. Nine times out of ten, this will solve all my campground power problems.
2. Ensure Your RV Shore Power Connection is Functioning
A broken or wet power plug will also cause my RV fridge breaker to trip, shorting out the power before it gets as far as the RV. If it is in good shape, I ensure it is properly connected to the pedestal and isn’t loose.
Turn off the site breaker and check the power cord for damage. It might have been run over, had something dropped on it, or rodents could have made a meal while it was in storage. If you find any damage, then get it replaced as soon as possible.
In my early days with an RV, mice were always causing problems while the vehicle was in storage. One spring break, I found sticks and straw in the tailpipe where some little fella had decided to make their nest.
3. Check if The RV Fridge Propane System is Working Properly
If I find that the connection is all good and the fridge breaker is still tripping, then the next question is whether the propane propellant system is working properly. Should the fridge not be down to temperature, it could be trying to pull more than its fair share of the current.
I advise running the fridge on propane for two or three hours before switching to electric. If the electrical system does not need to work as hard, it will draw less power from shore and will likely not trip the breaker again.
4. Get Your RV Fridge Running in the Right Mode
Many RV fridges have an automatic management system that will switch between modes when shore power is detected. But sometimes, these systems can develop a bug and make life complicated.
Turn the fridge onto the propane system and check that the management system displays the correct mode. If I discover an electrical fault, I may have to override the automatic setting to keep the fridge working.
5. Check if You Need To Change Out Your RV Fridge Breaker
RV breakers work just the same as home domestic breakers. If they do trip regularly, they can become more sensitive to the current and trip at lower loads than originally rated.
This increased sensitivity is especially true for campground pedestal breakers and is no different from RV breakers. You could invest in an amp clamp meter and test the breaker yourself. If it trips well below the original rating, then yes, it’s time to swap it out for a new one.
6. Look For Simple Causes Like a Loose Connection
It could well be that while on the road, a wire might have come loose behind the fridge where the cooling system is set. I’d remove the inspection panels and look at all the electrical connections.
If I see something, I will always check if the power is not connected before attempting a repair. Make sure that when a connection is remade, it is secure and not likely to drop out the first time you drive over a hole in the road.
7. Try Resetting The RV Fridge to Factory Settings
The reset switch is usually found inside the fridge itself, either inside the door panel or high up on one inside wall. With the fridge turned onto the propane setting so it doesn’t trip the breaker, push the reset button and wait.
With all the tripping and changeovers, the system could have become confused, so starting it back up from factory settings might just do the trick and stop the breaker from tripping.
8. Ensure That The RV Fridge Is Level
The question of whether an RV is level comes up, again and again, concerning fridges. Some folks say you should level the fridge first, not the RV, but if your fridge has been installed as badly as that, wow!
Of course, it’s important for the RV and the fridge to both be level, and if you are parked on a slope, this could contribute to the problem. However, if you have followed me this far down the list, it’s time to start thinking the worst.
9. Finally, Check For More Serious Electrical Faults
After checking all the potential issues, if you find that your fridge is still tripping, you’re likely dealing with more serious issues. Either the electrical heating system has broken down, or there is an issue with the RV control board. The wiring between the breaker and the fridge could also be a problem.
I would call an engineer to test the circuit and the appliance in this situation. I will likely need to start saving up for a new fridge.
Remember, your breakers are there to protect you. When working on or inspecting an electrical system that you may suspect is faulty, please remember to shut off all electrical connections.
If in doubt, call a qualified RV electrical technician to check your vehicle, its appliances, and its connections so you can safely continue enjoying the great outdoors.
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Simon Kellow is a master carpenter with over thirty-five years of experience in carrying out home renovations while running construction projects large and small. When he’s not in the office or fixing something in the workshop you can find him enjoying the great outdoors with his family.