Are RV Lights Not Working When Plugged In

An RV or a motorhome needs a constant supply of electricity to power all the appliances, the lights, the heating, and other components throughout the vehicle. When you are moving, electricity comes from the engine and its rechargeable battery. But when the camper is stationary, the battery’s power alone is insufficient. 

What do you do? You park at a camping ground where they provide electricity. There you have access to round-the-clock electricity, allowing you to use all the lights, appliances, and motors at full capacity.

However, what happens when your camper is hooked to the grid and the lights are still not working? There must be something wrong with the electrical system. 

Here we will list all the reasons why the lights in your RV are not working. Moreover, we will give you solutions to each of the problems. 

So, without further ado, let’s begin! 

What can cause RV electrical failure? 

There can be multiple reasons affecting your RV. So to be sure, you must follow the right procedure. First, you diagnose the problem. Afterward, you cross off each cause that is irrelevant to the problem. Finally, you employ the best solution.

It is a lengthy procedure, but you have to be sure; hence it is necessary. 

Here are the leading causes of RV electric failure:

Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) Malfunction
Circuit Breaker Tripped
Light Fixture Malfunction
Ballast System Gone Bad
Wiring Issues
Switch Gone Bad
No Power From Source
Broken Fuse

We will take each solution from this list and state the solution for each. 

No Power from the Source
We will start with the most obvious reason, which should easily be ruled out in the first instance. If you are not plugged into the electricity source, nothing in your motorhome will work. No matter how many switches you flip or lights you change, they will work only when you have power running through the lines. 

How to Fix?

Well, you must first check the power cables and ensure that they are connected on both ends. Perhaps, you forgot to secure the connection, and the cable became loose and fell. Maybe, someone else removed the power cable accidentally. 

You must confirm that such a thing never happens again. But if the issue persists, you move on to other causes. 

Circuit Breaker Tripped
The circuit breaker is installed to protect the RV against any untoward incident. It is programmed to trip at a certain load or ampere rating. Whenever you put too much load on the system, like using too many appliances at once, and the load threshold passes above the defined limit; the circuit breaks, protecting you, the appliances, and the RV against harm.

Similarly, if a component is faulty or there is a surge of electricity through the system, the breaker trips. It is a small part, but it plays an integral role in any electrical system. 
Perhaps you were using a lot of appliances in your camper, and the lights went out suddenly. You checked everything and found no issue. Even the power cable is connected! 

That’s when you should check the circuit breaker.

How to Fix? 

All you need to do is reset the circuit breaker, and the electricity will come back. However, you must find the source of the problem and avoid repeating the mistake. Otherwise, you would have to reset the breaker every once in a while, and the RV would be in constant danger.

Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) Malfunction
The GFI is necessary for any electrical system, and that’s because it manages the current flowing through the wires. If there is any irregularity or fault in the system, the GFCI cuts the flow of electricity to protect the appliances, lights, and other electrical components. 

In other words, the GFCI measures the flow of current through the neutral side (current exiting the circuit) and then through the hot side (current entering the circuit). Then, the GFCI compares the two values and leaks any excess current to prevent shocks or damage. 

However, if the GFI has malfunctioned or tripped, you won’t be protected against electric shocks, and every component inside your RV would become dangerous. 

How to Fix? 

You can reset the GFCI breaker from the electrical outlet, but there are so many wires inside that an untrained person could get an electrical shock. Therefore, it is better to call a professional to do the job for you. The electrician will not only reset the breaker but will also check the integrity of this component to ensure smooth operation.

Light Fixture Malfunction
The light fixture is what holds the bulb in place and provides it with electricity. But if that goes bad, the bulb won’t respond, and the light won’t work. If it is the same in all the fixtures, there could be some other problem affecting the lights. But if only one light is not working, then the fixture could have become loose.

How to Fix?

Light fixtures have banged a buck and are easily available at your local hardware store. The only thing you need to keep in mind before purchasing one is that the one you replace matches the one you buy. The specifications, size, and quality should be similar. Otherwise, the new light won’t work or look odd among the cluster of others.

If the light has a battery, you might get away by simply replacing the cell.

Ballast System Gone Bad
Not all lights have a ballast system but those that do, depend on it dearly. The ballast manages the voltage so there is no fluctuation in the lights. If, by the odd chance, the ballast fails and the voltage surges, the light burns out. 

Is it better to have ballast? Well, if you go by its definition, the component is very useful, especially if you have installed high-intensity discharge lights in your RV. The HIDs require a precise amount of voltage or else they fail and they sometimes cause fires. Therefore, it is better to have ballast if you have such lights installed.

How to Fix? 

The fix is quick and easy. You might be able to do it yourself but it is better to consult an electrician as high-voltage is not man’s best friend. A professional will know their way around electricity and they’ll offer you the best solution. 

Wiring Issues
Faulty wiring can disrupt an entire electrical system. Therefore, you must replace or fix the wiring inside your RV at the first sign of damage. Perhaps, rodents chewed up the wiring looms, or over time with heat and exposure to the elements the wiring got destroyed. 

You don’t have to worry in such a case, but you do have to make haste; otherwise, there could be chances of developing a short circuit.

How to Fix?

Unfortunately, this is one thing that you can’t do yourself. No matter how much you try, you can never equal the experience level of a trained electrician. So, when you get this issue, call one. The electrician will either fix the damaged wiring or replace it entirely. If your RV is fairly new, a repair should suffice. However, if you are driving an old rust bucket, we would advise you to replace the entire electrical wiring inside your RV.

Switch Gone Bad
The light shines only after you flip the switch and electricity passes through to the bulb. If the switch isn’t working, the light won’t work as well. So, how do you diagnose if this is the issue plaguing your RV’s ceiling lights? 

You try to open and close the switch several times. If the switch works half the time and the other half it doesn’t, there is a problem with it.

How to Fix? 

You can call an electrician to change the switch in your RV. The component is cheap and takes hardly a couple of minutes to change. So, you won’t be emptying your pockets for something like this.

Broken Fuse
A fuse is designed to handle the load to a certain extent. If the ampere rating goes higher than the one defined on the fuse, it will break. Consequently, any switch, appliance, or light connected to that fuse would stop working.

How to Fix?

Locate the fuse in the fuse box, and search for the one that is broken. Replace all the broken fuses you can find, as they are fairly cheap and easily available anywhere. Moreover, keep some extra with you so that if the issue repeats itself, you can change the fuse again.

FAQ

RV lights can work for a limited amount of time on a light load by extracting power from the RV's battery.

Citations

https://www.doityourself.com/forum/pick-up-trucks-large-passenger-cargo-vans-campers-trailers-rvs-motor-homes/427545-camper-lights-wont-run-when-plugged-into-electric.html
https://www.rvforum.net/threads/interior-lights-not-working-while-plugged-into-ac-power.41420/
https://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/thread/tid/28877888/print/true.cfm
https://forum.rvusa.com/threads/rv-inside-lights-do-not-work-on-dc-battery-power-only-work-on-plugged-ac.13050/

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