Rv Air Conditioner Turns on and off Repeatedly – Why?

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For a full-time nomad, dealing with rv air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly is a big nuisance. If you are not familiar with the issue, the AC unit in RV repeatedly turns on and off without any explanation. It’s pretty common in the RV camper and needs prompt attention.  

Lucky for you, I will be discussing the causes of this phenomenon and will try to provide a solution to overcome the condition. Moreover, I have managed to formulate the article in a way that will let you isolate the problem and plan a fix quite easily.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Possible Causes of RV Air Conditioner Compressor Kicks On And Off

Unlike any other electric appliances, the RV AC unit faces a lot of problems in its service time. Some of them are easy to repair with minimal skill and some need specialized help. In the case of RV AC keeps cycling, the below list shows all the possible causes so you have a better idea onward.  

  1. Connection issue with the AC unit.
  2. Faulty or misplacement of the thermostat.
  3. Decongestion in Evaporator coils.
  4. Bad control board.
  5. Low refrigerant level.
  6. Overpowered AC unit.

These are the typical reasons why your RV AC compressor starts then stops again and again.

Solutions for rv air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly

Now I’m about to go through each situation mentioned above and provide a possible solution. But keep in mind that if you are having a hard time diagnosing the problem, it’s time to contact a professional. It’s not always possible to find the exact problem without a specific toolset.

1. Connection issue with the AC unit

Connection Issue With The AC Unit

Whenever you encounter an RV air conditioner problem, first check the connection.  There could be a loose linking that is not maintaining a stable contact. Hence your AC unit is unable to turn on completely.

In some other cases, faulty wiring or burnt wire can also be the culprit for the on-off cycle. It’s important to keep note that the air conditioner unit pulls a huge amount of energy when turning on. They have a specific amps rating and for that, you need the proper gauge wire to supply the amps.

Any lower gauge wire can heat up in the initial power delivery phase and burn the whole wire. Similarly, your inadequate wire properties can also cause arc of the system and force it to malfunction in the process. Either way, it’s not good for you and your RV as far as the safety goes.

The Fix

Here you can thoroughly inspect the connection for any loose jack. Next, you can keep an eye on the wire if it’s going hot. If it does, change your wire with a better one.

2. Faulty or misplaced thermostat

Every AC unit has a sensing device that tells the cooling unit how hard it needs to work in order to cool the room. In more simple words, this device AKA thermostat controls the cooling operation. So it’s no surprise if the thermostat is not working properly, your cooling unit also won’t work.

A faulty thermostat will constantly send a wrong signal to the unit. And that may result in your RV air conditioner to turn on and off repeatedly.

On another note, the location of the thermostat plays an important role as well. Having placed it on the wrong side of the RV also can cause the AC to repeat a short cycle. As mentioned earlier, the device sends information to the main unit if it needs more cooling to reach the desired temperature. 

In general, a thermostat doesn’t need any human involvement as long it’s on auto function. But think again, what if you unknowingly placed the thermostat too close to a window. When a cool breeze will pass through the thermostat, it will send a wrong signal to your unit, right? 

The same goes for the heat. Placing the thermostat under direct sunlight will interpret the atmosphere as hot. Are you getting where is this going?

The Fix

So, the solution here is to relocate your thermostat to a more unified location in your Camper. But for the faulty device, you should get a good thermostat replacement.

3. Decongestion in Evaporator coils

Ever noticed when you are going for a good night’s sleep on a high elevated area, and your trusty Dometic RV ac short cycling. This also happens in a highly humid area like places close to the coastline. What you are experiencing is the decongestion of the evaporator coil. 

There are two ways to happen decongestion in the evaporator coil. If you run AC in a cold climate, your evaporator coil won’t get any hot air to transform them into cool air. So what happens in the end? The coil freezes with its own coolant and force to turn off in the end. 

Apart from that, your AC filter also can cause the coil to freeze up. How is that you may ask? Well, when your AC operates normally, it supplies cool air through a filter. The filter is there to catch any dust particle coming from the intake. 

With time the filter gets so dirty that it can’t push the full volume of the air in the room. Some of the cool air gets bounced back and circulates in the coil area. In that situation, your evaporator coil gets colder than it should be. And then the air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly to cope with the freezing situation.

The Fix

To fix the coil freezing problem, run the fan-only function whenever you are in a cold climate. You can also turn off the AC for a couple of minutes so the coil gets back to its normal state. For dirty filters, you should check and clean the filter on a regular basis. You can also change the filter every 6-12 months.

4. Bad control board

Most AC controls are on the camper dashboard. With times and repeated trips on the rough roads, the control board can accumulate dust. This also includes the badly behaving relay control. This is a problem that needs professional help as it will be hard to fix without specialized repairing tools.

