RV AC Turns On and Off Repeatedly – Easy Steps to Fix

Owning an RV can be a true pleasure, and one equipped with an air conditioner is important for your comfort. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for your RV’s air conditioner to fail over and over.

Just like any other machine, an RV air conditioner can have issues and requires regular maintenance. From diagnosing the issue to finding a solution, here’s what you should know when your RV air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly.

  Source: rvshare.com

What Does Short Cycling Mean?

Just as with any other air conditioner, the one in your RV should kick on when the thermostat temperature does not meet the actual air temperature. Your thermostat should tell your air conditioner to turn on until it adequately cools.

When your air conditioner stops running before meeting that temperature, it is called short cycling. Short cycling occurs when something in the air conditioning system prevents this full cooling cycle from happening. There may be several culprits causing this issue.

Obviously, short cycling is a problem that will need your attention. Travelling in an RV without air conditioning can be quite uncomfortable.

Common Causes of Short Cycling

A handful of common issues may be causing your RV air conditioner to shut on and off repeatedly.

Connection Problems
Loose or burnt connections have the potential to arc and become hot. Connection wires can also expand and contract, causing them to become loose. If this happens, the connection is only strong enough to run the fan.

Unfortunately, this is not enough power to run the compressor. A sign that this is the problem would be that the whole air conditioning system shuts off when the compressor comes on. It is crucial to address this as it can damage the system or potentially pose a fire hazard.

Bad Thermostat
Your RV air conditioner should run just fine on the automatic mode. Your thermostat may be the problem if it continues to turn on and off due to malfunction. A bad thermostat can prevent the signal to the cooling system. Frayed wiring might be another issue, or your thermostat could be miscalibrated.
Failing Control Board
Like a bad thermostat, a malfunctioning control board might cause a continued on and off-cycle for the air conditioner. If this is the case, there are a lot of variables that comprise the control board. Therefore, contacting a certified professional would be the best course of action.
Dirty Air Filter

Dirty air filters can cause a multitude of problems with air conditioners. When an air conditioning system’s filter is dirty or clogged, there is not enough fresh air coming through, and your system might overheat. This overheating will shut off the air conditioner before a full cycle ends.

You may be able to tell if a dirty air filter is to blame. Uneven cooling in the RV can be an indication that it is time to change your filter. Also, poor airflow can cause cold air to become trapped inside the air conditioner unit. This can cause ice to form on the coils. 

Frozen Evaporator Coil Inside the AC

Air filters can cause frozen coils, but other factors can cause this too. Frozen coils can happen when you run your air conditioning when it’s cool outside, at night or when it is particularly humid. In this case, you can shut down the air conditioner and allow the coils to thaw.

You could also try to unfreeze the coils by running the system on the fan only mode. If the coils refreeze, it’s best to call a technician as mechanical problems can also cause this. 

Cleaning AC Filters and Evaporator Coils

Cleaning AC filters is different from cleaning your evaporator coils, below is the process for cleaning each.
Source: improvesummer.com

AC Filters

While cleaning your RV’s air conditioning filter doesn’t require a lot of strength, it does require time and patience. The following steps will ensure a clean, well-functioning filter:

  • Power down any connections and shut off the air conditioner
  • Decide whether you want to clean it yourself or hire a technician
  • Open the cover and remove the filter
  • Note the manufacturer make and model
  • Do not reactivate the AC without the filter
  • Scrape clear dust and other particles with a microfiber cloth for light clean or coarse brush for grease and grime
  • Use a vacuum to clean fine particles, be careful with the pressure
  • Submerge in warm, soapy water for no longer than 30 minutes
  • Remove and rinse
  • Treat with half parts vinegar, half parts water to prevent microbial growth
  • Dry with a towel, set in a warm place (preferably the sun)
  • Replace cleaned, dried filter into the unit

Evaporator Coil

To clean the evaporator coil, make sure to shut off all power and disconnect the battery. The air conditioner unit will have 2 coils, the condenser and evaporator. The condenser is located in the back and can be seen without opening the unit. The evaporator coil is in the front of the unit and is covered. To clean this, follow the directions listed below:

  • Go to the roof where the air conditioning unit is located safely
  • Take off the shroud
  • Take off the coil sheet metal by removing screws
  • If the coil is wet, let it dry
  • When dry, clean with a vacuum
  • Put the unit back together

Tips for Maintaining Your Unit

RV air conditioners are no different than any other machine, and that means continued maintenance. The 4 areas to focus on include:

  • Plastic Cover- this protects the air conditioner from the elements, so be sure there are no cracks or splits
  • Fan- maintain and service the fan, as it keeps the air moving and should be well-oiled
  • AC Condenser- check twice a year for dirt and leaves to prevent blockage
  • Roof Vents- when you can, open the vents to allow moisture to evaporate

Is It Better to Clean My Unit Myself?

First, you need the appropriate tools and know-how to clean your RV’s air conditioning unit correctly. If you are looking to save money, DIY will ensure that you don’t spend extra hiring a technician. Also, the internet is quite a useful resource, particularly with YouTube videos.

Having said that, if you are not comfortable with cleaning or maintaining certain parts of the AC unit, you may want to hire someone with the appropriate certification. That way, you can get back on the road with less stress.

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