An RV converter is a small electronic device that converts AC to DC power.
But what causes an RV converter to go bad? The most common reasons include overheating, short-circuiting, improper maintenance, and even corrosion.
Keep reading to learn more about these reasons and what you can do to prevent them.
Types of RV Converters
Before I discuss some of the most common problems of an RV converter, it is a good idea to distinguish between the different converter types. That way, you will know what each type does and how to properly maintain and prevent damage to it.
There are three main types of converters that you need to know: converter/charger, inverter, and power center.
The simplest form a converter can be manufactured in is a small metal box with electrical circuits inside. It has the necessary power connection outlets and safety fuses on the outside.
The main thing to know about these simple converters is that they convert AC to DC power. In other words, you plug a 110 or 120V power input into a converter, and it converts it into 12V DC power.
Then you use this power source to charge your RVs onboard batteries or appliances requiring DC power.
As you can see, the converter can also be a charger, but there is a difference between it and a standard battery charger.
A converter delivers a fixed voltage when charging a battery, while the charger provides different voltages depending on the battery’s state of charge.
Because it provides a continuous fixed voltage, there is a good chance that a converter can overcharge the batteries if left connected for too long.
An inverter is a type of converter that operates oppositely. It takes DC power from your RV’s batteries and transforms it into AC power, enabling you to use more power-demanding appliances such as a microwave, an oven, a hair dryer, etc.
In other words, an inverter takes 12V DC power and inverts it to 110-120 AC power. Physically, it has the same size and shape as a standard power converter.
A power center is a more sophisticated converter that provides reliability and power output consistency with minimal malfunctions.
It can combine a converter and an inverter technology and comes with multiple safety fuses and circuit breakers. You can think of a power center as the main electrical box which does every operation concerning power input and output in your RV.
Common Causes of RV Converter Failure
Overheating is a very common reason an RV converter can fail. Heat is one of the most dangerous enemies of electrical components. It can occur for one of the following reasons:
- You’ve been operating too many appliances at the same time
- Your converter doesn’t have proper ventilation
- Your converter is underpowered.
The first reason occurs when you operate too many appliances simultaneously. This overloads the converter, making it work harder to supply power to all of them, which causes it to overheat and fail.
Your converter can also overheat if not placed in a well-ventilated area. If it has an internal cooling fan that fails, there will be nothing to cool the converter, and it will overheat.
The third most common reason for overheating is when a converter is underpowered. This means that it cannot power even one or two devices simultaneously. Low-quality converters often have this issue.
Depending on the converter model, a short circuit can happen inside the unit or outside when one fuses short circuits. Higher-quality converters rarely short-circuit on the inside, so all you have to check is the condition of the fuses.
A short circuit in your converter can occur because of a sudden power surge from one of the appliances. When an appliance malfunctions and causes a short circuit, it sends a strong electrical current to the converter, causing one of the fuses to blow out.
If you have a power center with breaker switches, they will disconnect the power automatically when sensing a short circuit.
Poor maintenance can also cause a converter to fail.
Converters are prone to accumulating dust and debris, especially if they have an interior fan. The converter fan blows air with dust particles into the converter to keep it cool.
Those particles accumulate on the surface of the electrical components. That causes poor heat dissipation, leading to the unit overheating and failing.
Faulty wiring is often the reason why short-circuiting happens. When you wire the converter or the power center unit wrong, it will tend to short-circuit and blow a fuse.
If the power surge is too great, some power may go beyond the fuse and damage the converter’s internal components.
Corrosion is a less common problem of converter failure, especially in newer RV models. Nonetheless, corrosion is not a conductor of electricity, so even a tiny amount inside the converter unit can cause problems.
Corrosion often happens when the humidity of the air is high. This results in moisture entering the inside of the converter and creating corrosion on the electrical parts.
Maintenance and Prevention Tips
You can do several things to maintain your RV converter and prevent it from failing.
Check the wiring and connections regularly
If your converter is built-in inside a storage compartment in your RV, check on it from time to time.
Inspect the wiring for any damage or corrosion, and see if everything is connected correctly.
Also, ensure the wires coming out of the converter are not warm to the touch, as it may indicate an electricity overload. This can lead the insulation to melt and cause a short circuit.
Use a surge protector
I would also advise using a surge protector for any electronic equipment, including your RV converter.
A surge protector ensures that your devices are protected against power surges due to lightning strikes or short circuits. In other words, the surge protector accumulates most of the power surge, preventing it from going to your devices.
Ensure proper ventilation
Ensuring proper ventilation will keep your converter unit cool, significantly extending its lifespan. Ensure enough air circulation in the area where the converter is located.
You can also add an external fan to boost ventilation and keep the device as cool as possible.
Replace worn or damaged parts
When you inspect your converter and notice any suspicious or damaged parts, make sure to replace them immediately. That way, you prevent even further damage from happening to the device.
Always keep spare fuses with you, as they are often the first parts of a converter to fail.
Clean the converter often to prevent corrosion
Frequent cleaning is a big part of proper maintenance. Every piece of the electronic device requires cleaning, and the converter is no exception.
The ideal way to clean an RV converter is to disassemble it and vacuum the inside parts carefully with a vacuum cleaner. You should do this at least once a year.
If you don’t know how to take apart your converter, use a vacuum cleaner to clean the outside as much as possible. I would also advise using compressed air to blow out any dust or dirt inside the unit at this point.
Properly cleaning the converter will also prevent any inside or outside corrosion from forming.
The converter is one of the parts of an RV responsible for supplying power to all the other electrical units. Ensuring that it’s working properly and without any problems is vital.
Knowing what causes an RV converter to go bad is essential. That way, you can prevent and properly maintain it, extending its lifespan as much as possible.
In other words, if you take care of your RV, the RV will take care of you.