RV Battery Converter Charger

RV battery chargers make life in a camper a little more convenient and enjoyable. An RV converter charger means you can cook on a stove, watch TV and even play video games, all from the comfort of your own camper.

But, RV battery converter chargers can occasionally fail, and when they do, you need to be prepared. Nobody wants to be driving cross-country when their RV suddenly loses power - trust us, it's the opposite of a good time. Keep reading to learn about the warning signs your converter charger is about to die and how to test it when you think it may be failing.

What Is an RV Converter Charger?

RV battery chargers work by converting household 120-volt (V) alternating current (AC) power into 12V direct current (DC) power when the RV is hooked up to shore power or a generator. This DC power is what's needed to recharge your RV battery and is the only type of power available that uses both shore and generator power.

In addition to charging your RV, products like IOTA battery chargers also distribute converted DC power to your other RV components. They can also transfer unconverted incoming AC power to the breaker panel, helping to power your AC appliances.

RV Converter Charger Versus RV Inverter

In learning about power sources for RVs and campers, you'll come across two types of terms: RV converters and RV inverters.

RV converters - also called RV chargers - take into account the fact you can't directly charge an RV battery with an AC power source. As explained above, this part converts a 120v AC source into a 12v DC form, allowing the RV's battery to hold onto the charge. RV converter chargers are built into vehicles to help you add power when you stop at an RV park or campground.

An RV inverter does the opposite, translating the 12v power from the RV's battery into 120v AC power. This approach might seem counterproductive, but RV inverters prove their worth if you're someone who regularly takes your vehicle off the grid - for instance, off-road and away from campgrounds - and need to run the appliances in your vehicle, or anything that plugs into its sockets.

Realize that power isn't an endless source with an inverter. RV enthusiasts and especially those living out of their vehicle for part of the year are recommended to supplement the inverter with a solar-power solution, generator or a smart RV charger converter. Read more to understand the differences and when RV converters and inverters suit your journey.

How to Tell if Your RV Converter Charger is Failing

While converters don't break down that often, it can happen. If an RV battery converter charger starts to go haywire, you won't be able to enjoy the convenience of using and charging your devices. It's important to spot these issues as soon as possible, so you can correct the problem prior to your road trip. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs that your RV converter charger is going bad.

How to Tell If Your RV Converter Charger Has Gone Bad

While they are durable, RV converter chargers can fail from time to time. Look out for the following warning signs that yours may be on its last leg:

  • The interior lights are dimming.
  • Electronic devices aren't working as well.
  • Devices simply don't work because the outlets aren't getting enough electricity.
  • The refrigerator is struggling to maintain its temperature.

Why is the RV Converter Not Charging the Battery?

Understand common factors affecting how well the RV battery holds a charge:

  • Wrong type of battery: For RVs, flooded lead-acid and VRLA batteries are preferred to gel batteries, which charge slower and are ideal for marine applications.
  • Corrosion: Charging and discharging cause the battery to experience what's called "sulfation," a type of corrosion that affects the battery's connection to the charger and rest of the electrical system.
  • Can't hold a charge: A battery, through age or another issue, may not be able to sufficiently hold a charge. You're recommended to first charge the battery and then test the voltage to determine if and how great a drop is occurring.
  • The converter can't cool: RV converters are equipped with a fan to keep internal parts cool. When this aspect malfunctions, the converter has a higher likelihood of overheating.
How to Tell When Your RV Battery Converter Charger Has Gone Bad

RV Power Converter Troubleshooting Tips

If you're unsure whether or not your RV converter charger is actually charging your battery, there is a testing procedure that you can perform. Just remember that you must conduct the testing steps in sequential order.

1. Test the 120v AC Terminals

The first thing you'll want to do is use your battery voltage meter to test across the 120V AC terminals. This will let you know whether or not power is being sent to the RV battery converter charger. Then, plug your RV into shore power or a generator. The reading on your voltage meter should be about 120V AC. If this isn't the case or no power is present, you'll want to check the fuse or circuit breaker.

Note: Shore power hot will be a blue or black wire, and shore power neutral will be a white wire.

2. Test the Coach Battery Terminals

Next, you'll want to use your voltage meter to test across your coach battery terminals. This reading should be about 14V DC. If the meter doesn't detect any power, the converter charger is most likely the culprit.

Note: Coach battery hot will be a red or black wire, and coach battery negative will be a white wire.

3. Does the RV Converter Charger Have Separate Outputs?

Now, with the shore power or generator plugged in, you'll want to determine whether or not your RV battery converter charger has separate outputs to the RV's 12V systems and the charger. You'll want to test the systems at a socket or light fitting. If the 12V accessories are reading 14V but the battery charge terminals aren't, the converter charger is most likely the issue. But if the terminals are reading 14V and the coach battery doesn't charge, your battery is probably faulty.

4. Test the Solenoid

Next, you'll want to focus on the solenoid, also referred to as the transfer relay switch. This is what allows the charging voltage to reach the coach battery. The solenoid should be energized when the RV connects to shore power or a generator. If this isn't the case, make sure all power is disconnected from the RV converter charger and the case is removed. Then, spray the solenoid with an electrical contact cleaner. At this point, test it again by simply plugging in the RV.

5. Test the Transformer

The last step is to use your voltage meter to test the transformer. The input terminal should have about 120V AC, and the output terminal should have about 14V DC. If the input terminal is reading, but the output one isn't, it means the transformer is faulty. If the input terminal doesn't have 120V AC, there is most likely a dead-fault in the systems somewhere before the transformer.

Note: There is always the possibility that one or more diodes, resistors or resistor gates may be faulty. But it's important to know that you should never test diodes, resistors and/or resistor gates on your own. You will need to hire a seasoned electrician to conduct any testing. If the converter is bad, take it to a professional RV technician to fix it properly.

How to Keep Your RV Battery Converter Charger Healthy

RV converters, like those in our selection of Battery Tender converter chargers, are designed to last the lifetime of an average RV when maintained properly. The following are some preventive measures you can take to keep your RV converter charger in good working order:

  • Your RV should always be ready for camping. Do a periodic inspection, looking for any wear and tear or parts that need to be replaced. Upkeep is key to a smooth operation.
  • Before a road trip, spend some time testing your system and RV converter charger.
  • Those who live in hot climates or near the coast will most likely need to replace their batteries every few years. To avoid losing power while on the road, you should replace your RV batteries every three to five years.
  • Always inspect the power station you're plugging your RV into. The circuitry and breakers should be well-connected and stable.
  • When plugging your RV into shore power, ensure the circuit breaker is closed first. To avoid an initial power surge, there should never be any power running through the circuit breaker when you plug your RV in. Once plugged in, you may open the breaker.

Shop for a Replacement RV Power Converter from Boat & RV Accessories

So, you've noticed the warning signs and done all the tests, and it seems as if your RV converter charger has met its maker. We feel your pain. Thankfully, we have an industry-leading selection to choose from. From Cotek battery converter chargers to IOTA converters, we're proud to carry trusted brands you can rely on. Reach out today for more information!

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