One thing you can do to avoid control board failure is to carefully check the AC unit before any long trip. You don’t want to hold on to a remote place with the faulty control board. And honestly, there’s not much to do. If it ever comes to this then call roadside assistance.

The Fix

Well if you are fortunate enough, and you find the culprit before going on a trip, good for you. Fix the problem as soon as you can. Either take it to a skilled mechanic or replace the whole relay-board.

5. Low refrigerant level

The refrigerant is a coolant gas that ran through your AC unit and helps cool the air inside of your room. The compressor in the unit originally compresses the gas and shoots through the evaporator and condenser. 

As this operation involves a high-pressure drive, the gas tends to leak from time to time. And when the coolant gas is insufficient, they have more tendencies to mess up the gas circulation process. That’s why you see even the popular brand like Coleman AC is short cycling.

The Fix

If this is the case for you, your air conditioner short cycling troubleshoot has to start with an expert AC technician. They will check the system for any leakage and refill the appropriate amount for optimum performance.

6. Overpowered AC unit

Overpowered AC Unit

This actually does not happen in the auto industry that much rather you will see the problem in the residential unit. Then again motorhome AC units are evolving fast. Now there is so much variant available according to the real-estate of your camper.

If you have installed an aftermarket product and you see the on-off cycle, chances are your ac is too powerful. The RV air conditioner compressor not coming on after a while is a sign that implies the cooling is complete. For a powerful unit like that it could be a few minutes. 

The Fix

After the temperature increases, the compressor will start compressing again and stop repeatedly. So if you have a Dometic ac problem with any of their aftermarket units, you should check the spec carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you reset an RV air conditioner?

Resetting an RV air conditioner generally refers to completely turning off the system and turning back again. But in between, you can check a few things that will make your reset more effective. Such as checking the breaker, any fuses, the compressor, and finally thermostat. 

Besides, you can take out the filter, clean it, and put it back afterward.  This is the most basic camper AC troubleshooting procedure that doesn’t need any special skill. Besides, you don’t need any specialized tools either to check components.

2. How do I prevent my Dometic air conditioner from short cycling?

In truth, few reasons will result in short cycling. For your Dometic RV air conditioner problems, make a checklist and start from the top. Your checklist should contain connection integrity, coolant, thermostat, and wiring status.

After checking each point, decide for which reason your compressor is either working too hard or not at all. If it’s working too hard there may be something obstructing the general flow of operation. And if it’s not working properly there is a lacking of some sort.

3. Why does my RV AC keep triggering the breaker?

The breaker is usually there for cutting off power overdraw. Once the power draw reaches the limit, the breaker will trigger to protect other important components. So if you see turning on your ac keep triggering the breaker, it’s your ac unit that draws too much power.

For making sure, check the breaker point with a Multimeter and look for the high amps draw in the monitor. Consult with an expert and change the unit as soon as possible or it will damage the other electronics in the RV.

4. Why does my AC compressor stop after a few minutes?

You can think of a few reasons that are forcing your ac compressor to stop. One being the AC is too powerful for the room. It only needed a few minutes to cool, that’s why it stops to conserve power. 

In another way, there could be a coolant leak that deprives the compressor of enough gas hence the stoppage. Or it could be a filter issue that is freezing the evaporator coil, which turns the compressor off for protection. Either way, this is not a good sign. Contact a professional for diagnosing the problem.

5. Will low Freon damage a compressor?

Freon is a very important gas for any type of Air Conditioner. The gas is the key element for taking heat from the atmosphere with the evaporator coil. Any change of the Freon volume will interrupt the usual process and diminish the heat absorption capability. 

For an Air Conditioner, that’s very fatal and can permanently damage the compressor in the process.

6. How do you know if a compressor is bad?

The compressor turns on and off repeatedly without major issues is a great sign of a compressor going bad. If you come across this issue, promptly diagnose the actual problem and if needed, seek expert help.

7. What causes AC compressor failure?

In general, an AC Compressor is a very sensitive piece of machine and needs precise power delivery. The proper amount of coolant, atmospheric condition, and clean airflow are also vital. For any reason, if it lacks any of these, it will start to damage compressor capability.

If it continues for a long time, the compressor will lose its power and working capacity. And when that happens, you will encounter compressor failure.

Final Verdict

Rv air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly is never a pleasant circumstance for an RV enthusiast. Without a doubt, the issue will ruin your long-planned trip to the ground.

That said, I hope this article serves you with enough information regarding the on-off cycle in the RV AC unit. 

Eric Weldon
Eric Weldon
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