Winter is a time for celebrations and spending time with your family, with the festive season creeping up and students are back at home for winter break. The sights on the road can be magnificent when it snows, and you definitely do not want to miss out on them. In your trips on your RV during these colder months, I am sure you do not want to be shivering in the freezing winds.
Your RV is a second home, and a heater will come to great use to keep you and your travel buddies warm and snuggly- a safe abode away from the harsh elements outside. However, as with all electronic appliances, these RV heaters are not infallible, and sometimes you might simply find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with a faulty heater that is not doing anything to raise those temperatures up.
Before you resign to uncomfortable, freezing nights huddled under the thickest blankets you can find, fret not and read on, as we will be sharing more about how you can remedy this problem and get that heater back to work again.
Understanding how your RV heater operates
Before you start meddling with that malfunctioning RV heater, it will be good to get a better understanding of how the RV heater actually operates. When you switch your trusty RV heater on, and raise the thermostat to a higher temperature, the furnace blower in the RV heater will be tuned on after approximately 30 seconds. The furnace blower must be given this time to start up and run before the burners fire up.
Typically, the burner will operate on a cycle, turning on and off while the furnace is running. Depending on what temperature the heater is set at, when the temperature inside the RV reaches the desired set temperature, the burner will be turned off. The blower will continue to run a little while after that before it also turns off.
For modern RV heaters, the only controls you will have are usually the thermostat where you can turn the heater on and set your desired temperature. Note that some thermostats have a dual use of controlling both the RV heater and the air conditioner.
How do you know if there is something wrong with your RV heater?
The first step you should take would be to ensure that the thermostat has been turned to the heating function. Many thermostats now control both the RV heater and the air conditioning unit, so the reason why you are feeling cold might not actually be a fault in the RV heater. The air conditioning might simply have been tuned on instead of the heating. Also, do not mistake the blower turning on and off as a fault in your RV heater. That is perfectly normal as they work in cycles to maintain a constant temperature in your RV. Do not be too impatient in getting your heater to start too, as they will usually require about 30 seconds to start blowing heated air out of it.
While weird smells are never a good thing, do not panic if there is an odd burning odour coming from your RV heater when you are first turning it on. This is especially so if you have not been turning on the heating in your RV for a long time. Your newly purchased RV heater might even give off a small amount of smoke, but this is expected and should not immediately send you into thinking that your RV heater is no longer working.
A quick tip here will be to run the RV heater when you first get it new from the stores to get rid of that initial burning smell and smoke. Your RV heater might also start to give off a musky smell if you first turn it on after not using it for a long time, so let it run first before getting on with your RV adventures. While an initial burning smell is nothing to worry about, if the smell does not go away after a while, it will probably be a good idea to do some checks. Make sure that there is nothing obstructing the heater exhaust outside of your RV.
Find out what the problem is and start tackling it
RV heater repair is not always too complicated for the average RV user to tackle, and you will stand a shot at bringing it back to work without calling a professional down. Start by looking for the problem before deciding which approach to take in repairing it.
- If the pilot light is out
If you find the pilot light of your RV heater not lighting up, it might be due to a few problems. First, check the propane tank to make sure that it is tuned on, and that there is still propane in that tank. After making sure that all that is in place, but the light is still out, check the propane regulator. Head to the kitchen in your RV and turn on the stove burner. Watch out for the colour of the flame produced.
The flame should be blue, or with a bit of yellow in it. If the colour of the flame produced is consistent, it is an indicator that the propane regulator is not faulty. If the colour of the flame constantly changes, there might be something wrong with your propane regulator, and it will need to be replaced. This is not something you will want to ignore, as it can also affect your hot water heater, making bath time a lot less pleasant!
Besides that, also take a quick check on your thermocouple. If the thermocouple is misaligned, it can stop the pilot light from staying lit. Ensure that the thermocouple is positioned properly in the pilot flame, and adjust it if it is not. If it is broken, it is time to get another one at the stores to replace it.
Another possible problem might be with the furnace vent. Blockages in the furnace vent might also result in the pilot light not being lit, as it requires oxygen to burn. With a blockage, oxygen will not be able to reach it, and it will not be lit up. A good place to start looking for obstructions will be at the vent opening, as that is where most obstructions will be found.
- The fan does not run but the furnace is still producing heat
If your RV heater is still keeping the RV toasty, but the fan has stopped running, there are a few different places that you can check. Since the heater is still producing heat, the problem probably does not lie with the propane, so you can skip checking that. The thermostat, however, can be the reason why the fan is not running. Double check the settings on it to make sure that they are correct. If all is in place, remove the cover and take a look at the anticipator adjustment.
The anticipator adjustment usually has a sliding contact over wither a bare wire or has a bare wire wrapped around an insulating material. Now that you have found the anticipator adjustment, adjust the slider in both directions, making sure not to move it too fast. Wait for a minimum of 30 seconds in each position, and listen for any sounds indicating that the fan is kicking start again.
If you hear it, move the slider to a place near its original position where the fan will still work, and put the cover back on. If this method does not work, you might have to look into getting a new thermostat to replace the faulty one.
Another thing you can examine is the wiring to the fan of your RV heater. Any shorts or frayed wires might be the source of the problem. To be safe, make sure that you disconnect your RV heater from the electrical power source completely before poking around the wires.
You do not want to suffer from a nasty electric shock on your trip, especially if you are in the middle of nowhere. Search for the fan in your RV heater, and from there trace the wiring from it until you have thoroughly checked through everything, or until you have found the problem. Here is where it gets a bit tricky, as it is a bit challenging to get the RV heater open enough to get to the wiring in it.
Even after finding the problem with the wires, it might be a struggle for you to replace it completely if you are not trained in this. If you are not confident, get a professional down to help as you definitely do not want to make the problem worse.
- The fan is running but the heater is not producing any heat
The RV heater has an internal sail switch. This prevents it from igniting if there is insufficient air flowing through for combustion to take place. This makes it possible for the vent to work but for the heater to not generate any heat at the same time. To remedy this, check the battery to make sure that it is functioning well. Most RV heaters require at least 10.5 volts DC to function, and this can be checked at its module board with the use of a multimeter.
Then, make sure that the electrical connections to the blower’s motor is all in place, as without sufficient electricity running through it, the blower cannot produce sufficient force to trip the sail switch. Make sure that the wires are not frayed. Insufficient air flow can also be a result of poor ventilation, and it is important to check the heat registers to make sure that they are open and not obstructed. Any obstructions- even small ones- at the heat registers should be completely cleaned out.
- The fan does not work and the heater does not produce heat
If you find yourself with a heater that is both not getting the RV warm, and whose fan is not working, first check to make sure that the battery is not dead. Also make sure that you have 12 volts to the RV heater. The problem could also lie in the electricity to the RV heater, so examine the breaker box to make sure that the breaker is not tripped.
There is a fuse in the distribution center and in some models of RV heaters, an inline fuse in the module board of the heater. Make sure that the fuse is not blown. If that is all good, check the thermostat’s anticipator regulators. Check its slide position, and if that still does not work, you might have to replace the thermostat with a new one.
There are many types of RV furnaces out in the market, and depending on the type that is installed in your RV, not all these tips might work. However, these are useful general guidelines that you can refer to when you feel a little chilly in your RV and suspect that your RV heater is no longer functioning well.
Armed with these bits of advice, you will be more ready than ever to tackle any problems with your RV heater when you are out adventuring on your RV in the cold winter months! Let us not let the cold put a pause to our RV getaways!